For most boaters, the question is not if they will strike a submerged object, but when.
The well-being and safety of you and your passengers is priority number one, while taking action to mitigate further damage to your vessel is priority number two.
Here’s a game plan:
1.When you realize that you may have struck a submerged object, bring the vessel to dead slow or stop.
2. If you’re in danger — always assume that you are — have everyone on board put on a life jacket.
3. Immediately check all of the bilges to confirm that the vessel is not taking on water. If it is, do what you can to slow or stop the water flow. Stuff the hole with a rag, bedding, or whatever you have on board until help arrives.
4. Determine that you’re not aground. If the engines have stalled, try to restart them. Once they restart, try shifting forward and reverse to confirm you haven’t lost propulsion. In the event you’re in an area where the boat is drifting and may drift up on a sandbar or into a bridge, dock, or other vessel, anchor your vessel if possible.
5. Stay aware of your surroundings. There have been cases where a vessel experiences a casualty, such as striking a submerged object, then experiences a second casualty because the vessel drifts into something else because the captain took his or her attention from the helm.
6. If the engine, transmission, and bilge seem OK, slowly accelerate the vessel and pay close attention for any evidence of noise or vibration. Watch your engine gauges closely to make sure that all systems are functioning normally. Putting the engine in gear or even starting it may cause increased water pressure or vibration, which may turn a non leak into a leak. Inspect bilges carefully at this point.
7. Following an event, bring the boat to your marina and ask them to check it over and confirm there’s no damage. In some cases, this may require a diver to check under your vessel, or the marina may haul your vessel to inspect the hull, bottom, and running gear.