Orville Hooks

The Grounding of the Shell rig and the use of the Orville Hook System brought back some memories of training to use this system.

IIRC, it was designed by Souse Brothers.

When I worked with Maritrans, they put them on all of the Vessels in the early 1990’s. We were all given training in the “correct” use and deployment of this system. All that I can say is this was not a thing that I ever whated to “Need” to use.

The Orville Hook system is basically a Steel Hook that is suspended by small cables from two balloons.

The idea is that the Hook will float under the balloons at a depth that will allow the hook to grab either a link of chain or the wire if the end is still attached. This is not an easy evolution in calm weather and a controlled situation (such as a drill) and I can not fathom having to do this in the type of weather that they were in. During yearly training we have had the hook end up twisted on the floats or floating upside down.

Those Crews that used this system while trying to get the tow back under control have my respect and all deserve to be thanked for all that they did during this incident.

Thanks for the explanation, this has had me scratching my head. I googled for images,there is a sketch of one in use here.

It’s kind of flying underwater grapple.

I wondered how they could snatch those tow lines in heavy weather.


It would have been tough to grab the kulluk’s gear as she is round she prob was in a weird drift. The times I have used the Orval hook it has been calm wx. But speed is the killer you want to be going as slow as possible so the hook is nice and deep and has to run up the chain to snag the gear.

The Orville Hook was invented about 30 years ago by Orville “Bud” Fuller, a captain at Sause Bros. in Coos Bay, Oregon. They are cut out of thick steel plate and roughly resemble a fish hook (with a single prong). They have a slot to catch the chain and a spring loaded stainless steel clip to keep the chain from dropping out of the slot if the towline goes slack.

They are heavy as hell and sometimes stowed standing upright and bolted to the deck house. Although a crane or davit is really necessary to handle them safely, some companies assume that it will be an all-hands-on-deck — hands-on effort to throw it overboard.

I have never seen one kept pre-rigged and they require some rigging with floats and a length of soft line before use. The floats are not large enough to support the weight of the hook. The idea is that the hook will plane through the water while towing and that the floats will keep the hook from spinning and indicate its depth. The target depth is supposed to be set to grab the chain surge gear below the bridles, and that is supposedly done by tying the proper length of line on the floats.

In most of the cases that I have heard about where it has been used, the Orville Hook has ended up catching one leg of the chain bridles within one or two passes. The floats do appear to keep the hook from spinning, but they don’t appear to control the depth.

The Orville Hook is not designed to grab wire, but I have heard of one instance where it was successfully used to grab a bight in a long section of tow wire (that had parted at the tow pins).

The Navy Towing Manual has instructions including good illustrations on pages 184-186 of the PDF.

I have used the Orville hook to success several times. It was designed by Bud Orvile, the Port Captain at Sause Bros. supposedly he dreamed it one night then designed it. It got me out of a few jams. If anyone needs more explaining of how it works let me know.