One of those days---Tow Line Parts - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 7 Old 06-02-2010 Thread Starter
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One of those days---Tow Line Parts

We have a commercial dungeness crab fishery going in Skagit Bay. The fishermen have a short time to make money, so they take risks with weather. It was snotty today with small craft advisories inside, gale warnings just outside Whidbey in the Strait. We assisted three fishermen that got into trouble. The third one had a line in his prop and was worried about drifting onto a lee shore if his anchor gave way. On our run down, we went through some snotty stuff and couldn't see out our window a good portion of the time. That's when we learned lesson number one, secure your mooring lines. Our aft line washed over in the snot. After hovering around the other boat, we decided to tow him to a smoother spot so he could try and pull his props off to clear the line. Of course that's when we sucked a line into our props as well, so now we're hanging on our anchor off a lee shore in a nice breeze and swell.

I hang off the swim step, pull our props off, clear the line and then we go back to the other boat. They don't have the right tools so we lend them ours. The guy just about had his prop back one when we watched our deep well socket sink to the bottom of the bay. He's not convinced that the prop nut is on tight enough to keep the props on ($2,000) so we hook up to him to tow him in. We quit handing fisherman our good tow line a long time ago, because they often tied a knot that they couldn't untie after a strain and out comes the knife. Our tow line kept getting shorter and shorter. So we had a bridle rigged and used a fisherman's tow line, crab pot line, and started towing the guy in. The towed boat would alternately surf and then strain on the tow line but what the heck, we never had a problem before. In a particularly ruff spot we heard a bang and realized the tow line broke. It sounded like a gun shot went off. It took a while to realize that we suffered some damage. Glass shards were all over the cabin and our back door window was broken. I've heard the stories before but never saw what a snapping tow line will do first hand. Here's our back window and a reminder of the second or third lesson learned today.

S.V. Nikko
1983 Fraser 41
La Conner, WA

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post #2 of 7 Old 06-02-2010
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Two things:
1. The tow line was too short and you didn't have a good catenary in the tow line.
2. The two vessels were not in step and thus you could not keep a catenary in the tow line.
From the above the tow line parted.

1600 Ton Master, 2nd Mate Unlimited Tonnage

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post #3 of 7 Old 06-02-2010
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Holy crap erps! That's freakin' scary.
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post #4 of 7 Old 06-02-2010
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Glad you still have your head Ray....Doesn't appear to be safety glass either...might want to put in a requisition for that if you can.

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post #5 of 7 Old 06-03-2010
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there was an incident on the Mississippi river two years ago where a ship was straining its mooring lines (run to several mooring bouys out in the river, also anchors down) in heavy current and squally wind. Several assist tugs came and the forwardmost one was pushing in to help hold this ship in berth, when the forces became too much and several mooring lines (heavy braided poly) parted.

In a freak accident, one end of the parted line recoiled back from the ship's shoulder chock, broke the tug's center window, and killed a deckhand inside the wheelhouse.

Always be careful around a line under tension. Unfortunately these lessons do tend to be learned the hard way.
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post #6 of 7 Old 06-03-2010
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Wow, Ray.

Sorry about the damage, but glad no one got hurt.

Do you run a commercial towing company, or is this something you do for "fun"?

I'd love to see more photos of your work boat.

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post #7 of 7 Old 06-12-2010
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It's a little off topic, but we have a line in our pre-sail brief that says to never rest your hands on a line under tension (e.g., a jib sheet). This is a good lesson as to why that is a sound idea.

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