Touching Bottom - SailNet Community
LinkBack Thread Tools
post #1 of 1 Old 08-19-2003 Thread Starter
Contributing Authors
Join Date: Jan 2000
Posts: 58
Thanks: 0
Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts
Rep Power: 18
Touching Bottom

Where the water is clear, it's easy to steer clear of shoals and reefs.
Kirsten , my Mystic 20 catboat, draws just about two feet of water with the centerboard up. However, the charts for Long Island's Peconic bays are peppered with 1s indicating where to find just one foot of water at mean low tide. Finding these low spots without a chart is easier than I imagined. 

One afternoon at low tide I sailed slowly north out of Reeves Bay and into Flanders Bay with a light southwesterly wind. Soon I was well out from shore, moving along at a stately pace under the full 282 square feet of gaff-rigged sail carried by the boat. I set a northeast course for the green can buoy on the far side of the bay. 

Rips in the water are a sure sign that the bottom lies not far below.
This green can marks one leg of a channel hugging the western and northern shorelines of the bay. Powerboaters steer careful courses from buoy to buoy here to stay in the channel. I, however, continued smugly straight across the bay, rounded the green can, and gybed to return to the marina. 

Steering a southeasterly course, close-hauled with the centerboard down, I was pleased to discover  Kirsten  was perfectly balanced on this point of sail, and needed no hand on the tiller. The centerboard increases  Kirsten 's draft to four feet, but I planned to tack well before reaching the shoal on the south side of the bay. Meanwhile, I sat back and enjoyed the hands-free sailing. 

A few minutes passed before I realized that the boat was stopped. The sail was still full and water was still moving past the hull, but my position in relation to landmarks on shore wasn't changing. Looking over the side, I noticed the water was surprisingly clear. Why, I could even see small fish swimming about and crabs moving across the sand. They seemed to be moving faster than the boat. 

I had found one of those places marked with a 1 on the chart. I raised the centerboard and tried to pole the boat off, but  Kirsten  didn't budge. I backed the sail in an attempt to go in reverse—still stuck. Finally, I lowered the sail, got out of the boat, and waded around it. 

Watching the water as well as the chart will keep you from heading toward the thin spots.
Kirsten  is shallowest near the bow and deepest at the stern. Pushing on the bow moved her a bit toward the deeper water, but pivoted her stern even deeper into the sand. She wasn't going anywhere for a while. I reached into the water to pick up a shell, splashed my arms and face to cool off, then clambered back on board to wait for the incoming tide. 

Some time later, the slow flogging of the sail told me the boat had shifted position, gradually becoming un-stuck as the water level rose. I backed the sail again, and crabbed away from shore until I could set a westerly course to the entrance of Reeves Bay. As I neared the marina, I headed into the wind and lowered sail to see how far momentum and the tide would carry  Kirsten  into the marina entrance. The answer was easy—just far enough to dig her bow into the bank. While I was poling off, Vinny, the marina manager, motored past and asked if I needed help. "Nope," I said, "I can get her in." As long as there's enough water to float her, I thought to myself. 

How to Enjoy Running Aground

Running aground doesn't have to be an unpleasant experience. Consider that you are learning the bottom topography of your local waters and add that bit of information about the shoal areas to your store of knowledge. The following tips can help you steer clear of trouble, or get you off when you are conducting such a local survey: 

  Keep your eyes in constant motion while sailing, looking out for shoals and landmarks that can help fix your position.
  If you don't have a depth finder, but do have a centerboard, leave it down just enough to warn you of shoals when sailing in shallow waters. The sounds of a dragging or bumping centerboard may alert you to danger, but sand and mud can trap a boat silently.
  If you are starting to run aground, turn around, fall off, or gybe.
  If you do run aground, raise your centerboard if you have one, and back your sail by pushing the boom to the other side of the boat trying to back off.
  Shifting passengers and any other heavy weight on board can also help free the boat by heeling her or dislodging the keel from the bottom.
  Powering out with the engine is generally not recommended as it can dig the boat deeper into the bottom, and may possibly damage the engine or propeller.
  If you know the tide is rising, and you have the time to spare, relax. Mother Nature will do the heavy lifting.


Last edited by administrator; 01-11-2008 at 09:30 AM.
Bruce Caldwell is offline  
Closed Thread

Quick Reply

By choosing to post the reply above you agree to the rules you agreed to when joining Sailnet.
Click Here to view those rules.

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the SailNet Community forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.
Please note: After entering 3 characters a list of Usernames already in use will appear and the list will disappear once a valid Username is entered.

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:


Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page

Posting Rules  
You may not post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is Off
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome