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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I was recently at my Marina at night, and saw a 30' sloop stuck in the mud where it should have never been in the first place. It was on the far side of a 30' wide channel, with land directly to Port and docks to Starboard. I offered to help kedge the boat out of the mud, but the owner said he had already called Boat US.
I stuck around to see if I could learn something from Boat US's technique.
It was still ebbing, and I could see that the water was at least 6" below the boats water line, so the boat was sitting on its keel, still upright.
Boat US arrived and had the owner attached a harness to the two forward cleats on the sloop.
It was clear to me at that point that the sailboat crew consisted of an elderly gentleman and his wife, and that the wife was passive, so the guy was basically single-handing.
Boat US preceded to play out the line and apply some throttle to its 500 horses. The sloop didn't move. Boat US proceeded to floor it, thereby yanking the sloop out of the mud, with both boats immediately accelerating to about six knots.
While they were still at speed in the small channel, boat US told the the sloop skipper to come forward and release his harness. This of course, left nobody at the helm. The skipper complied! His boat immediately headed for a large yacht on an end tie. He rushed back to the helm, thankfully without falling, and slammed the boat into reverse, with full throttle. The boat appeared to lightly bounce off the dock piling.
Edit: I went to look at the boat in the daylight, and it turns out it wasn't such a "light bounce". The bow pulpit is in bad shape.

Here's where I think boat US came up short:
1. Because the sloop was clearly embedded in the mud, they should have kedged him, rather than yanked him directly out of the mud. There was a fairway to starboard that would have facilitated this.
2. I've been taught that you don't tow using only cleats. They aren't designed for this kind of force. Use winches. Towing is one thing. This was much more force than simply towing!
3. Boat US had to know as I did, that this guy was basically single-handing. I think they should have continued the tow until the boat slowed, before asking the Skipper to detach. Of course this is partly the skippers fault, as he shouldn't have left the helm before the boat slowed. However, boat US is the "professional' in this scenario, so they have more authority in the eyes of most recreational skippers.

I was hoping to learn some new tricks. What I learned, is not to call Boat US if I'm stuck in the mud!
Thoughts?
 

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I think it depends on which Boat US towing operation you're dealing with. My local guys are by far the best trained and most professional of any of the local towing operations. We have a well equipped county sheriff marine division, USGC, and Boat US. For rescue, I want the USGC. For anything not involving immediate risk to life, I want the Boat US peeps.

I have been involved with all sorts of fun stuff with each agency.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I'm sure some of the boat US people are quite competent. However, I'm shocked at how crude this "method" appeared to me. I would think they would have training and minimum standards. But then... I can't believe a lot of the things I've seen lately!
 

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I wasn't there, but if I was to call a powerboat to get my sailboat out of the mud, I would expect them to use the ponies to get me off. I doubt they used all 500 if nothing broke.

I think if I was the tow boat operator I would have kept the boat under tow until I docked them, just to save myself from having to tow them a second time :)
 

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This story just reinforces my pathological DIY ethic. I hate to hand over my safety and the safety of my things to a "pro". However, if I get in a jam, I hope I will have the good sense to do so.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
This story just reinforces my pathological DIY ethic. I hate to hand over my safety and the safety of my things to a "pro". However, if I get in a jam, I hope I will have the good sense to do so.
Good point! If I'm going on the rocks, I'll throw a line to anybody that'll take it. However, this guy could have waited for the next high tide. Perhaps it will redefine his definition of "pro" and "jam". It certainly has mine!🙂
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I wasn't there, but if I was to call a powerboat to get my sailboat out of the mud, I would expect them to use the ponies to get me off. I doubt they used all 500 if nothing broke.

I think if I was the tow boat operator I would have kept the boat under tow until I docked them, just to save myself from having to tow them a second time :)
Yeah... I said "floored", and that was inarticulate. I doubt they gave it everything they had, but let's just say it was a LOT of power and ended up being more of a violent jerk than a tactful persuasion. Power is great when necessary, but a little finesse goes a long way as well, IMHO.
 

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I'm guessing that most tow boat drivers are not sailors. I got a Catalina 30 charter boat grounded in the Florida Keys. I called tow Boat US. There were very light winds that day, with a 5 to 8 foot breeze across the beam. I had put the sails up to heel the boat over, and had almost motored the boat out, before the tide dropped a bit more.

When the tow boat driver arrived, and tossed me a line, he told me to put the sails down. We were in an area of protected seagrass and I did not want to do damage to it, or cause more wear and tear on the keel. He directed me to put the sails down, saying that he didn't want the boat sailing off in a different direction than he was trying to tow me. He dragged quite a swath before he got me the deeper water. The wind was not enough to affect much, but it was heeling the boat over a bit. He pulled me in a straight line, and the boat stayed aligned with the wind across the beam. I think it would have gone easier if I had left the sails up but he was pulling, so I went with his directions.
 

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What boat was it that was stuck? If a full or cutout keel, maybe even a swept back fin, I don’t see towing ahead as a poor solution. I sort of expect it was one of those, as a straight fin with a buried bulb or wing, probably wouldn't have pulled out. On the other hand, if she was afloat shortly away from her grounding, she may not have been as hard grounded as she appeared.

Some cleats, secured by little more than fender washers, would not be wise. However, others have full backing plates and should be able to take some real force.

No way I would have released the tow, if still underway. A bit hard to imagine how that even worked. I’ve had to put the unskilled at the helm, for a crisis, while singlehanded. They certainly get the idea how to steer quickly. Sounds bungled a bit by all parties, but salvage is salvage. Sounds like they came out far ahead of the alternative.
 
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Hard to know when you are not there.
Why not tow from the side with multiple lines to all the cleats and the mast?

Sounds botched to me.
 

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Yeah, who knows, as always lots of variables.

Have had a couple of tows, all went reasonably well. A lot has to do with your keel configuration and the bottom and surrounding features. Our keel resembles a landing barge, so I tend to slide up on stuff.

I grounded hard in a sand mound right at high tide. A 5 min tow, if that and I was free.

had my mixing elbow break in Albremarle Sound, flat calm 8 hour tow up a narrow channel, bumped me into a piling getting me onto a dock. 1am. Everyone was beat.

Going out Cape Fear at dusk the engine overheated about 4 miles out. They drug us in and had a real rough time getting us onto a dock. Our big keel made maneuvering in tight corners very tough. But we made it. Turnednout to be a plastic bag or something in the intake, blew it out with a vac turned around.

I figure that Boat US will never recover the cost of those 2 tows from my annual fees.

I suspect that the vast majority of their calls are for smaller boats; 18’ to 26’ outboards. There are just so many of them, Frequently with Inexperienced captains. We must make up a small percentage of their work.
 
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I have had a few "gentle" groundings in sand or more likely mud when I strayed off a channel (not paying attention). I was always able to use the engine, and helm to turn the boat enough to "power" free.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
What boat was it that was stuck? If a full or cutout keel, maybe even a swept back fin, I don't see towing ahead as a poor solution. I sort of expect it was one of those, as a straight fin with a buried bulb or wing, probably wouldn't have pulled out. On the other hand, if she was afloat shortly away from her grounding, she may not have been as hard grounded as she appeared.

Some cleats, secured by little more than fender washers, would not be wise. However, others have full backing plates and should be able to take some real force.

No way I would have released the tow, if still underway. A bit hard to imagine how that even worked. I've had to put the unskilled at the helm, for a crisis, while singlehanded. They certainly get the idea how to steer quickly. Sounds bungled a bit by all parties, but salvage is salvage. Sounds like they came out far ahead of the alternative.
Catalina 30, 5-ft draft. The spot where he grounded, would have been ill advised on a medium tide. The tide was at one foot, dropping to zero, at the time of the tow. He was definitely high and dry.
 

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I wasn't there, but if I was to call a powerboat to get my sailboat out of the mud, I would expect them to use the ponies to get me off. I doubt they used all 500 if nothing broke.

I think if I was the tow boat operator I would have kept the boat under tow until I docked them, just to save myself from having to tow them a second time :)
I'm also in the "No autopsy, no foul" camp, he got the boat out and nobody died, didn't even pull out a deck cleat. Around here they don't let you go until your credit card is approved.
 

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Motor boat people seem to have little knowledge of sailing boats.
They certainly don't have the concept of a keel-boats hull speed.
 
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40 years ago, I was skipper of a ~35' sloop chartered out of Ft. Lauderdale with a group of college friends. We grounded going into a Bahamas harbor (no longer remember which) when we cut towards the channel too soon (I was skipper, so I have to take responsibility). A friendly powerboat pulled us out -- I recall that a bunch of us hung out one side to heel us over, but I don't think we had the sails up.

Right now, the channel to the local marine-service haulout (not the place six hours away that I haul and store for the winter) has needed dredging for a decade. EVERY SINGLE TIME I've gone there or back in the last 2 years, I've grounded my Catalina 30 (5'3" draft). Sometimes they've come for me, sometimes a passing boat has helped. We usually tie a line to the mast, pass it through the pulpit, they try to pull straight ahead.
 

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Catalina 30, 5-ft draft. The spot where he grounded, would have been ill advised on a medium tide. The tide was at one foot, dropping to zero, at the time of the tow. He was definitely high and dry.
Am I reading the correctly? A five foot keel was aground in one foot of water and the waterline was only 6" low? No way one would be pulled free of that.
 

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Doesn't anybody kedge themselves off anymore. Walk or row the kedge anchor out a 100' or more into deeper water. Use the windlass or genoa winches and cinch up the rode as tight as you can and wait for a change of the tide. No waiting for Towboat, no danger of them doing more damage, and it's free. When I spent a bit of time on the ICW got so good at kedging could get us off in less than 1/2 hour from grounding to sailing again. Of course there were a few times that we had to wait for the tide change.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Am I reading the correctly? A five foot keel was aground in one foot of water and the waterline was only 6" low? No way one would be pulled free of that.
No. As I'm sure you know, the tide reading is a relative meaurement, based on mean low water . A 1' tide on the tide chart, doesn't mean he was in 1' of water.
Doesn't anybody kedge themselves off anymore. Walk or row the kedge anchor out a 100' or more into deeper water. Use the windlass or genoa winches and cinch up the rode as tight as you can and wait for a change of the tide. No waiting for Towboat, no danger of them doing more damage, and it's free. When I spent a bit of time on the ICW got so good at kedging could get us off in less than 1/2 hour from grounding to sailing again. Of course there were a few times that we had to wait for the tide change.
I agree. I could have thrown this guy a line, and kedged him from the dock!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I'm also in the "No autopsy, no foul" camp, he got the boat out and nobody died, didn't even pull out a deck cleat. Around here they don't let you go until your credit card is approved.
Well, the bow pulpit was a victim. I would guesstimate that's going to be 3K to replace. 5 feet to Port, and he would have rear-ended a 50 foot power boat on the end tie.
However, if your criteria is that if no one died, it was a professional operation, I guess everything's coming up roses.
Hope you don't work for the FAA!😊
 
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