While I’ve made a number of blunders in my cruising life, without question the worst would be running aground on Arutua Atoll in the Tuamotus Island group of French Polynesia in April of 1998.
I still remember the incident as if it had happened yesterday, and every time I go on passage I carry with me the lessons I learned that night in the Tuamotus. As you may have read, our grounding was, as are many sea catastrophes, the result of a cascade effect, in other words, lots of small errors that ended up in one big mess. Hindsight always being 100%, here are some of the lessons I learned from the grounding.
Get and use a good chart plotting system. While a chart plotter is to be considered a supplement to paper chars and traditional navigation practices, it can be a very reliable tool and help make navigation in difficult areas much easier. Had we had a chart plotter on board at the time, I doubt we would have come to grief in the Tuamotus.
Always plot your position regularly when you are in close proximity to land, particularly at night and in poor visibility. Had we begun plotting our position when we departed Ahe to head for Takaroa, we would have quickly discovered the north/south plotting error that landed us on the reef.
Have a second person check the navigation, particularly when in close proximity to land. I’m not saying that I would have caught this error, but two heads are usually better than one.
Give specific written course and heading information to the on-watch person, as well as danger bearings when you are navigating in close proximity to land at night or in poor visibility.
Insurance companies don’t repair yachts, they just, in the very best case, provide the money for the repairs. The owner is responsible for fronting the money until the insurance company pays, coordinating and supervising the work, and paying the deductible/excess. Once you have made a major claim on your yacht insurance, you are the insurance company’s adversary. They don’t want to know you any more. They will try to take every repair shortcut possible. They will do whatever possible to avoid or delay payment for the work. They will then raise your premiums, if they still elect to insure you, to astronomical levels. Should you find yourself in this position, the second call after the insurance company should be to a good maritime lawyer to help you through the process. And DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!
Good luck and safe cruising.