How to Beach Your Boat: Two Techniques to Make It Easy and Safe to Leave Again

Sometimes the most fun you can have with your boat is jumping out of it to swim or frolic on the beach. But, before you go and beach your boat you need to make sure you know exactly what you’re doing. If you have the wrong technique you could damage your boat, wind up stuck, or both.

Here are the best ways to beach your boat directly on the beach itself and how to beach your boat just offshore of the actual beach. With both techniques, it is critical that you always maintain your situational awareness because when it comes to being on the water things can change in a hurry.


Beached Boat Example

A Sun Tracker boat beached on a lake.


Putting Your Boat on the Beach

When the soft sand is calling and you want to play on shore and still be close to the water, it’s tempting to want to beach your boat directly on the sand. Most experts strongly advise you to not do this. However, the truth is most boaters will do this from time to time. If you do decide to beach your boat on the shore make sure you fully understand the risks and you are willing to live with the consequences of your decision.


Best Times to Beach Your Boat Directly on the Beach

As mentioned above, it is never really ideal to beach your boat directly on the shore. But, if you find a nice sheltered cove, or you really want to go ashore without all the trouble of dealing with complicated anchoring techniques, you will want to beach your boat directly on the beach.

Because of the constant changes in the tide, it is best if you only use this technique if you plan on being ashore for a short time or you are willing to move your boat every hour or so.

You will want to make sure you have great visibility and that there are no rocks between you and the soft sand where you plan on beaching the boat.


Possible Hazards

The biggest hazards when you beach your boat directly on the actual beach are:

  • The coarse sand damaging the gelcoat
  • Water intrusion into the fiberglass laminate
  • Removing antifouling coatings
  • Damage to the keel
  • Your boat becoming stuck high and dry as the tide recedes
  • Your boat floating away with the changing tide


Before beaching your boat, you can mitigate the most severe risks to your boat by fitting your keel with a guard. You will also want to give your boat a thorough cleaning and consider reapplying antifouling coatings sooner than usual.

When dealing with the risks presented by the changing tide your best defense will be using the technique described below and being vigilant about watching the changing tide and the position of your boat.


Best Technique for Beaching Your Boat

  1. Know the tide chart. You need to know if you are approaching high tide or low tide. Plan your stay accordingly. If the tide is coming out, you will want to make sure and not beach your boat too high up on the sand or else you will get stuck fast. If the tide is rising, you will want to make sure your boat is far enough up on the sand that it won’t float away. If you are in a lake or river system you will want to carefully watch the winds as these can have some of the same effects as a changing tide on your boat’s position.
  2. Make sure you know the composition of the bottom. Just because the beach is nice and sandy doesn’t mean that there aren’t sharp rocks just under the surface of the water as you approach the shore. You want to beach your boat somewhere where there is a nice soft, sandy bottom. If the bottom is muddy or mucky, your boat could easily become trapped.
  3. Idle into the shallowest water you can find that provides a clear sight line to the beach and still allows you to float. Take it slow. Gunning your boat up on the beach is a great way to damage your keel or ruin the finish on your boat.
  4. Once you’re are in waist-deep water, turn off the engine, trim the motor all the way up, and then have someone else get in the water and walk the boat up to the beach with a bowline.
  5. Make sure and park the boat so you can leave. You want to avoid having the entire keel on the sand because that makes it tough to get the boat back in the water. You should also avoid parking the boat so it is in danger of being swamped.
  6. Keep an eye on the time and the tide. Your beached boat may need to be moved every hour or so to avoid getting stuck.


Beaching Your Boat Just Off the Beach

Beaching your boat just offshore is the safer technique. Most veterans have found that parking the boat just off of the beach allows them more time to play, is safer for the boat, and allow for greater peace of mind.

While there are still risks with this technique, they are easier to manage and much less severe than the hazards encountered with beaching your boat directly on the shore.


Best Times to Leave Your Boat Just Off the Beach

When you want to relax, swim, or play on the soft and inviting sand, beaching your boat offshore is a great idea. You will only want to beach your boat in good weather and when you are aware of the tides and winds.

You can beach your boat close enough to the shore that everyone on shore can hear the music from the boat and in deep enough water to allow the boat to float and anyone that wants to swim.

Beaching your boat offshore is great for when you want to picnic on the beach or just enjoy the sun.


Possible Hazards

When you beach your boat just offshore you are much less likely to damage your boat, but there are still some possible hazards:

  • Swamping the boat because of poor positioning or inadequate anchorage
  • Having the boat get stuck because of poor positioning and changing tides
  • Having the boat float away because of poor anchorage and changing tide
  • Damaging the keel because of excessive speed and poor depth judgment

If you use the proper technique, you can avoid almost all of these risks. Most of these hazards happen because boaters are in a hurry, inexperienced, or fail to pay sufficient attention to details. However, even if you follow this technique exactly, there is always a danger of changing winds or tides creating a problem. You should make it a habit to check on the boat’s position relative to the shore and the water level regularly—at least once an hour.


Best Technique for Beaching Your Boat Just Off the Beach

In order to lessen the risk of getting stuck, the goal of beaching your boat just off the beach is to end up with the bow pointing towards the open water and away from the shore. Using this technique properly will require the help of a crew member.

  1. Idle your boat towards the shore until you end up in water that is about waist deep. The boat should still be able to float and operate the drive.
  2. Have a crewmember in the stern of the boat with the bow anchor. They should gently set it down as you idle towards the shore and play out the rode to keep it away from the propellers.
  3. Turn off the engine and trim the motor all the way up as the bow nuzzles into the sand. The boat will rest here temporarily.
  4. Have a crew member take a stern anchor ashore and plant is securely. This is also a good time to unload all of your gear.
  5. Keeping the motor trimmed up, pull the boat off the sand and back into deeper water using the bow anchor rode. Your boat will rotate so that the bow is facing away from the shore. You want to make sure there is enough tension in the stern line to hold the boat in place.
  6. You only need to go a short distance away from the shore, but the water should be waist deep.

When it is time to go all you will need to do is load everything up, pay out a little scope on the bow anchor rode and pull in the stern anchor rode as everyone gets back on board. Once everyone and everything is safely loaded, you can use your bow anchor rode to pull the boat into deeper water until it’s safe to start the engines, pull up the bow anchor and head to your next stop.

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