Disabled tug

Was that a Navajo class tug? Enormous towing hawser through a traction winch?

First my math was off 55 years ago.

No she was much older. First of the big Navy ATFs built at the Brooklyn Navy yard 1937. Towing Machine (that’s what we called it) was a Almond Johnson with I think was 2 1/4 inch wire. Many of the Almond Johnson’s were pulled off ATFs as scrap and rebuilt, some still around .

Coast Guard took Cherokee over right after the war, ran her until about 1975. Many significant rescues over the years, 5th Districts primary asset large jobs. 19 year old kid straight from boot camp everything about her impressed me. I was on her twice Seaman and later as BM2


I am very familiar with Almond Johnsons, just about all you saw on the west coast when i started. double drums with spoolers. very reliable winches. Boy! you really going back. !

The article says “tow line” but I’d bet it was wire. Sounds like the crew didn’t have enough experience towing. That would explain not having enough wire out and managing to get wire wrapped around both screws.

Maybe, maybe not. My first ship was the Cutter Galatian in '75. That was one of the best run ship I’ve ever been on.

We successfully passed a line to fishing vessels at sea a couple time. At night in shit weather. There was a BM2 on there and he was in charge on the fantail. Everyone called him “Duce”, he made it look easy. His supervisors didn’t mess with him. They let him run his deck.

At the time I figured that’s just the way it was. Till my next ship, a WMEC out of Kodiak. We did an exercise with another cutter of connecting a tow at sea. Daytime, nice weather, calm seas. We got the tow line wrapped around the prop and limped in on one engine.

Same on the Cutter Alex Haley. Tried to take the Kulluk under tow, got a line in the prop and had to limp home.

So maybe in this case the CG cutter captain was smart and made the right move. Maybe his crew wasn’t up for the task. Didn’t have the Duce.

I agree, no catenary for the sea state. its hard for me wrap my head around 1000 ft of soft line, maybe a flounder plate holds it down? I assume the bridal is wire rope shackled to pad eyes on the deck as chain bridals seem from the general consensus are not usual?? or do they just figure eight around the mooring bits? in some of photos of the vessel in repose there appears to be a wire type towing winch on the aft working deck. The tug is less than 100 ft long and the winch seems small, so how much soft line could they get on the drum? If they had 1800 ft of wire rope on the drum you’d would think they would leave at least a layer on the spool so you may be right that it was wire.
this is nothing that a west coast surveyor is familiar with. and I’ve done hundreds of tow set ups and approvals from a YC 110 x 33 coast wise (chain figure eigh around the bitts with a keeper accross the top, bit reinforced under deck)to 700 x 150 from the west coast to the far east. So chain bridals, and wire rope is all I know.

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The article in gcaptain (quoting USCG) just say; “a 1,000-foot towing line”
Nothing about what kind of line; wire, polypropylene, or some of the fancy new composite lines becoming popular for everything. (??)

Nor does it say if there were any type of surge line, or what type of bridle was in the tow configuration.

But I do agree that 1000’ of towline length in deep water and the weather conditions that could be expected on the USEC at this time of the year is NOT very professional.

Was this tow surveyed and approved by an MWS before departure??

Seems like it would be hard to get a broken tow wire that was broken in deep water unless a lot
Of wire was out dragging bottom and leading
Under the vessel with an open wheel, bridles
On barge could have broken and towline got
hauled in and a shockline and broken gear was
Hanging off the stern, maybe even a broken
Floating pickup line shackled into gear, and all
It took was backing down or picking it up from
hanging on one side or the other, the possibilities
or endless but one thing is for sure is operator
failed to protect his wheels with gear that was
A threat, article doesn’t mention if an emergency
towline setup was deployed with a pickup line
and bouy trailing off the stern of barge.This boat
doesn’t appear to have a true Texas bar, Tow
bar or Dutch bar and should have had a chafing
board attached if using wire.The picture of tug
would suggest a tow wire hanging off the stern
in between two norman pins.

For a long time now the USCG will save your life, but they aren’t going to save your boat unless they have to. “Call a towboat” is their answer.
A friend of mine was disabled off Cape Charles and drifting towards the surf line. At first the CG wasn’t interested, they weren’t sinking. Then they got in the surf line and by the time the CG came around they were smashed up on the beach and could just walk home.

Question on the Haley that has always been bugging me, she was a UK-built Salvage ship but my understanding was that much of the usable salvage and towing gear was removed during the USCG conversion. Probably had something to do with the helicopter pad but it strikes me as odd that a Bering Sea-based unit with built in towing and salvage capability would have been neutered to that extent. Did USCG really pull off all the specialized towing gear?

Your right. The uscg will save your life not your boat

Thing about CG not providing assistance towing is they loose a lot of practical experience. Used to be all boatswains mates were on the job trained. Some stations real busy, Little Creek one year lead the district assistance cases, 649 in one year. Now it’s a Boatswain mate school, useful I guess but school training nice weather not the same as experienced crew bringing new guys along. This coupled with recruiting from places with strong maritime history made for good seamen.

Back to the disabled tug,I don’t blame the cutter for not towing. Policy is no tow, over step & have trouble you will suffer the consequences.


Looks like the two tugs that are trying to salvage
tug & barge are currently guessing over 150
miles offshore with expected gale conditions,
So if towlines are not attached now if conditions
Are deteriorating than they may be following
till conditions allow. Looks like a few miserable
days to me on boats that size.

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Been there, done that.

The Charles James may not be the best boat to be out in that mess though. Its the old Megan McAllister.

the bad weather adds to the degree of risk multiplies in the salvage award. so as long as your dry and warm you ride it out, shadowing the vessels since they are still attached. my concern would be if the barge yanks the shafts out of the coupling but by this time the wire (rope) may be wrapped around the rudders and strut also.

the crew would share in the monetary award so sit back, stay warm and have a good meal. watch TV on the satellite and wait it out.

it would lessen danger to the crew if the line parted. then you would only have to board the tug to make up the tow, that is assuming they have an insurance wire on the barge with the trailing float on poly line

A post was split to a new topic: Towing with Rope Hawser

The term “line” is ambiguous with regards to material.

Here’s a site that uses to terms “chain mooring line” and “wire mooring line”.

I’m a little slow and not to brite
So your confusing me😀

I think we’ve worn the subject out until the recovery is made

Doubt if there is much money in saving that tug, sold foreign probably cheap. Salvors take her owners unlikely to pay they are stuck selling scrap. Barge is not even close to worth what it would cost to get it to safe location. Loose barge offshore case I was on floating upside down abandoned. We shot holes in it with the ancient 3 inch deck gun & WW 1 ammunition . Took it forever to sink.

Every thing takes forever to sink when you shoot at with a deck gun. If you want it to sink in a hurry, use a torpedo. The holes need to be below the waterline. Somehow that seems to get overlooked.