Soft groundings may be described as any grounding that you can free your own boat, even if it takes a great deal of time, or wind, wave, or tide action to help you free the boat. Most soft groundings do not involve major damage, or result in leaks
Just like it sounds, a "hard" grounding can quickly turn your day upside down. Striking an object such as a piling, reef, or rocks can destroy your boat, and lead to injury or death.
If you find yourself hard aground, the best thing you can do is stay with your boat, put on your life jackets, and call for help. Do what you can to stop leaks. If the boat is in danger of sinking, or lives are at risk--call the Coast Guard on Channel 16.
Checking for leaks, damage/injuries, and setting the anchor is the first things you should do if you hit bottom. Try to place the anchor as far from the boat as you can--use your dinghy or tender if you have one.
Anchoring helps keep the boat from being driven further aground and may also provide a means of pulling you free, if you can "kedge" or pull the boat towards the anchor. Waves, the tide, and wakes from other boats may lift your boat. Once you've set the anchor, you have several options based on your situation: