Beware of grounding

Published: Thursday, 13 February 2020

RIVER Canal Rescue reminds boaters that grounding can occur anywhere if owners stray from the middle of the water course.

Cut a corner to take the shortest route or fail to check water levels before setting off.  And with some rescues involving boats stuck on weirs, it’s important to be aware of any surrounding hazards.

Stuck on RibbleRefloat stricken vessels

Rescue teams use ropes, manpower, a RIB, tugs and even tractors to refloat stricken vessels (in one case 18 tons of pulling force was required).  The first response team is also on hand to advise owners how to manoeuvre vessels wedged in the middle of the river, on a bank or at the entrance to locks.  (The photograph shows a boat stuck on the Ribble as the tide went out.)

When a boat grounds, RCR recommends putting on a life jacket and putting the boat in reverse to see if it moves away from the obstruction. If this fails, identify the area of shallow water, by walking around the vessel testing the surrounding water depth with a boat pole.

Grounded Mon Brec stuckCreate buoancy

If the front of the boat’s grounded, move ballast that may be holding it down to the rear (gas bottles, the anchor, chains etc) and turn on the taps to empty the water tank (always at the front). This will create more buoyancy at the front and potentially lift it a vital few inches.  Half a ton of water can create a six inch difference. If it does clear, put the boat in reverse.

If the boat’s grounded on one side, it’s a similar scenario; move anything that’s weighing it down in this area to the opposite side.  Be cautious however, as if over-balanced, the vessel could list and take on water.

If people are onboard, one person should take the helm and the remainder can rock the boat gently to see if the momentum moves it. If the rear of the boat’s aground and the propeller’s lifted (a rare scenario), the boat will probably need a tow.  [There is little point of off putting the engine on full power as the hire boater in the photograph, as this simply 'digs' the boat deeper.]

Two boats had to be rescued

While tempting to ask a passing boater for a tow, RCR says this should only be undertaken by an experienced boater.  The firm’s had cases where the person towing has got into trouble and two boats have had to be rescued.  Hire boaters will invalidate their insurance if they undertake a tow.

Once the vessel’s free, check it thoroughly, particularly the hull, as this could have been damaged.