Skip to main content

Web Extra: Towing A Disabled Vessel

Linda Lewis doesn't jump into a "situation" without first thinking it through. Take this example: She was traveling south, past Campbell River, B.C., and parallel to Cape Mudge, when she spotted a disabled 42-foot Grand Banks. At the same time, she heard a Coast Guard assistance request for the vessel. With Auxiliarist Gina Gollischewski aboard, her first thought was, "Could two towing-trained Coast Guard Auxiliarists looking right out the window at mariners in distress leave them there?" Of course not.

Via radio, Capt. Linda introduced herself to the captain of the Grand Banks and offered a tow. "We asked all the questions, circled the wagons, rigged lines, and talked the plan."

Linda and crew moved their dinghy off the swim platform around to the side. Linda then rigged a stern bridle and had the GB captain, in a life vest, rig a bow bridle for himself. Gina then heaved him a monkey fist they had attached to their towing line. Linda maneuvered into stern-tow position, double-checking the setup before proceeding.

The GB captain offered words any skipper enjoys hearing after hours of practicing a maneuver: "You look like you've done this before." Linda says his wife looked pretty nervous at first; she may have simply been surprised that an all-woman crew had volunteered assistance.

Linda was concerned about her towline's length. "Fifty-foot locking-through lines were the best I could do," she says. She rigged one as their stern-tow bridle, the other as the towline. Tying two lines together for extra length decreases strength, so she ruled that out. They were looking at a 3- to 4-knot towing speed, against current, for the 3-4 nautical miles returning north to Campbell River.

Along the way, Linda radioed others in the vicinity, making certain a tug and tow and a ferry knew they were an encumbered vessel and planning passing strategies. She then alerted the marina, receiving an outermost slip assignment. But there was another boat tied there that she would need to avoid.

As they neared the marina, Linda sent a Securité to keep a clear access. "We had to make the marina entrance with an ebb current pushing us toward the starboard side breakwater." She had to work not to crab sideways.

Upon spotting someone on the dock, Linda called for line assistance for a towed vessel, and people came running. Because of the other boat tied there, Linda couldn't bring the GB right alongside the dock, so she told the GB captain that she would get him as close as possible and then swing to port and that he should release the towline at will and steer himself in. It worked perfectly.

Gina kept Linda informed with "line in water" and "line clear" communications. Then they circled back to pick up their monkey fist, declining any type of reward and requesting that the GB captain pass it forward instead.

The three-hour delay cost them with problem currents, increasing winds, following seas, and tired bodies as they again headed south. As Linda's husband likes to tease, "No good deed shall go unpunished." But chalk one up for competent women who take pride in doing a terrific job!