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March 25, 2011

Responsibly Running Shallow

Consider the "four P's" before blasting your boat across that next flat

prop scars

3. Planning
My early episode with waning tides taught me to plan ahead. Be aware of what the tide is doing while you're out there. Don't head onto a shallow flat when you know the tide is likely to strand you.

When negotiating the shallows, know your various escape routes - especially those downwind and down-current. Be aware of moon phases and their effects on the flats. What you might be able to float over today might be considerably shallower in a week or two.

Learn to read the various bottoms. Know the difference between grass, sand and solid. Learn how to ­accurately read the depth at a glance, ­remembering that in clear, shallow water, the appearance of depth can be very deceptive. Darker water often means deeper water. If you see a bird standing on a flat, chances are good you shouldn't go there.

4. Patience
Though a sage person once said that fishermen and sailors possess more patience than the average person, I know plenty today who have little to none. Our fast-paced society seems populated by more Type A personalities than ever. They always try to take the shortest path between two points - consequences be damned. That kind of philosophy, that "It's all about me!" attitude, can wreak havoc on fragile shallow environs. So here are a few suggestions that you should actually stop to consider as you run between fishing spots:

• If you want to travel over a flat that might be too shallow to transit without causing damage, go around it instead of across.

• If you get stuck on a flat, pole your way off rather than tilting the engine and digging a trench to deeper water.

• Remember that your boat will float considerably higher without anyone aboard. Sometimes the altruistic way to exit a flat is to get off your boat and push: low-tech, but very effective.