Open ocean tow speed

General question for the tug boat operators: What’s the fastest tow speed you’ve been able to achieve on an open ocean tow?
(Astern tow-general cargo barge-avg. speed for the voyage).

Speed over ground?
Speed through the water?

Max sustained speed or fastest overall voyage speed?

That’s going to vary tremendously by tug, tow sea state and wind. Anywhere between 3-9 knots…

My experience on tugs of just under 200 tons is the towing speed was around 8.0 - 8.5 kts in good weather.

Speed over ground. Avg. speed for the entire voyage.

As others have said that will vary greatly dependent on the HP of the tug, the route you’re on, and the time of year. Crowley’s Puerto Rico run in the summer probably averages close to 12 kts but those are 7,000 HP tugs in flat calm ocean. The Seattle to Hawaii barge run in winter are sometimes blown backwards for 1-2 weeks and those boats aren’t that fast even in good weather.

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Best I ever experienced was an average of 10kts on a 4000hp tug from San Francisco to Brownsville with a Victory ship. We made that trip in 35 days to include 7 days waiting for a slot in the canal.

The freight barges going to Hawaii these days are pretty fast, and a 5000 hp boat with kort nozzles will tow a 17-18 foot loaded barge at 9-9.5 knots in good weather. A light barge, drawing 5.5-7 feet, will tow at 10 knots in the summer.

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How much increase do kort nozzles provide? Never been on anything with them.

Somebody smarter than me can quantify, but it’s a lot. I’ve had the opportunity to sail two mostly identical boats with similar barges, the only real difference being the nozzles, and the difference was real. I’d say at least 10 percent faster. They don’t walk or maneuver as well as open wheels, though. Towing a couple thousand miles in a straight line-- kort nozzles are the way to go.

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