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There are two types of boaters: those who have hit bottom and those who will hit bottom. The crucial part is to know what to do when it happens.

No matter how minor your brush with the bottom, even if it’s just skimming a sandbar, you should power down and perform an inspection as soon as possible. Look for obvious damage to the propeller, the skeg and the engine’s lower unit. A small nick or ding in a prop blade or skeg probably isn’t going to end your day, but the prop should be repaired and the engine’s lower unit inspected by a professional once you get home.

A blade bent far enough out of position to cause a vibration should be replaced on the spot with a spare. Vibration from props that have been bent out of factory form can cause damage to lower unit bearings and seals, so no matter how close you think your prop is to “original” after impacting with anything, have it checked out.

If a spare isn’t available, a blade can sometimes be temporarily “fixed” using vice-grips or channel-lock pliers to bend it back to its original position—or close enough to get the boat under way without undue vibration. (Note: This will work with aluminum props but may not with stainless steel, which is stronger and harder to bend back into shape.) Troll back to the dock at the slowest speed needed to maintain headway and take the prop to a shop for repairs.

In the event the lower unit is cracked, regardless of whether any lubricating fluid can be seen leaking from it, the engine should not be re-started and arrangements should be made for a tow. Cracks may not leak fluid until the engine is operating. If fluid can be seen leaking, do your best to contain it by wrapping the lower unit in a plastic bag or towel.

Of course, the best way to dodge damaging underwater obstacles is to avoid shallow water in the first place. When skinny water stands between you and the dock, launch ramp or fishing grounds, the best thing to do is take your time, put someone on the bow to point out hazards and hope for the best.

United Marine Underwriters is more than just boat insurance. Browse our Boats For Sale at BoatBrowser or our Lake Resource Guide at LakeBrowser or share your fishing stories and photos at True Fish Tales – the ones that did not get away.

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2 Responses to Hitting Bottom

  1. Bob Sommer says:

    Randy Troutman,
    I am already an insurance customer of yours, and proud of it. I hope you know that I look forward to reading these helpful articles. They’re informative and well written. Please keep up your fine work.

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