Dealing with Groundings

Running aground is a major part of sailing. If you have a fin keel, this will usually be followed by a haul out to inspect for damages, but if you have a full keel, it will usually be followed by a nice meal.

Full keels are much stronger, so they can bear the force of the boat colliding with the bottom better and also the weight of the yacht resting on it as the tide goes out. This is due to the increased mating area of the keel to hull. A fin keel only meets for a small area while a full keel runs the length of the hull. 

The ICW is a narrow and shallow waterway, where venturing out of the channel is swiftly punished by a firm smack on the bottom (see what I did there?) .

You might think that now you need to call the tow boat to pull you off because you are stuck, but the truth is running aground can be much less inconvenient if you time it properly. 

The tides occur four times a day, controlled by the moon. The earth has two tidal bulges on opposite sides of the globe. One bulge occurs on the side of the Earth that faces the Moon, the other occurs on the side of the Earth away from the moon.  This is why they are called "Lunar Tides".

They occur for two reasons:  

1. The bulge facing the Moon is caused by the Moon's gravity pulling the water off the Earth.  

2.  The bulge on the side without the Moon is caused by the Moon's gravity pulling the Earth away from the water on the other side.

Remember that the mass of the Earth is being pulled in all directions, by the Sun, Moon, and every other celestial body. Water just flows around, but the forces pulling on the Earth's mass are all affected by this. Water just has the ability to flow and demonstrate where these forces occur. But enough about physics and our solar system, lets get back to navigating the ICW. 

If you run aground at low tide, all you need to do is wait for high tide. That doesn't take much thought. The tides run on a cyclic schedule, and if you navigate the waters on this schedule you will not have any problems! There are two high tides, the one facing the moon and the one not facing the moon; most importantly, they are not the same intensity.  

If you leave on the higher high tide and sail through the following low tide, you will probably be tired and ready to anchor by the following high tide (which is the less intense high tide). If you run aground as you leave the channel to anchor, it isn't that big of a deal as you weren't going to be moving for the rest of the night anyway. The tide will go out and you will be stuck on the bottom until the next high tide comes around that is more intense and will float you off. 

It is imperative that you leave with this tide, because if you don't, you will be stuck an entire day until the next "higher high tide" comes around. 


Following this schedule, running aground will be but a temporary thing for the night. By the next morning, you will be floating again and ready to continue on your cruise!