September 14, 2023

Another Summer of boating on the Chesapeake is quickly ending. No matter how long I’ve been a TowBoatUS Captain, I see situations that are still new to me. But more often, it’s the same types of problems that we respond to over and over. Here are a few lessons learned this year which I hope will keep you from being just another boater who got themselves into a jam.

Problem number one: A simple dead battery. Several times (92 so far this year) our local dispatch has received calls from boaters who need a jump start. Standard Operating Procedure requires that while you wait for our response that you securely anchor. A re-occurring difficulty is that since the battery is dead, boaters don’t know how to manually deploy or raise their anchor without the boat’s power anchor windless. By not anchoring you put you and your family at risk. I could tell at least ten stories from this season where a boater didn’t anchor, and the boat ended up drifting into the shipping channel or on to shore damaging the boat’s hull. My advice is this: take a few minutes to figure out how your windless works with, and without, power. Or at the very least, keep a spare anchor down below for emergency situations. We have said it before: Once your engine dies, the only control you have over your boat is the anchor.

Problem number two: A simple soft grounding. Maybe you weren’t paying attention, or the sandbar has shifted, whatever the reason, groundings happen daily. I’m not suggesting you don’t try and back off under your own power but be careful. Inboard engines use “raw” water to keep them cool. As the engine is sucking in bay water, it will also be sucking in sand and other debris which can clog and lead to overheating. Your props can also take a beating from the unknown on the bottom. Be prudent about how hard you try to get the boat back into deeper water. And, please, don’t let a good Sam attempt to unground your vessel. You are risking damage to running gear, cleats and whatever else that can’t take the strain of being pulled the wrong way. A couple of years ago a well-meaning fellow boater attempted to unground a large sailboat. It ended with the grounded vessel losing a cleat and a full 6’ section of the side of the boat. That sailboat owner was a member of TowBoatUS but had thought it would be easier to allow a stranger to do the job. Thousands of dollars in damages helped this guy learn his lesson. Don’t be that guy. My advice: Wait for the professional.

We sincerely hope that you and your family have a safe and happy fall boating season. Hopefully we will see you at one of the Annapolis Boat shows in October so you can get your $50 discount off your annual renewal. As always, happy to help.