Stories about running aground and keeping control of your boat in any situation

The AyeAye® team has been following some sailing channels on YouTube for a while now. Okay, to be honest we have seen a lot of episodes over the years. I remember in the beginning there were only a few YouTube channels about liveaboards, sharing their life at sea with the rest of the world. Originally not even to make money, but to let their families watch. Over the years, this has attracted so much attention that some liveaboards, together with the use of Patreon and YouTube, can even finance their existence with it. More and more people seem to be taking the plunge and following the dream. And indeed, we like to dream away at this, looking at those fantastic adventures and the beauty of nature, some of which we capture better than others.

Een zeilboot loopt aan de grond.
A sailboat running aground

Solo sailing: full control of your boat, even below deck

But, as spectacular and idyllic as some episodes seem to be that you encounter, there are certainly very realistic situations that shake you awake and put you back in the real world.

I remember an episode of Sailing La Vagabonde a few years ago, in which Riley Whitelum told of a story he heard from a man who was sailing solo on his yacht trying to avoid some bad weather. At the time, he was close to an archipelago with lots of shallows and was in quite a hurry to take a safe route towards stable weather. At that moment a leakage occurred below deck which was so urgent that he had to switch on the autopilot and make an emergency repair. As the boat held its course and he concentrated for some time on the repairs, he felt the boat run aground on a shoal. And not just any shallow spot, the end result was that the boat was stranded on the beach of a deserted island for weeks.

Because the autopilot could only maintain a fixed course in a straight line and because he had no other method of keeping abreast of the surroundings below deck, and because the repair was so urgent, there was probably no way for him to prevent it at that moment. The repair simply had priority, with all the risks that entailed. In the end, after a long wait and a lot of costs for the recovery, but also paying a fine for environmental pollution that increases every day, he managed to continue his journey. This is just one of the situations that you sometimes see passing by, in reality there are many such reports.

For people who sail mostly solo, no matter how experienced you are and perhaps even more so than others, an accident or mishap in general can be at the end of a day. You are on your own and maybe in a remote area too, without the possibility of quick help. Whereas in most cases sailing should lead to relaxation, in such situations you have to make quick choices and those choices do not always lead to the most ideal outcome.

Dependency on your boat

There is a dependence on your boat. Logical, because that is what should keep you afloat. Not only the solidity or construction of your boat, but also the technology plays a major role. Manufacturers of the most common technology in recreational boating often state that they hope it will contribute to the comfort of boating, but that it should on no account be relied upon.

Traditional methods should always be relied upon. It is clear that manufacturers also want certainty, otherwise damage claims will naturally abound. There are products with somewhat more stringent requirements, which often have SOLAS certification. These really focus on the safety of human life at sea. It may be interesting to know that the SOLAS certification was introduced in 1914 after the Titanic disaster in 1912, which was terrible in itself, of course.

Safe and comfortable sailing?

You could say that if you are safe, you are comfortable. But is it really so? Apart from the fact that technology does not officially contribute to safety, some equipment does play a crucial role in sometimes critical moments.

Thanks to various navigation and other internal sensors, you are better informed about the conditions in and around your vessel and that knowledge, in turn, helps you make choices so that you can continue to sail safely. The autopilot maintains course so you can walk away from the helm for a while, in the case of a sailing boat you can make an adjustment to the sail position. Such an action can also contribute to safety. Lying comfortably on the deck relaxing while relying on the information you think you have from your surroundings is another story.

In any case, we believe that more and more people are using technology. Whatever their motivation, there is usually no way around it.

Preventing unsafe situations through a reliable boat system

Preventing a breakdown on board such as a leak is easy to say afterwards. Once you are in such a situation, you have to act. This action is simplified when you have the right information at the right time.

The fact that the man below deck no longer had access to navigation software on which he could have seen that he was heading directly for an island, or a depth gauge that might have sounded an alarm every now and then, in fact blinded him. Perhaps when the autopilot was switched on, the course was still correct, but wind and drift or a defect in the autopilot resulted in this ill-fated course. Of course, you may not be able to leave so quickly to change your course at the helm, or perhaps several times if necessary.

We cannot judge how long he was below deck, his (in)ability to return to the helm, or the situation at the time of activating the autopilot. What we do know is that if the right information and control were always at hand, including when he left the helm, this particular situation could have been avoided.

All-in-one boat system: access and control everywhere

Imagine that you had found yourself in this situation. You notice that there is a defect, you are sailing solo and have to carry out a repair below deck yourself. On top of that, there is bad weather coming and you have found a route to avoid it relatively quickly, so you are not entirely at ease.

You really have to concentrate on the defect, which could be a leak, and you simply cannot get away from it.

You switch on the autopilot while you are still at the helm, check the plotter to see if there is a risk of running aground or colliding and you go below deck in a hurry. In this rush, you may have misjudged the course.

But below deck, there is still the possibility to check this via your phone or tablet. One possibility is to download a free app that can show a water map and your position by default, but is this sufficient in this situation? While you are working, you can see exactly where you are sailing, what course you are on, how fast you are going. With this you know whether your course is heading towards land, but cannot make any further adjustments or estimate how deep it is, or whether there are other ships sailing.

What you really want is not only the same overview, but also the control that you would have at the helm.

AyeAye app op mobiele telefoon.
Access and control from anywhere with the AyeAye® app

AyeAye®, the complete hardware and app solution

The AyeAye® team has developed a boat computer that goes beyond the free apps and many separate instruments. The first maritime system that integrates more than 20 instruments into one. A boat system that not only gives you information about your ship and the environment, but also control over many devices on board. You have insight and control wherever you are on the ship, or even from home with the AyeAye® app.

With any smart device, smartphone, tablet or laptop:

  • Make course adjustments, or set a route for your autopilot to follow, while below deck
  • Below deck, you can see not only where you are sailing and what course and speed you are on, but also the AIS objects around you and all possible other sensors. Many of these sensors are built in as standard
  • Being able to switch lights and other equipment remotely
  • And much, much more…

Conclusion: fun and safe sailing with the right boat technology

A ship is something, if you are lucky enough to own one, that many people cherish. Something that is perhaps not so much a goal to own, but more a means to experience. To witness and experience the spectacle and beauty of nature from the water, just like you can see on the many YouTube channels. Preferably as comfortably (and thus safely) as possible, of course.

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