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ASSISTANCE - TOWING PART 2


OBT: We saw this on our local news here in South Florida. It seems an 'Odd Bits Towboat' somehow. With nothing against the design per se this looks like a very strange choice of boat for offshore towing. Listed as working the San Juan Islands in the NW United States and Canada where there are pretty rough seas. Speaking as a former towmaster of large tugs in that area NAUTICAL LOG has a great sense of unease in the rig. The projecting bar aft looks very dangerous working with a single span towline or even with a bridle rig.





OMG #1: the new "helicopter slip knot" using yellow line which is known to deteriorate in sunlight. Not a good choice for towline usage.



OMG #2: look how that towline is leading and where that crewperson's left hand is. That looks like the same boat as in OMG #1.

As NAUTICAL LOG said in Part 1. we are going to have a look at at assistance towing. In a previous Post we addressed insuring your vessel, clearly most important and bears no harm in its repeating. Again just as with your automobile it is an excellent idea to have assistance towage coverage. In fact it can be a very expensive experience if you do not have professional coverage and have to deal with an independent tower who turns up after your call for help.

Many years ago here in the United States the towage available was from the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and a few independent guys often fisherman out to make a extra dollar. On occasions the USCG would ask if you would accept a private contract tower who was monitored, in a vague sort of way by the USCG. From this situation the USCG got out of the towage business unless there was immediate danger of loss of life. This led to the development of professional towage companies that offered a membership and assistance when the member was in trouble. The USCG no longer monitored them however they did have to hold a USCG 100 Ton license endorsed for towing. These days two are solidly in business BOAT US/VESSEL ASSIST with the red painted boats and SEATOW with the yellow painted boats. Purchase a membership with the local franchise and you are all set if you get in trouble. The franchise clearly wants to stay in business has franchise responsibilities so trains its coxswains how to respond. In addition there are the 'independent towers' who get a USCG 100 ton coxswains license, a boat, and set off towing. Remember they are no longer monitored by the USCG not even vaguely NAUTICAL LOG understands.

When you go to look around the yacht ports and marinas to see who to select look at the boats and listen to the personnel conversations. Believe me both vary widely - and wildly!! Some of the operators and crew must have been born with that USCG 100 ton coxswains license pinned to their diaper. They consider themselves gods gift to the maritime world, belittle all the 'old guys' still hanging around whose 'days have passed'. Completely ignoring the fact that these 'old guys' are the ones who showed them the ropes - literally. Fortunately there are a lot of decent folk around as well as the blowhards who are women as well as men these days. Try to steer clear if you can but realise its difficult, NAUTICAL LOG would select BOAT US/VESSEL ASSIST or SEATOW since they have more company responsibilities and permanence if things go wrong.

Now to the boats, by and large the BOAT US/VESSEL ASSIST and SEATOW franchises select boats suitable for their area of operation. They have a good turn of speed for an effective response time but can still operate at a variety of speeds for towing safely. The independents may well do the same but often NAUTICAL LOG has noticed select something quite unsuitable for the area of operation. If its fast and flashy maybe it will attract the business seems to be the thinking.

One NAUTICAL LOG saw recently looked like a shiny tin shoebox with a large engine powerful enough it seemed to drive it at 30+ knots. It looked quite unsuitable for its stated area of operation. The towing rig was a single line from a post aft attached to somewhere on the tow. Not a good system much better to have a bridle rig.

Try to get to know the people who are going to be assisting you that way you will at least have an idea what and who to expect. In Part 3, posting later this month, we shall address some of the pitfalls, hazards and legal issues.

Good Watch.

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