Running aground is something that happens to all of us. Especially if you regularly fish backwater flats and lagoons, it’s simply bound to happen sooner or later. And truth be told, most of the time it’s no big deal. Every now and again, however, serious damage will occur.
The worst thing is, the damage isn’t always obvious. And if you don’t take the proper precautions, slight damage can turn into a big-time problem. So after running aground, even if everything seems fine, be sure to:
- Check your prop closely for dings and chinks. Though the boat may still seem to be running just fine, small imperfections in the propeller can cause new vibrations. Often you’ll feel them, but sometimes they’re subtle enough that you won’t notice. The issue here is that these vibrations can cause significant harm. Screws may back out, mounts get vibrated loose, and pieces-parts that don’t have an exact fit can become a bit less exact over time.
After a grounding, give the prop, hull, and intakes a close inspection.
If you see any slight imperfections in the blades after a grounding, you can often smooth them out with a metal file. If you see any significant ones—and certainly if there are vibrations significant enough for you to notice at the helm—you probably need to fix or change the propeller. Unless you’ve practically ripped a blade off, a prop can usually be reconditioned. Otherwise, you may need to simply replace it.
- Check the water intake and circulation system. Often on a grounding the intakes will suck in sand or mud, which can clog up the works. If it’s really bad you’ll know it because water ceases coming out of the tell-tale. But there may also be grit or grime in the system that hasn’t worked its way through yet, and will be a future clog. The best way to eliminate the issue is a long, thorough freshwater flush. Do this both via the engine’s flushing port, and by running it on earmuffs with a hose. The flushing port back-washes the lower unit, while running the engine with earmuffs circulates water through in the usual direction. Do both, and you’ll probably get rid of any offending particles.
- If your boat is fiberglass, check the hull bottom for nicks and dings. What you’re looking for here is exposed fiberglass fibers, not cosmetic chinks. As long as no glass is exposed those chinks are, aside from looks alone, no big deal. But if fibers are exposed they can wick up water, and lead to delamination issues down the road.