Monday, 4 February 2013

Drying Out Safely In A Creek

 Deciding where to anchor in a creek can be a hazardous business but an essential skill non-the-less for this type of cruising and all part of the Creeksailing adventure.

 I am asked questions like this one by readers on a regular basis:  Quote: One thought upon which I'd welcome your advice is about drying out between tides: when anchoring in a creek how can I know whether the bottom I'm about to settle on is steep to or nicely flat?  I've seen so many creeks with quiet steep sides.  Or if there's anything nasty that might damage the boat?  

Found a flat lay - but, err...?
 There are many tricks I use when up them “owd cricks” which up until now have helped me avoid what has happened to this poor fella in the picture, so I’ll just mention a few here. 
  The most helpful and what I would recommend whenever possible is a pre-scout on foot to study the creek at low tide, take notes and photograph suitable areas to dry – or as the picture shows to avoid! If pre-scouting was not possible and you are entering a new creek, or when drying in the margins of a river, or you have forgotten your notes; while on a cruise I always sound with the cane fore and aft for levels and also sweep under the boat from both sides with the cane as the water level drops - feeling for any stumps etc. Move and position your boat accordingly. Against old farm docks and walls I find is generally flat "ish" but more of a stump hazard. Urban creeks may have shopping trolleys or metal car wheels and bicycles to dodge. It also depends when you want to get away to and whether you are in a deep creek (generally has steep sloping sides falling into a deep gut that could be around eight to ten feet wide - dry out on this angle if you want  to experience what it is like to be an astronaut leaving the planet) or a shallow creek (generally flatter, could be six feet to hundreds of feet wide, the latter with a smaller gut-way/rill or two - two or three feet in width, either in the middle or to one side or both - very comfortable night’s sleep would be possible here) easy and clean shore access if in marshes, a potential mud-bath if a low tide creek. Check the chart for drying heights above Chart Datum which will give initial indication of a deep or shallow creek, anything above three metres and it’s likely you may not be able to get in to anchor until - and will have to be away around a couple of hours either side of high water. So in fact it may be level ground further up but finding a spot in the gut further down might be best for your time schedule.
Some of us will do whatever it takes to come ashore
  When in an unfamiliar deep creek and you are not sure what is beneath you may have to adjust the anchor a few times over a three or four hour period, maintaining a floating depth, while checking fore and aft for a level spot (which may not be there) as you move away from the bank until you are perhaps 12 -15 feet below the ‘cant’ of marsh for example, and in the very gut of the creek, when a final sweeping beneath the boat with the cane for protruding objects/stumps will have you scrambling into the bunk for a well-earned lie-down. Another scenario if you are still in the same deep creek; you may be leaving at high tide so chose to dry out on a gently sloping ledge that you found beside the grass in two feet of water... Always bearing in mind the tide heights at high water recede again after 15.00 hrs.
  When Google Earth became available in 2005 we all wondered at it and yes it sure has its uses for planning at home to and you can find the gut in wider shallower creeks on the more creek crawler friendly Bing Maps which shows the low water picture though do be aware it may not show the sharp hazards that will hole the boat, or distinguish between dangerous deeper mud or firm mud that you can walk across to shore, or any existing two foot ledges for instance that would leave the boat dry at an extreme angle, hence I will always recce whenever possible.  Sometimes you get it right, others not so. Sometimes you may just have to take a gamble? The sooner you get out there doing it will all fall into place so whatever you do enjoy it.  


Paul Mullings said...

So sad to see that photo of what was once someone's pride and joy!

Keith Worsdell said...

That little boat looks somewhat like a "Shipmate", please tell me that it is not, Tony?

Creeksailor said...

Not quite sure what it is but at a guess looks rather like an Alacrity 19.
Another good point which the image shows is where there is Bladderwrack there is hard ground/ rocks. In this case GRP!

Unknown said...

I don't think it's an alacrity 19. Mine has no chine and the stern is tilted forward.

Sad thing though.

Cheers, I've just had mine in the water since September and just learning about beaching it. And since I don't usually want to stay for 12 hours, I beach it during the rising tide.

Nice blog!


Paul Mullings said...

An interesting observation Tony and a rather reassuring one in my mind regarding the Bladderwrack. It seems to me that Mother Nature is a lot more resilient than many people believe and her adaptability knows no bounds.