How To Beach Your Boat And Leave Again

By Michael Vatalaro

Beaching, rather than anchoring, to swim or go ashore can be a great way to temporarily secure your boat, if you do it the right way.

In many parts of the country, boaters gather on beaches and sandbars to swim and socialize. Beaching your boat to take part seems simple enough to do, but in order to make sure your boat is A) still there when you're ready to go, and B) still able to float at that time, it's important to take a few precautions.

Know Your Bottom

While most of the popular spots have sandy bottoms because it's comfortable for swimming, some places have soft mud or muck bottoms that can trap a boat in place, particularly on a falling tide. Which brings us to Step 2.

Know Thy Tide Chart

There is no surer way to meet your local TowBoatUS captain than by running up on a beach at high tide. By the same token, an incoming tide can lift a securely beached boat and carry it off, if you're not paying attention. And just because you boat on a lake or river system, don't think you're off the hook. Sudden changes in wind direction can push water away from a shore, or pile it up with the same result. Pop-up thunderstorms strand boats every year on both tidal and non-tidal waters by quickly building up wind and wave action that drive boats ashore before their owners can move them to deeper water.

Photo of a beached Sea Ray 220

Come In SLOW

A lot of boaters seem to think they need momentum to push the boat up on the beach or sandbar. Coming in much faster than dead slow only guarantees the sand will scratch up the gelcoat on your keel that much more. A smarter approach is to only motor in to where the water is waist deep, turn off the engine, trim the motor or outdrive all the way up, and then have a crew member go over the side to walk the boat to the desired location with a bow line.

Park So You Can Leave Again

With a favorable (incoming) tide and a protected location with little or no wave or wake action, veteran sandbar enthusiasts will pull the boat inshore until the keel under the bow firmly nudges bottom, and then take the anchor to the beach or further inshore to provide tension to keep the keel against the sand. But this leaves the stern of the boat vulnerable to being swamped by wakes, or for wind or wave action to push the boat parallel to the beach. If the entire keel ends up resting on the sand, it can be difficult to get the boat back into deeper water.

A better method is to march the bow in till the water is just over your knees, and then spin the boat 180 degrees so that the bow faces out toward the deep water (larger boats will require more draft). You can then walk or swim an anchor out to deep water, AND deploy one or two stern anchors or sand spikes on the beach to keep the boat pointed the correct direction.

Hear The Music

Wave action against the bow won't be an issue, and this has the added benefit of giving you and the crew easy access to the boat via the stern, and usually makes it easier to hear the stereo, too. When you are ready to go, pull up the stern anchors, get aboard, and pull the boat to deeper water using the anchor rode. 

— Published: Summer 2013


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