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Veteran Sailor Goes Aground

Photography provided by Rebecca Rowlette Husky Salvage and Towing Ltd.

Skipper’s Tips: Reef Relief

Words by David Blacklock

I went aground the other day – to those unaware of this nautical term, that means my vessel touched the sea bed.

It’s not something I like to do…

…in fact I dislike it so much I haven’t done it in years – Maybe ten years. But this time not only did I go “aground” aground, I went rig-twangingly, hull-grindingly aground, bouncing around rocks and coral like a toy boat in a concrete mixer. I was not happy.

Not only was I aground and thereby in contravention of one of the deepest-held beliefs about myself—that is, ‘I am not that guy that goes aground, thank you very much’—but I was in a position whereby I would need assistance. Rapid assistance.

Aboard the boat with me were a young couple who had joined me in Road Town not three hours prior and now here we were, grinding it out within screeching distance of the lemurs of Necker Island. People were watching, too. Friends of my guests, as it happens. This brought little joy to the captain.

But wouldn’t you know—a quick phone call, rapid deployment of a tidy wee RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) and a bit of heave-ho and we were right as rain. The man in the RIB was a friend of my guests and laughed as I tried to stammer out my gratitude.

“This happens all the time,” he said. “No worries.” With pride, I wanted to impress upon him that it doesn’t happen to me all the time, but he disappeared before I found the right words.


I did learn a couple of things. One, I’m no different than anyone else—though I do have a long list of reasons why it wasn’t my fault—did you know there’s a four-knot current barrelling over the reefs at the east end of Virgin Gorda at full moon? See, case dismissed. The biggest lesson, one I’d learned a long time ago and forgotten, was it’s rarely as problematic as you think it is.

I had visions of a cracked hull, loose keel, snapped-off rudder—but the worst of it was a couple of gouges in the gelcoat and some tell-tale scrapes on the bottom of the rudder. The sound of rock grinding against GRP (Glass reinforced plastic) is not pleasant and, as is the case here, when the GRP comprises the hull of your own boat well, it’s not pretty.

What I do remember is the feeling of helplessness evoked by the dreadful realisation I was stuck, literally between a rock and a hard place. That feeling, and my reluctance to repeat it, should keep me out of deep water or perhaps more accurately, keep me in deep water.

"I wanted to impress upon him that it doesn't happen to me all the time, but he disappeared before I found the right words."

Erin Paviour-Smith

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