Ground­ing with grace

Top tips on how to make it look de­lib­er­ate

Practical Boat Owner - - Dave Selby - Dave Selby

Like ev­ery­thing to do with sail­ing, go­ing aground is a lot eas­ier than the ex­perts make out. Of course, the ex­perts are the true ex­perts at it, and do it fre­quently, purely to il­lus­trate the myr­iad tech­niques for get­ting off again in ar­ti­cles in PBO.

Most of these in­volve throw­ing ev­ery­thing that’s in the boat into the wa­ter – or what’s left of it: an­chors, lif­er­afts, cush­ions, en­gines, ce­ramic toi­lets and toi­let doors, flat-screen TVs, mo­bile phones, peo­ple and wot not.

In truth the mo­bile phones don’t help much, but I’ve never once come across an ex­pert guide that ac­tu­ally tells you to take them out of your pocket. This seems re­miss, as wet phones help even less.

On the other hand most sea-sur­vival ex­perts strongly cau­tion against jet­ti­son­ing hair dry­ers – which are heav­ier than mo­bile phones – par­tic­u­larly if the hair dryer’s owner is on board. This is for the safety of any mar­ried man on board who hopes to re­main mar­ried, and sin­gle ones who hope to reach re­tire­ment. Un­der no cir­cum­stances should you kedge a hair dryer over­board while it’s still plugged in. The con­se­quences would be truly shock­ing.

Af­ter out­lin­ing any given sce­nario ex­perts cheer­ily con­clude “if you’re lucky that’ll do the trick”, be­fore pro­ceed­ing to de­scribe 23 other tech­niques that might also do the trick.

Then, once all hope is lost, ex­perts ad­vise crew to pass the time by swing­ing off the end of the boom or other bits of rig­ging to pro­vide amuse­ment for pass­ing boats and put max­i­mum dis­tance be­tween your­self and the skip­per. And here there’s an im­por­tant dis­tinc­tion of­ten over­looked by ex­perts. Whose boat is it? If the boat isn’t yours, and if the ground is firm, sim­ply walk home. If your mo­bile phone still works, first ask the skip­per the lat and long, then call a cab be­fore walk­ing ashore. If the boat is yours, you’ll have dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties, mainly to ex­plain to the au­thor­i­ties that you are not aground, but have “ca­reened” the ves­sel for:

■ a mid-sea­son scrub and an­tifoul

■ to re­place the im­peller

■ in­spect­ing the an­ode, prop, stern-drive, lower rud­der pin­tle, gap­ing hole in the bot­tom of the boat etc

■ to save face.

And so you see, it’s not as com­plex as the ex­perts make out. And in fact I’m some­thing of an ex­pert my­self, as boats with lift­ing keels, like my Sail­fish, are even bet­ter at go­ing aground than bilge-keel­ers. I’ve been so far aground I once nearly made it to IKEA; on another oc­ca­sion I got a park­ing ticket.

In fact it’s re­as­sur­ing to know that any novice can ac­quire a se­cure ground­ing in this field of sail­ing com­pletely free of charge and with­out buy­ing costly charts or go­ing to the ex­pense of night classes. In­deed, there’s noth­ing like learn­ing from ex­pe­ri­ence and the best les­son comes from PBO’s long-run­ning Learn­ing From Ex­pe­ri­ence fea­ture, which is an im­pres­sive ar­chive of knowl­edge. What it teaches us be­yond doubt is that, as it’s been run­ning for 40-years-plus, we don’t learn any­thing from ex­pe­ri­ence. And I can prove it.

My chums Mark and Dave, re­cov­er­ing Sail­fish 18 own­ers who keep their Jaguar 24 at Or­well Yacht Club, in­vited me sail­ing, and within an hour we no­ticed that we’d stopped go­ing for­ward. That’s not un­usual in a bilge-keeler, but some time af­ter that we no­ticed we weren’t even go­ing side­ways. Quite un­usual in a bilge-keeler. I was at the helm, but that’s not strictly rel­e­vant be­cause I as­sumed they’d let me know where to point. They as­sumed, un­fairly I thought, that I’d been look­ing at the echo sounder.

Then abruptly, our learned dis­course was stopped in its tracks by a daz­zling dis­play of na­ture. All around us an im­pres­sive plateau was emerg­ing, the re­ced­ing wa­ters un­cov­er­ing oys­ters the size of base­ball mitts which, as they snapped shut, squirted jets of wa­ter sky­ward. It was like the foun­tains of Ver­sailles or the Taj Ma­hal. Then more na­ture hap­pened – like sun­set and stuff – and we re­turned to bick­er­ing and Mark said: “Any­way, I thought you’re sup­posed to be an ex­pert cos you write for PBO.”

“I am,” I coun­tered. “I’m re­search­ing a Learn­ing from Ex­pe­ri­ence ar­ti­cle.”

‘Ask the skip­per the lat and long, then call a cab be­fore walk­ing ashore’

“And don’t for­get the pop­padoms...”

Mad about the boat Dave Selby is the proud owner of a 5.48m (18ft) Sail­fish, which he keeps on a swing­ing moor­ing on the pic­turesque Black­wa­ter es­tu­ary in Es­sex

Dave re­cently fit­ted his Sail­fish with an al­time­ter

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