Steam Flyer

Towing Operation Flow Chart

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Hi All Y'All-

I am now the chairperson of our club's Marine Assistance Committee. One of the things we do is offer towing to members (or friends of members) in non-emergency situations, close to our neighborhood. I should add that the nearest Sea Tow / Towboat US is about two hours away, so most years we do at least a couple of tows for dead engines/no wind, out of fuel, aground, etc etc. We also do training in towing.

Personally I have no professional standing but have towed a shitload of boats, from strings of Optis on up to Navy work barges, with never a mishap. But I would like to find a decision-making flow chart to help our guys get up to speed, who are experienced boaters but not sophisticated in all the ways a tow can suddenly turn to shit. They have emergency-response flow charts for all kinds of other stuff but I'm not seeing one for towing boats.

Thanks In Advance

FB- Doug

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you do this at your own risk. When I got my towing endorsement, my instructor said "by the end of this class, you will hopefully learn that you do NOT want to tow anyone." That said, you've stated it's not for emergencies, and for club members so I'm sure everyone understands the liabilities and risks. If you're set on a flow chart, it's worth buying someone's course book for the USCG towing endorsement and then distill out of that what you want to reference: weight placement in the towed vessel, the risk of 'tripping,' towing powerboats vs sailboats, proper locations for tow ropes, effective hip tows, etc.

Whatever you decide to do, part of your response plan has to take into account whether the towed boat is seaworthy or not, and how lines will be released in the case of emergency so one problem doesn't become two.

Good luck!

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7 minutes ago, ryley said:

you do this at your own risk. When I got my towing endorsement, my instructor said "by the end of this class, you will hopefully learn that you do NOT want to tow anyone." That said, you've stated it's not for emergencies, and for club members so I'm sure everyone understands the liabilities and risks. If you're set on a flow chart, it's worth buying someone's course book for the USCG towing endorsement and then distill out of that what you want to reference: weight placement in the towed vessel, the risk of 'tripping,' towing powerboats vs sailboats, proper locations for tow ropes, effective hip tows, etc.

Whatever you decide to do, part of your response plan has to take into account whether the towed boat is seaworthy or not, and how lines will be released in the case of emergency so one problem doesn't become two.

Good luck!

We would only tow somebody in from the river, either because their engine has died (and there's no wind, if a sailboat) or to get them off from aground; so no worries about "do I even want to untie this boat"

The other thing about liability, these are people who are REQUESTING a tow, understanding it is done by volunteers (skilled volunteers, but still). However people are dicks and will sue your ass for anything; fortunately NC has quite a strong Good Samaritan law (I've seen it tested in court).

Thank you for the idea of getting a course book, I have been working up some material and planning towing exercises out of Chapmans which is a bit thin.

FB- Doug

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As somebody who designs tugs for a living I'd say a few things are important guidelines before you start towing. Consider it step 1 of the flow chart - evaluate the tug and tow before you start.

1.  The towing vessel (tug) must have a way to quickly release the tow line unless towed boat is same size or smaller than tug. A large number of turns on a cleat is hazardous. It can take too long.

On the BC coast the old way WAS to have a sharp axe handy to cut through steel wire! You can imagine the scared crew swinging for his life when the tug's engine died and a 10,000 T barge is coasting up his stern. Many tug accidents are also caused by "girting" (tripping) where the tow swings wide of the tug and pulls the tug sideways, capsizing it. Now all modern tugs have emergency quick release tow hooks or winches.

2.  More Practically - on a recreational boat: If towing on a cleat or bollard use only enough turns to hold the load and no more. Hopefully have a helper on hand (maybe from tow) to release the tow line in case of trouble.

3. What's the weather like? Is the wind strong enough so that the tow's windage will make turning the tow hard or impossible? Is it forecast to increase? Better to decline the tow in this case.

4. Where is the tow point located? Ideally it is well forward of the rudders or outboards. A bridle attached to the transom makes it almost impossible to turn.

5. Is the tow point strong enough, considering dynamic effects from waves?  Is the tow rope long enough? Nylon ropes can be truly deadly if heavily loaded. Lots of lives and limbs lost due to the use of nylon. Polyester is semi OK for small tows,  dyneema/spectra is the only fiber rope we specify now. Typically 3-4" diameter so you can guess the loads we deal with.

Tell powerboaters strong points on sailboats too.

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Another tugboat designer here to affirm Zonker's statements.

The tripping is why we have the "towline pull criterion" in the CG rules. Don't let your towboat get out of line with the tow--especially a heavier than towboat one.

Following on ryley, do go find the books he mentions. I'm in design, not operations--the people who actually run tugboats have all sorts of expertise which I don't have.

Now as for my own yachty (mostly dinghy towing) experience:

When we tow sailboats, we try belt and suspenders on the release if possible (releasable from either tug or tow). If all the sailboats are ducks in a row, every boat is to have their towline releasable, not tied on, just "pinched off" if possible. Of course if you are towing a star this won't work because the loads are too big.

Being able to drop that towline in an instant is really important--under load.  Also, especially with outboards, think about how to keep the line out of the prop!

Other things to think about are responsibilities and procedures onboard the towed boats. Should they be actively steered, or helm amidships...more than one thought on that.

Best generally if you make it clear that the towed boat is responsible for safe navigation and steering but with the proviso that they not steer abruptly and consistently across your direction of motion unless avoiding something and that in that case the towline should be dropped. Note the feedback issue here with who can drop the line.

Singlehanders versus crewed obviously more to decide on. I used to tow my V15 twice a week at low planing speeds with my kid steering it to keep her straight. I had the drop on my end only.

 

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When pulling someone off of a sandbar, it can be considered a salvage operation. Be sure that you have rules in place that prevent a volunteer from filing a salvage claim against another member if they like the boat/don’t like the owner...

When aground and offered a tow, it is important to establish that the tow boat is not looking for salvage claims and merely offering you help. You can always offer some cash for the assistance. 
 

I know this is not exactly what the thread is about, but I’ve heard horror stories from boaters concerning tows

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1 hour ago, Sail4beer said:

When pulling someone off of a sandbar, it can be considered a salvage operation. Be sure that you have rules in place that prevent a volunteer from filing a salvage claim against another member if they like the boat/don’t like the owner...

 

Wow, I would never have thought of this in a million years... true though, adding a line in policy right now

FB- Doug

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Couple of things to consider :

a) How experienced is the crew you are going to put on your motor boat iwo boat handling of their own boat and knowledge of how different craft will behave when under tow. Even some of ours have managed to get the piece of string in their prop and they are fully ticked up tug skippers & tow masters.

b) Connection to the craft to be towed. (instructions to POB)  Don't know how many HP your stinkpot has but your average deck cleat will not be strong enough to tow off, certainly not if you are talking pulling someone out of the dirt.  If towing yotties a single bridle off a through deck mast with a gog at the bow fitting could work, deck stepped not so much.  Then you'll have to go with a split bridle to the chain plates or primary winches or a combination of both. Again all depends on build quality and displacement, local circumstances & weather & sea state.

c) good point of S4B : I realize you want to help people but when it goes tits up and end up with half a fore deck + 2 cleats only on your tow rope who will be coming after the organ grinder.

 

Shelter Kinsale.jpg

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If this is club-sponsored & the club provides training, wouldn't the club incur a share of liability?

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Sometimes damage is unintentionally done to the towed vessel (cleats pulled out/snapped off, bow pupils bent, lifelines broken, scratched topsides, etc.). I think I’d want a signed “release” in hand before even passing lines over. I’ve found that many of the owner/ skippers of the towed vessel want to dictate how the tow is set up and performed. God love ‘em, some are idiots... stories available upon request.

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I've done numerous dinghy and star regattas with towing getting into the mix. There was never a specific release. The only stipulatiojns have been variously "don't tie off" and "around the mast only please". Newport, RI; Milford, CT, West River, MD, Phila, PA, Gibson Island, MD, etc. One Newport regatta, the whole 505 fleet was towed on one string all the way out to the outside course!

I will add that in 505 regattas (too long since I racded a star to remember) we are required to carry a paintersuitable for towing of some minimum length

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Aside from the first post, this whole thread just says something awful about American culture of blaming/suing/liability. Just awful. Someone offers to help basically and you all worry about whether you should even do it. 

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1 hour ago, TJSoCal said:

If this is club-sponsored & the club provides training, wouldn't the club incur a share of liability?

Club provides equipment too. To top it off, the club has liability insurance so anybody that sues will probably get a quick out-of-court settlement to make it go away.

5 minutes ago, Clipper said:

Aside from the first post, this whole thread just says something awful about American culture of blaming/suing/liability. Just awful. Someone offers to help basically and you all worry about whether you should even do it. 

Yep, isn't America wonderful?

OTOH this is NOT a major towing operation. It's for boaters in our neighborhood, primarily for club members but not specifically exclusive. We would never tow any boat more than a couple of miles, never tow any boat out of her home slip, never tow any boat to or from a commercial destination except our local fuel dock, and never when the weather is not calm.

There are still LOTS of things that can go wrong with tow operations, especially to the overconfident. Which is why I'm trying to make it easy to learn, and easy for our team leader(s) to make the right decisions.

Thank you all for the helpful suggestions so far, please keep 'em coming!

FB- Doug

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14 hours ago, Zonker said:

As somebody who designs tugs for a living I'd say a few things are important guidelines before you start towing. Consider it step 1 of the flow chart - evaluate the tug and tow before you start.

1.  The towing vessel (tug) must have a way to quickly release the tow line...

Probably not suitable for heavier tows, but I've successfully used the Munter Hitch as a quick release in a number of light to moderate ad-hoc towing applications, both on and off the water.

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46 minutes ago, Clipper said:

Aside from the first post, this whole thread just says something awful about American culture of blaming/suing/liability. Just awful. Someone offers to help basically and you all worry about whether you should even do it. 

This site is American centric so reveals the amusing American psyche/culture – a self image as a strong resourceful Marlborough man but a reality that denies personal accountability in favour of finding deep pockets to sue.

However I found many of the above posts were helpful suggestions of the actual risks of towing and how to manage them

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20 minutes ago, KC375 said:

However I found many of the above posts were helpful suggestions of the actual risks of towing and how to manage them

 

That is true. They were/are. I just picked up on the negative side of it all.

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Some of us are approaching this from a commercial angle while SF is merely hoping to be able to help a few unfortunate souls in his neck of the woods.;)

Granny sucks eggs comes to mind but if you have to put a procedure or a flow chart together :

- Review the situation (trusting that the towing vessel crew know what they are doing) - more applicable during a grounding incident - tides, current, obstacles, weather and come up with a plan.

- Depending on the situation - beggars can't be choosers if help is at hand when the sh*t hits the fan or brake down so on approach to the casualty good comms is essential. a) on towing vessel - who does what and when, b) with casualty - is it an experienced owner who knows the crack or a novice ? - Nominate one person to communicate with casualty what needs doing - or transfer that person to the casualty to assist the owner with advice and set-up.

- Common sense - no panic and be professional.  Remember the golden rule of towing : Getting a tow up to speed is not an issue ...... it's the stopping bit that's a bit of a headache.

- I'll leave the disclaimer paperwork with SF :lol:

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The only thing to add is the need for clear and explicit communication.  Designate ONE individual on the tow boat to communicate with the skipper of the boat being towed.  And only respond to what that skipper says.  Everybody yelling all at once won't help.

I would encourage you and the towing crew to adopt a common set of terms for all the gear and all the maneuvers.  And for the boat getting the tow, ensure they clearly understand their role and what they have to do (for both the expected and un-expected).  And of course you can reasonably expect to be doing all this in the dark and in a storm when even the most basic communication will be a challenge.    

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17 hours ago, Steam Flyer said:

Hi All Y'All-

I am now the chairperson of our club's Marine Assistance Committee. One of the things we do is offer towing to members (or friends of members) in non-emergency situations, close to our neighborhood. I should add that the nearest Sea Tow / Towboat US is about two hours away, so most years we do at least a couple of tows for dead engines/no wind, out of fuel, aground, etc etc. We also do training in towing.

Personally I have no professional standing but have towed a shitload of boats, from strings of Optis on up to Navy work barges, with never a mishap. But I would like to find a decision-making flow chart to help our guys get up to speed, who are experienced boaters but not sophisticated in all the ways a tow can suddenly turn to shit. They have emergency-response flow charts for all kinds of other stuff but I'm not seeing one for towing boats.

Thanks In Advance

FB- Doug

Steam Flyer – apart from all the anxiety about litigation and liability – I’d like the commend you for starting this thread.

Some of the more cautionary advice about the hazards of towing got me thinking about my teenage adventures on race committee crash boats and as a coach – both of which I was ill qualified for.

In hindsight it was as much luck as skill that kept me from doing something stupid that I might have regretted for a long time. I wish there had been someone like you asking these questions and giving some basic guidance to build on / protect me from my raw enthusiasm and ill-informed can do attitude.

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It's been a long time since I was a certificated USYRU sailing instructor. I iremember we did a powerboat handling portion of the course. I can't remember but towing optimists and FJs must have been a part of it I towed a heck of a lot of optimists. Never once got the line wrapped in the prop. This was all long before boat driver's licenses. I can't imagine what the red tape must be now.

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Before you spend much more time on this, check with your insurance underwriter about this scheme.

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54 minutes ago, Glenn McCarthy said:

Before you spend much more time on this, check with your insurance underwriter about this scheme.

Too late, the clubs been doing it for years... decades, in fact. Standard Burgee Program insurance

FB- Doug

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Tie rope from BACK of towing boat, to FRONT of towed boat.

Unless you want to do it differently.

If you are the kind of skipper who needs a signed liability waver before you attempt anything, please, don't tow anything, ideally stay on land at all times.

Procedures and checklists often get overlooked, of most use would be a laminated picture showing bridle attachment (or alternative) in use on towing boat, and second laminated picture showing arrangement of ropes for alongside tow, it just makes the toolbox talk easier.

Tow rope quick release in a small boat is a sharp knife.

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2 hours ago, maxstaylock said:

Tie rope from BACK of towing boat, to FRONT of towed boat.

Unless you want to do it differently.

...

That seems to work if towing a smaller boat or a few dinghies (at least that’s how I did in my uninformed manner, and got away with it).

For larger towed boats I think Zonker’s point 4 would be worth bearing in mind or the tugs manoeuverability may suffer.

On 1/13/2020 at 10:54 PM, Zonker said:

As somebody who designs tugs for a living I'd say a few things are important guidelines before you start towing. Consider it step 1 of the flow chart - evaluate the tug and tow before you start.

...

4. Where is the tow point located? Ideally it is well forward of the rudders or outboards. A bridle attached to the transom makes it almost impossible to turn.

...

 

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Hence in some situations it may be beneficial to set up the tow-line off the bow of the towing vessel and tow a casualty out of a tight spot backwards to retain control. Once in clear water reverse the set-up.   Depends on tug, rib, stinkpot, single prop or twin and location of tow hook/post/bollard.

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10 minutes ago, KC375 said:

That seems to work if towing a smaller boat or a few dinghies (at least that’s how I did in my uninformed manner, and got away with it).

 

For larger towed boats I think Zonker’s point 4 would be worth bearing in mind or the tugs manoeuverability may suffer.

 

 

It is a tricky one if you are towing with a sailing boat with a backstay. I've always towed boats back to front as I don't want tangles but I know it is less than ideal for direction, my answer to this issue is to throttle down before a turn so that the towing line becomes slackish or if it is in a protected area (no waves) to tow side by side. I wonder if there is a proper way to do it. @Zonker may have an idea.

Also if you need to unground a yacht, the most efficient way is to use the spinnaker halyard and tow it on its side to heel it.

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2 minutes ago, KC375 said:

That seems to work if towing a smaller boat or a few dinghies (at least that’s how I did in my uninformed manner, and got away with it).

 

For larger towed boats I think Zonker’s point 4 would be worth bearing in mind or the tugs manoeuverability may suffer.

 

 

Yeah- I'm not sure it's clear (to me, anyway) what the likely tows will consist of: Virtually everything I've been involved in has been ribs (or similar small PBs) of varying sizes towing dinghies of all types... the "towing manuals" mentioned above probably have wider scope(!) and less focus on what a club member would be involved in!

 Our club ribs (and mine) have a bridle between the D-rings on the transom with a sliding eye for the tow-rope, so that the stern can move sideways when the towline is under load to allow maneuvering.

   The RYA have a "safety boat" course for this sort of thing:

This two-day course provides the skills required when acting as an escort craft, safety boat or coach boat for a fleet of dinghies, windsurfers or canoes, or for racing or training activities.  It includes rescue techniques and elements of race management and mark laying.

   ..but that wouldn't cover towing a yacht clear of a hazard, nor is it likely to extend to using a bigger, more powerful tow-boat, probably not designed nor set up for the task... 

  I can understand why you are looking to gather some information on this: very wise, as the potential for issues to arise is significant, and collecting expertise to pass on seems sensible.

 Might even be worth working with someone experienced in the type of recoveries you anticipate and running a workshop or something to share good practice and highlight risks ("When and how to say no"). This could form the basis of a guide for future use?

 Have a look at the RNLI resources: https://rnli.org/what-we-do/international/international-resources; the "Maritime search & rescue implementation" document looks extremely good to me and sections of it are pretty close to your situation. I would expect that RNLI cox training covers the ground you want, so if you can find some similar local expertise they could well have exactly the sort of knowledge you are looking to share?

Cheers,

               W.

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Our club rescue / safety boats are 14ft fibreglass dories, each has some stainless steel bracketry, holding a 4X4 wooden post with stainless crossbar through it near the top. So for towing, the tow point is clear above the outboard  the crew sits facing aft watching the towed boats, and takes in slack on the tow rope if required (never wrap it round your hand) . All our safety boats, carry first aid kit, wire cutters for stays (or tow rope), radio to the club, and a tow rope, though the sailing boats are supposed to carry their own.

If it's just one boat needing a quick tow out of the dyke due to a headwind, there are no outboards on the sailing boats here normally, dyke only 25ft wide, then I'll normally tow them out from the bow cleat of the rescue boat and drive backwards. You can sail out of there in a 25ft keel boat, in head to wind down the dyke, but if there are others around it just gets too crowded..

Dinghies  i've towed up to ten a mile or two or just a couple  or so maybe 10 miles, on the river.

Open keel boats 3 or 4 max size 25ft up to a couple of miles. if they've run aground normally tow them backwards out of the trench in the mud they've created.

40ft 5ton hireboats, just a few hundred yards to get them out of trouble, over the years there's been:

Broken steering gear / gearbox / engine,

Stuck on a lee shore and not knowing how to get off (and endangering our boats in their efforts)

Moored to the river bank at the bow only blocking half the river with the Boat unable to get the stern line on (just push the stern round with the bows of  rescue dory).

My 27ft motor boat , I've removed the cheap and nasty cleats that were fitted and put on 4 small stainless bollards  with substantial reinforcement beneath. For moving one or two of the 25ft keel boats I can tie them one each side, any more than that I'll tow equal or near equal amounts of boats on each stern corner..

Generally I've rescued toursits more than club members, with in recent years an increasing number of canoes / kayaks hired by people who don't have the stamina to paddle back to the base..

The sailing club runs the above mentioned RYA safety boat courses (and most of the other RYA courses) so we have a lot of qualified safety boat people..  

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16 minutes ago, Laser1 said:

On a lighter note :lol:

 

Funny to watch but the poor tractor guy probably lost his way to earn a living in a split second!

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21 minutes ago, Laser1 said:

On a lighter note :lol:

 

 

I don’t think that approach was in the Massey Ferguson manual. But as Pano points out...probably was pretty devastating for the tractor owner.

 

3 minutes ago, Panoramix said:

Funny to watch but the poor tractor guy probably lost his way to earn a living in a split second!

 

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When I was 15 I learned that you only pull a tractor from the rear axle, there just isn't much in front of that except on 4wds. Fortunately old Ford tractors were easy to weld back together. Back then I was glad no film existed. Now it would be fun to watch.

Scariest tows I ever had was coming back to Balboa YC on a plane with a fleet of Finns.

 

 

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You can do a lot by setting up in advance on the towing boat

Make up an appropriate tow line for the typical use: 

Does your "Hawser have a quick release capability ? some thing like a spinnaker sheet shackle that is spliced to one side of a split loop, that can be around the mast of a sailboat, or around the windlass of a power boat, or even have a bridle that it's connected to, with either end of the bridle to the tow's bow cleats.

You can rig that at both ends in case you need to blow it off. 

  

How do you get your line over to the towed to minimize risks

  • floating high visibility polypro throwing line with Monkey's Fist to haul over your "Hawser"? 
  • Come along side and hand  it across? 
  • Take theirs of whatever type (could be nylon etc) 

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On 1/14/2020 at 6:28 PM, fastyacht said:

I've done numerous dinghy and star regattas with towing getting into the mix. There was never a specific release. The only stipulatiojns have been variously "don't tie off" and "around the mast only please". Newport, RI; Milford, CT, West River, MD, Phila, PA, Gibson Island, MD, etc. One Newport regatta, the whole 505 fleet was towed on one string all the way out to the outside course!

I will add that in 505 regattas (too long since I racded a star to remember) we are required to carry a paintersuitable for towing of some minimum length

Yep instructions for towing dinghies:
towing.PNG.0bde8ceaebe212d4f00bd66d9bb99cca.PNG

58 minutes ago, LionessRacing said:

You can do a lot by setting up in advance on the towing boat

Make up an appropriate tow line for the typical use: 

Does your "Hawser have a quick release capability ? some thing like a spinnaker sheet shackle that is spliced to one side of a split loop, that can be around the mast of a sailboat, or around the windlass of a power boat, or even have a bridle that it's connected to, with either end of the bridle to the tow's bow cleats.

You can rig that at both ends in case you need to blow it off. 

  

How do you get your line over to the towed to minimize risks

  • floating high visibility polypro throwing line with Monkey's Fist to haul over your "Hawser"? 
  • Come along side and hand  it across? 
  • Take theirs of whatever type (could be nylon etc) 

Quick release of a towing line atttached to a mast can be done with this easy to make knot:
260px-Mastworpslip_svg.png.907830fcd2f274a2b5b871bf041ebfd3.png
a slipping clove hitch:

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1 hour ago, Bruno said:

 

Scariest tows I ever had was coming back to Balboa YC on a plane with a fleet of Finns.

 

 

Interesting.  One of my more memorable, not in a good way, tows back in was also Balboa YC in my Viper 640.

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18 minutes ago, Hitchhiker said:

Interesting.  One of my more memorable, not in a good way, tows back in was also Balboa YC in my Viper 640.

What was so scary about it?Amount of wind?
Waves that surfed you to the towing ship?
A water anchor prevents you from gaining too much speed.
Or a bucket of a bail plastic tied on a line to the stern.
hoosvat-1.2-L.jpg.e93f97e4fd52515e8f9912f69b775882.jpg

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Obvious, but a couple of items I didn't see yet Steam, to put on your SOP or MOP:

Radio procedure so everybody can keep good coms, might help some people to see it on a check list, flow chart.

Establish draft every tow (I got towed onto a gravel bar by the marina shag boat, I assumed he knew I had a five foot draft since he launched and hauled the boat for me a dozen times)

Make sure you're signaling to other boaters that there is a tow operation in order to prevent close-lining any jet skiers.

 

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I've moved 45' x 20T sailboats with a 10' RIB / 15 HP outboard lashed to the stern quarter of the sailboat. It was done in pretty calm conditions and was easy.

I moved a 37' sailboat heavily laden with gooseneck barnacles with wooden hull planing dinghy / 15 HP outboard + fenders in 5-6' swells lashed on stern quarter. It was not pretty but we did get her into the harbour.

 

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IMHO the line handler on the tow boat needs to call all the shots. This would have saved my index finger from being amputated. The tow boat driver applied 400 hp before my hand was clear from the towline.

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2 hours ago, lasal said:

Obvious, but a couple of items I didn't see yet Steam, to put on your SOP or MOP:

Radio procedure so everybody can keep good coms, might help some people to see it on a check list, flow chart.

Establish draft every tow (I got towed onto a gravel bar by the marina shag boat, I assumed he knew I had a five foot draft since he launched and hauled the boat for me a dozen times)

Make sure you're signaling to other boaters that there is a tow operation in order to prevent close-lining any jet skiers.

 

On the topic of radio comms, keep an extra handheld in the tow boat to lend the towee. It’s amazing how many sailors only have the fixed mount VHF at the nav station, which is useless if you’re trying to talk to the person steering. Although the fixed mount is probably better located on a powerboat being towed, probably half the tows are the result of a dead battery. 

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2 hours ago, lasal said:

Obvious, but a couple of items I didn't see yet Steam, to put on your SOP or MOP:

Radio procedure so everybody can keep good coms, might help some people to see it on a check list, flow chart.

Establish draft every tow (I got towed onto a gravel bar by the marina shag boat, I assumed he knew I had a five foot draft since he launched and hauled the boat for me a dozen times)

Make sure you're signaling to other boaters that there is a tow operation in order to prevent close-lining any jet skiers.

 

Well, you need to fly shapes in daylight or two lights at night...

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1 hour ago, Running with Scissors said:

IMHO the line handler on the tow boat needs to call all the shots. This would have saved my index finger from being amputated. The tow boat driver applied 400 hp before my hand was clear from the towline.

That sucks!
 

 

1 hour ago, Zonker said:

I've moved 45' x 20T sailboats with a 10' RIB / 15 HP outboard lashed to the stern quarter of the sailboat. It was done in pretty calm conditions and was easy.

I moved a 37' sailboat heavily laden with gooseneck barnacles with wooden hull planing dinghy / 15 HP outboard + fenders in 5-6' swells lashed on stern quarter. It was not pretty but we did get her into the harbour.

 

When I was young, my friend got the job of scrubbing a famous sailmakers' J35. It had no engine. (I know--unusual). One day in a dead calm, he swam out to the boat (it was not way out in the harbor--it was in the inner set) and SWAM that bad boy to the dock!

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1 hour ago, fastyacht said:

Well, you need to fly shapes in daylight or two lights at night...

True, but the club Boston Whaler or john boat or whatever may be ill equipped so putting that on the flow chart and providing something is a good idea since they don't have a red boat with large TOW BOAT US on the side. Notice the the shapes being flown below:

785218897_ScreenShot2020-01-15at4_59_48PM.thumb.png.224d423944c0f71e93aa712b1b3afe15.png

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49 minutes ago, Running with Scissors said:

We fly a delta flag which means “keep clear of me; I am difficult to maneuver “

That said, probably one in 10,000 knows what it means.

Hanging a row of big blue "bumpers" over the side says the same thing, and is universally understood!

FB- Doug

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A cage over the prop, similar to safety boats, may help reduce the risk of wrapping lines in the prop, but has other issues with reduced power output etc.

If towing a long distance, consider chafe, from someone who was under tow for 22hrs in condition gusting to 40kts - an educational experience!

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7 hours ago, lasal said:

Make sure you're signaling to other boaters that there is a tow operation in order to prevent clothes-lining any jet skiers.

Um, you say that like its a bad thing. Darwin rules should apply.

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5 minutes ago, Zonker said:

Um, you say that like its a bad thing. Darwin rules should apply.

The one everyone has seene

 

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11 hours ago, Schakel said:

Yep instructions for towing dinghies:
towing.PNG.0bde8ceaebe212d4f00bd66d9bb99cca.PNG

Quick release of a towing line atttached to a mast can be done with this easy to make knot:
260px-Mastworpslip_svg.png.907830fcd2f274a2b5b871bf041ebfd3.png
a slipping clove hitch:

You hope it’s slipping. The whichard releases under high load. I’ve had slippery knots get jammed pretty tight. 

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towing dinghy(s) is one thing but if you are an 18 - 28 sh foot rib assisting sailboats in the 20-48sh foot range, or up to and over 60 for super light racers, as opposed to towing...using your rib as a tugboat alongside and on the quarter can be a pretty good bet. Also alongside as tug to push bow into dock for high windage min crew raceboats.

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If it hasn't been mentioned. Pick the length of line or period of waves that feels right while towing forward. If there's any notion of slowing down, stopping, reaching a slip/dock or anchoring, shorten up the tow line. 

(As for slipping a tow line...hopefully discuss between tow boat and distressed vessel ahead of time and develop a plan for the distressed vessel to either anchor or feather into slip...or beach or who the f knows)

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Probably number one would be establishing Go/No Go standards and a backup plan, spare ground tackle setups and Lighting.  Everyone wants to be a hero, there is a big range of numerous factors, WX, traffic, daylight vs night etc, that people can get hurt well before someone would think the CG or similar authorities should be called. People not getting hurt always number one. 

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If someone needs a tow they establish one thing. They need a tow. What's the universal sign? Arms waving? Its pretty informal at that point. This of course precludes all formalized  calls for help.

 

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If the chap towing needs to read a book you've written before he grabs his big rope then he should go back to the bar. He has no business towing, it's going to be a shit show.

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Look, there's: 1. easy-peazy towing (small boat, calm/protected water, no damage or impending doom, short distance), 2. more difficult (larger craft, roughish seas, wind, rain and current, lee shore, hard aground and possibly holed, banged up crew and/or damaged/vessel taking on water, further tow, at night, etc., and the real prime time shit-shows, which sometimes include severe injuries, vessel in danger of sinking, crew that's frozen in fear or crazed with panic, deteriorating weather, etc., etc. The easy stuff is easy... intermediate stuff can be damn tricky, and the hard stuff is best left to professionals. But it's very hard for most of us to just stand by and not try to help, especially when you're the only one close at hand.

While sailing from St Thomas to Culebra, downwind in fairly sporty conditions a few years ago, we spotted an odd orange dot in the distance off to starboard, where nothing should be according to the chart. We were rolling around so much I couldn't make it out with the binocs, but I was curious... drug drop? Fish attracting device? Buoy adrift? Even though it was off our course a bit I figured I'd head that way and maybe do a drive by. As we got closer we could make out that it was actually a guy waving an orange thing of some sort, standing on what looked like a tiny island. Mmmm, nope, that was an overturned 25' Grady White, with a guy waving a life jacket. 

We dropped the sails and turned the engine on, and maneuvered up to about 25' downwind of the guy and began shouting/conversing with him. His buddy was listless, hanging onto the side of the boat. Too long a story about how it supposedly came to be capsized, but the punch line was that the guy wanted me to tow his capsized vessel all the way to Culebra, about 12 NM away. I declined. Sunset was a little over two hours away, and I figured towing a capsized 25' powerboat that far, and then into a harbor, at night, was beyond my capabilities and responsibilities. I told him they could come aboard and sail with us to Culebra, or stay put. Either way I was calling USCG and giving them the position of the boat and info about the incident. They came aboard, we had 24 hours of bullshit to go through w/USCG, CBP and local cops in Culebra (the rescued individuals were foreign nationals, and they claimed they lost their papers when the vessel turned turtle. CBP "ordered" us to deliver the guys to the local police station).

Sorry for the thread drift, once that incident popped to mind I couldn't stop.

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You might want to invest in a pelican hook appropriately rated  fixed to a towing point on the boat you are using.  These are pretty available, used on almost all ships workboats in davits for the painter. Also all commercial seiners for the seine skiff. They can quickly, safely be released under load.  A bouy on the end of the town line if you had to dump it would be good too.  You might check with a local towboat outfit as well towboat US or similar.  Up in the San Juans the guys running the boats were usually doing it part time and had some other pertinent maritime job.  Might be able to get someone to come down and give a class/ training for club members.

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Some excellent suggestions, we're sorting out the towing gear to have available. We had an on-the-lawn towing walk-thru yesterday with about 20 committee members. Some very experienced/knowledgeable, some newbies eager to learn. I only did about 1/3 of the talking and I encouraged horrifying sea stories of what can go wrong, since I'd rather have our team leaders decline a tow than hurt somebody or cause damage. We all practiced tying off a messenger and heaving it, discussed maneuvers around disabled vessels, and pulling a boat off being aground.

We also discussed what NOT to do, which is important, and communications both with the other boat and with crew. I'm confident we're going to be ale to put some capable crews on the water to help when needed. I'm working on the guide and hope to have it ready soon.

As an illustration, some members used our club-owned submersible electric pump to de-water a Pearson 35 that had the centerboard cable housing bust. It was filled up to the bunks when our guys got there. An efficient and well-done operation, of course we'd had two training sessions on the pumps so far this year.

Thanks you all again, you sailors are what make this such a great community.

FB- Doug

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