You’ve just discovered a great island or sandbar to explore, but you’ve got nowhere to moor your boat.
The last thing you want is to damage your boat by making an ill-advised decision. For novice boaters, the underwater world might be intimidating. If you don’t know the tools of the trade, you risk running aground.
But luckily, there’s a safe way to land your vessel without damaging the hull, gelcoat, or propeller. In this article, you’ll learn how to beach a boat on a sandbar, and how to do it safely.
Why Beach Your Boat?
For those with minimal nautical experience, this might seem like a poor decision. In cinema and TV shows, a beached boat is one that’s out of action!
What if you damage the propeller, or scratch the hull? What if you overshoot and capsize in the shallows? What if the falling tide leaves your boat stranded on dry ground, or the rising tide carries it out to sea?
These are valid concerns, but if you know what you’re doing, beaching can become a useful tool to access otherwise inaccessible areas. However, you do want to approach it with caution, and you want to avoid damaging your keel or hull coating on coarse sand and buried rocks.
So, when do you want to beach? Say you’re out boating and find an excellent strip of sand or island to visit for lunch. But you can’t find a dock or pier.
You could drop anchor, but that means you’ll either be swimming back and forth between your boat and shore, or you’ll have to go through the tedium of deploying a dingy – you have one in the first place.
While there’s nothing wrong with anchoring your boat in deeper water and making that back-and-forth trip, the ability to beach your boat from closer-in will save you time and give you flexibility. Plus, it’s not as nerve-wracking as it sounds.
What’s a Sandbar?
A sandbar is a ridge of sand that builds up in a river or channel that is distinct from the shore. In essence, this is a hump of sand tall enough to stall your craft and forbid passage. But – if you exercise caution when beaching or mooring – sandbars can be fun places to explore and even congregate around. So, follow the instructions in this guide.
How to Beach a Boat
Before proceeding any further, keep in mind that beaching should not be your first option. If there is nearby mooring, use that before you consider this unconventional approach. Getting instructions from an experienced boat user is always a good way to be prepared for various situations.
Step 1: Evaluate the Shoreline
Study the shoreline or sandbar for obstacles. If the shoals are packed with swimmers, avoid those areas as you don’t want to risk a collision with any beachgoers.
Assess the water depth before making your approach. Look for eddies and other signs that the water is moving over an unseen obstruction that could damage your hull. And take your time – it’s better to spend a few minutes looking for a good spot than tear up your boat.
If you have a depth sounder, this is an excellent time to put it to use. If you don’t, consider investing in one. These are a must-have for even seasoned boaters and take the guesswork out of just eyeballing the shallows.
Further, know the draft of your boat. The draft refers to how much of your boat’s hull is underwater. Shallow drafts are flatter and sit high in the water, while deeper drafts sit very low.
Step 2: Take It Easy
Slow-and-steady wins the race. Don’t floor the throttle. Go bow-first at low speed.
Give yourself just enough speed to move up to the beach, and then only enough for course corrections. Just as hitting a dock at moderate speed can tear up your boat, hitting a dense pack of sand too fast could cause significant damage.
If you’re moving down a river, keep in mind that crosscurrents can and will affect your approach. Don’t let a stray current flip your forward momentum and force you to turn around and try again.
Step 3: Pull the Boat Ashore or Anchor at a Sandbar
Once you’re in waist-high water, have a member of your crew hop out and monitor the approach. If possible, ask them to take the bowline and guide your boat in closer to shore.
At this point, you want to cut the engine and rely on the trim to make final corrections. If you have enough people, ask your passengers to pull the ship ashore or onto the sandbar. Make sure there is a sandy bottom instead of mud. When you secure the boat, take things slowly, too. If at all possible, it’s always a good idea to point the bow toward open water to make departure easier.
Keep in mind that you don’t want your keel too far up on the sand. Remember, you’ll have to push boat out when you depart. The engine makes your stern the heaviest part of the vessel, which could make it challenging to get the boat back out.
That said, remember that when your passengers debark with gear in tow, the boat will get lighter. Account for this by pulling the boat further up following debarkation.
Step 4: Anchor Your Boat
If a tree or other improvised hardpoint is available, tie your anchor to it. If not, drive a stake into the sand. If you anchor at a sandbar, make sure enough of the sandbar is above water that you won’t have to worry about high tide washing away your stake.
As an alternative, use two anchors: one that’s connected to the bow and a second that’s connected to the stern.
Step 5: Keep an Eye on the Tide
Once it’s beached or moored, keep an eye on the water level around your boat. If the tide is going out, you’ll need to move the boat to make sure it doesn’t get stuck in the sand. And if you aren’t available to monitor the boat, designate one of your crew or passengers to check the water level every 30 minutes. Remember, the tide falls quickly.
Step 6: Depart
Once you’ve had a day full of fun, push the boat back out until it’s at a depth where it’s floating—crew and gear included. Back out slowly from the sand until your draft is clear and you’ve got a navigable depth.
You’ve done it! You’ve beached your ship and safely brought it back out again.
Time to Improve Your Boating Skills
Beaching a boat at or near a sandbar is a useful skill that expands your ability to explore and do more from the water. Remember: Practice makes perfect. When in doubt, you can always brush up on your skills with more boating tips from the pros.
And once you’ve leveled up your boating skills, it’s time to earn your certification. As a certified boater, the opportunities for fun on the water will be endless!