When you run aground in a powerboat, you may or may not cause damage to your boat and motor, you may or may not have set yourself up for future damage, and you may or may not be able to get back afloat. So, what should you do immediately after running onto the hard? Follow this five-step process:
1. Tilt up the outdrive, and give the prop and lower unit a visual inspection. If you see anything beyond a few dings and scrapes, don’t run the boat – you may cause additional damage.
2. Rock the boat from side to side to find out just how hard aground you are. If the keel’s barely scraping bottom, you may be able to step out of the boat and push it to deeper water. Sometimes merely unloading your passengers removes enough weight from the boat to get it floating again, and you can walk it to deeper water. Then check the tide charts; you may be able to wait for deeper water to come to you, all on its own.
3. If the water depth is marginal for a long distance and is deep enough to float the boat but the prop digs bottom when you try to get on plane, try this trick: crank the wheel hard over, tell everyone to hold on tight, and nail the throttle as though you were going to turn doughnuts. The boat will lean hard-over as it carves the turn, putting the lower unit at an angle so it doesn’t dig bottom. When you have enough momentum built up to get the boat onto plane, quickly straighten out the wheel.
4. Watch your engine’s cooling water discharge closely. If it’s sub-par, you may have sucked sand, mud, or weeds into the intakes. Be careful not to let the engine overheat, even if this means getting a tow. When you get home, blast out the intakes with freshwater. If this doesn’t do the trick, hear for the mechanic.
5. Feel for new vibrations. A bent prop or skeg can cause vibrations that may not feel severe, but can back out screws and rattle things loose. If you feel any new vibrations, isolate the cause, and fix it as soon as possible.