We’ve Been Around

As the number on the depth finder started rapidly decreasing, I tried to reassess my route while asking Wags for a sanity check. 7 ft… 6 ft… 5 ft… “It’s getting shallow quickly!” 4… 3… 2… Gadabout slid to a halt in the soft sand bottom just outside the channel. We were aground.

After an overnight crossing of the Sea of Cortez to the mainland, we arrived at Topolobampo where we planned to leave the boat while we took the train inland to explore the famed Copper Canyon. To get to the marina we had to leave the main channel and negotiate a secondary channel. There are channel markers in place but the channel is not depicted on the electronic charts, only in one of the guidebooks showing the general path, a path which appears to cross areas much shallower than our 6-ft draft. We were motoring along between the channel markers at about 5 knots. I was at the helm with the next set of markers firmly in my gaze (I thought) and Wags was focused on shore, trying to identify the correct marina through his binoculars, when we came to our abrupt halt. I immediately put the engine in reverse and, luckily, was able to back off without any damage, other than to my ego, as a panga full of fishermen pointed out our error – I had missed a right-hand turn in the channel. Adrenaline still pumping, I guided Gadabout back into the channel and proceeded, SLOWLY, with Wags on the bow keeping a close lookout, until two shrimp boats – yes, they also got to witness the entertaining scene – passed us and provided a clear picture of the way ahead. To our surprise, there were a couple of times the shrimpers went outside the channel markers, their local knowledge serving as a proof point of the constantly shifting bottom.

An hour later, securely in our slip at the marina, we toasted our good fortune – a sand bottom, helpful locals and no damage. There’s a saying that goes, “You haven’t been around until you’ve run aground.” Well, now that we’ve been around, there’s no need to do it again.

— Paula


4 Comments on “We’ve Been Around

  1. Reminds me of a passage I made with friends through the Lefkas Canal at night (Western Greece). The entrance wasn’t depicted well on my friends old GPS device and the lighting was confusing. We almost ran aground on a sand spit (not on the chart) guarding the entrance. Only Greek fishermen hailing us on the radio (thank goodness my Turkish friend understood the Greek word for yacht).

    Once we got past that and followed them into the entrance, we nicked some rocks inside the channel entrance (also in a place not shown on the GPS). Thankfully, no serious damage. We went through the entrance bridge and then proceeded to follow markers down the canal channel. Unfortunately, they weren’t in pairs. So, the question was, do I leave that green one to port or starboard? (i.e. (aiiiyeeee!) which direction were the channel markers for, north or south bound?)

    We decided to pick a side and keep it close to the marker with a weather eye on the depth gauge. Unfortunately, as the old knight in Indiana Jones would say, “We chose…..poorly” Thankfully, soft muddy bottom meant that as the numbers ticked down to near nothing, we backed out of the muck and went the other side of the marker. Oh yeah, did I say this was at night and these weren’t lit. Just crappy telephone poles sticking out of the water. So I guess we were around x 3 that night.

    Glad to hear you made it safely!


  2. WOW!! That had to be a scary experience! Thank God there was no damage to boat or you!!


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