Major Screw Ups

Reading some posts on another thread brought back a story from My N.Y. Days.

One of the Tugs from My Company was towing a Empty Oil Barge on the Wire on the Coast. It was a foggy night and when the Chief got up around 5am he went down to the E.R. and noticed that all of the temps were down. He went up to the Pilot House to ask the mate what was going on. The visibility was still pretty low. They got the Captain up and started to shorten up on the tow wire. The Chief said the look on the Captains face was priceless when the parted cable came up over the stern. They had been running for at least a couple of hours and the mate had no clue when or where it might have happened.

IIRC, they found the barge on the beach on the N.J. Coast. It took several tugs to get her off of the beach and they sent to original tug back to N.Y. light boat.

So, let’s here some stories of some major screw ups.

Got a similar story, this was in the early 90’s on the West coast.
The midnight to 6 watch was the mates watch and he was pretty proud of the speed he had been making for the last several hrs. until the Captain came on watch. After hearing all the good news about the speed they were making the Captain without looking back or look in the radar says “when did you lose the barge” the shocked look on the mates face was priceless.

I referred to this one in another thread, so here goes. Because the BELCHER PORT EVERGLADES was (is) such a unique vessel, it is hard to not to mention the company, I will. I mean, I do believe that they no longer exist, even as a part of Coastal. Back during my short time sailing with them as an assistant engineer, we had one particular trip that just didn’t go well at all. For anyone that doesn’t know about the BELCHER PORT EVERGLADES and her sister, the BELCHER TAMPA, they were both of a very odd deep notch tug design. They fit into the deep notch of the barge and were kept there with poly facing ropes tensioned by hydraulic rams. The boats were then kept tight in the notch using glycol filled bladders. The BELCHER TAMPA sunk in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico back in 1983. From what I understand, some of the bladders leaked/were punctured and the boat started slamming in the notch. The hull was breached, and one of the huge voids filled with water. The crew eventually abandoned to the barge and the TAMPA slipped out of the notch, capsizes and sank. But this story isn’t about the TAMPA. It IS kind of related, though. A feature unique to both of these tugs, was that they were powered by a B&W slow speed engine. Truly one of the most uniquely designed vessels that I have ever seen, let alone sailed on. Needless to say, that these boats were a bit difficult to maneuver out of the notch with a fixed pitch propeller. . . .

Flash forward to when I was onboard, in early 1988. There were some problems with the bladders on the PORT EVERGLADES. Enough of a problem that some could not be repaired. As per a warranty clause from Underwriters (so I was told), due to the number of failed bladders, we were prohibited from pushing the barge in the notch at sea. The boat WAS fitted with a towing winch. Intercon, I believe, and had airflex clutches. Now, this winch was never used. We left our loading port (Mobile, I think), got out on the string and made our way across the gulf. Easily the worst ride that I have ever had at sea. The boat was never really designed to sail outside of the notch. If it weren’t for the lifejacket under my bunk, I never would have slept.
Well, we made it close to Tampa. As we approached (sometime after 0400, since I was just off watch), the Second Engineer went back to the winch room to start the winch engine to warm it up before shortening up the tow wire. It was still VERY rough. After he started the engine, he was making his way back to the engine room when the boat rolled hard and he fell toward the winch and hit the air brake release. That was when the wire started to run, and thinking clearly, so did the Second. He got into the engine room and closed the hatch just about when the clutch exploded, putting some pretty good divots in the bulkhead between the engine room and winch room. Of course the entire wire spooled off of the winch. No one had engaged the hand brake on the winch. Of course when they tried to exercise it (after the fact) it was frozen and completely inoperable. None of the deck crew had ever spent any time on a towing vessel.
Since we were close to Tampa, we moved the tug back into the notch in conditions that were a bit less than optimal. Of course a slow speed, direct reversing engine isn’t the best option to carry out the maneuver, either. We finally did get into the notch, but not before punching a couple of holes in the bow (and into the tool room). To recover the wire, the deckhands (and the rest of us, for that matter) went to the bow of the barge and disconnected the towing hawser and bucked it back to the back deck of the tug. There we cut the eye off, chained the airflex clutch haves (the bladder being long gone) together and recovered the wire to the winch. It was crew change for me once we finally got to port.
That was my last trip at sea. I didn’t go back to the PORT EVERGLADES until she was in the yard in Port Arthur for my last official duty period. I started working at ABS a few weeks later. . . .
We were VERY lucky to not have any really serious damage or injuries after that one. After the fact, the deck hands spent days trying to free up the hand brake, but were never able. . . .

Around ’90, we were towing a light gasoline barge back to Corpus. The barge was about 600’ with 8’ draft and 25’ of freeboard. After passing through the Florida straits, our weather report said we were in an “area of disturbed weather”. An understatement. We had 2000’ of 2 ¼” wire out and hove to. The barge would make a run, fetch up and take water over the bow. On the rise, it would pick up 2000’ of wire out of the water. After about the 10th cycle, the wire parted. We chased the barge for 30 hours. The emergency pick-up line was fouled with the push wires. The weather finally diminished enough to get the CM up the pigeon holes. After connecting and making some distance from Cuban waters, it was still too dangerous to pick up the CM. The cook made up a care package of food and essentials such radio battery charger, S/W receiver, the novel he was reading and a liter of Anejo. The weather stayed shitty the rest of the trip. The CM fared better than us!

So you left the push wires connected to the barge and not on the tug?

[QUOTE=kfj;107969]So you left the push wires connected to the barge and not on the tug?[/QUOTE]

Yes. They were connected with pelican hooks at the tug. We’d tow light barge and push loaded barges offshore up to about 6’ seas. After that we’d drop the push wires and string out on the wire.

This happened two months ago, a simple oil-change on one of the AUX-Engines gone hortibly wrong.

We decided to do as we always did, use one of the pumps to suck out the oil, however, on the workshop after we struck reef, had reversed the pump for whatever reason.

So I changed the pipe-system to suck the oil in to the dirty oil tank, gave the chief the thumb up and he pushed the button. I first noticed the pipes going icecold instead of warm, as we had run the AUX an hour earlier. I started gesturing desperatly for him to stop, and he just shook his head, until i had to run up and stop it myself.

Of course the chief got pissed until I dragged him to the AUX engine and showed him the air-filter that it dripped oil from. I checked the oil level, but when I pulled the stick out, I was struck in the face with a fine torrent of water and oil in the face. His comment, I thought you were just overly nervous and had no idea they had reversed the pump…so a job that took 15 minutes ended up taking 3 hours. We pulled it apart, fearing water had flowed in to the cylinders, fortunately it had not. So he then fixed the pump to make it draw instead of withdraw content…changed oil-filters and oil six time to clean it.

The day after the other chyief said when we told him if the incident…oh, well they reversed the pump on the workshop…if glares could murder, we’d been an engineer less now.