When I first started, I used to do most of my sailing in Galveston Bay. This large protected body of water is notorious for its shallow bottom. It's mostly 15 feet deep. The only exception being the Houston Ship Channel that plows up the middle.
Most of the time we day-sailed our 19 ft Cape Dory Typhoon. Nice, simple to sail and hard to get into too much trouble with. If we ever ran it aground, you just hopped in and pushed it off.
One weekend we chartered a 30ft sloop. Frankly, I had no business doing this at this point in my sailing career, as will become clear later. My wife, Alice, an English friend, Andrew and I planned to sail down to Galveston, then go off shore in the Gulf. What we should have done is motored down the ship channel but muggins here decided that we would sail outside the channel. I had taken a nav course and felt I knew what I was doing.
To cut a long story short. I made a highly inaccurate fix and we ran aground on an oyster bed. I got the engine going and backed it off. It seemed to take a lot of power to get clear and in the process I bent the rudder post. The rudder was jammed to starboard. I dropped the hook when we drifted into deeper water.
My second mistake was telling the crew the drop sail. They took this a bit literally and started to drop the jib. That would have been OK had it not been for the fact that it was a roller furling jib. If you have ever done this with the jib fully out, this was resulted in what is technically known as a bugger's muddle. Basically we were anchored with a flapping Genoa and abreast to the wind because the rudder was steering us across the wind.
My third mistake and this is the bit where in retrospect I felt like a total Muppet. I decided to get help and wait for it...I called Mayday. In my defense (and this is a slim excuse) I had never had any instruction on how to use a VHF and this is what i thought i was supposed to do. Fortunately, the Coast Guard determined that I was not in need of the Eastern Fleet and sent out a couple of Coast Guard auxiliaries in a fishing boat.
They helped us figure out how to get the sail furled and to make rudder steerable and we motored back. Fortunately they stayed at hand as after 30 minutes, smoke started pouring out of the engine.
The coasties threw us a tow, asked us to put on life jackets, stay on deck and towed us back to the marina. The pathetic remains of what little hubris I had left evaporated as we were towed past all of the restaurants in Kemah. I was on deck wearing the remaining life vest, which was a small child's size. The scene seemed to provide a lot of entertainment to the diners at the dozen restaurants we passed.