Refloating with a tug
A ship that has run aground needs help. However, in terms of crew safety and from a legal point of view for many crews, towing is fraught with pitfalls. We answer the most important questions
There are places where they say: "Whoever has never run aground has never left the port." And there are also ports where yachts bury their keels in silt every six hours. It doesn't matter, because of a short carelessness, a broken motor in a strong current, or simply unlucky - the probability of getting stuck tightly is high, and it is not always possible to foresee it.
Often it is enough just to back up, or by redistributing the cargo on the deck centimeter by centimeter to free the vessel. The situation is different when the motor breaks down on the way. If the fairway is too narrow for tacking or the twist of the foresail is jammed again, it remains to signal another vessel and ask to tow you to the nearest port.
Towing at sea
For a long time, I also believed that such a situation was almost impossible on the open sea: "My sails are always with me." Three days after I left the Elbe in the spring of 2010, I had to drift in the English Channel without any room for maneuver. In almost complete calm, scraps of a fishing net wound around my propeller. With the help of a Parasailor spinnaker and a set mainsail, I swam towards the target at a speed of less than half a knot. But when the current changed, I found myself in the role of a helpless ball in the hands of the current. In a busy canal near the Thames estuary, it was not long before the British Coast Guard urged me to send a tug to take me to port.
Prior to his arrival, I secured a long mooring line to the mast with a bow tie and pulled it through the lashing cleat on the bow of the yacht. The net in the water could offer a lot of resistance, so I wanted to transfer a significant part of the thrust through the base of the mast to the yacht. More was not required of me in this case, since the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) rescue vessel is equipped with a powerful winch and a long cable for such situations.
In most cases, nearby yachts come to the rescue. However, their crews do not always know how to properly maneuver when towing, and the yacht's equipment is not prepared for this.
At least trying to imagine how you need to tow another vessel or steer a towed yacht, it will help to avoid mistakes. The necessary auxiliary ropes can be placed in the locker beforehand. On small yachts, for example, if you are performing the towing function, the load can be distributed to both aft cleats with a simple sprue. In addition, in this case, the point of application of thrust will be in the middle of the yacht, which makes it easier to control it. If the cable with a sprue is pulled only through the cleats and is attached to the mast with two ends, then a significant part of the load falls on the base of the mast and additionally saves the mooring cleats.
This method is definitely not suitable for short towing of a vessel without a motor to the port. But if you happen to take a ship in tow a hundred miles off the French coast somewhere in the Bay of Biscay, you should also take into account changes in weather, sea waves and prolonged workload. In such a situation, the most important requirement is to ensure good load distribution and protection of the ropes from chafing.
In rough seas, it is also important to avoid jerking the lines. In addition to the ropes, the tremors put stress on the cleats and bolts, as well as the surrounding area of the deck. The simplest cushioning is provided by the sea itself - these are the waves. If the cable is chosen so long that during towing most of it hangs in the water, then when pulled, the water will hold it. At the same time, long cables, stretching, contribute to this effect. Therefore, the ideal towline, as with anchoring, should be as long, thick and heavy as possible.
But even short cables can be cushioned with simple means. True, sometimes you can observe how rubber mooring shock absorbers are used for this, but this method is unlikely to work, because in most cases they are too soft, and under the influence of traction during towing, they completely stretch. It would be better with the help of sorelin to bring a movable load onto the towing cable (for example, a boat anchor)
On arrival at port or in a very narrow fairway, towing on a long line can be difficult. In this case, it makes sense to place the towed vessel along the side of the towing vehicle - with a log in order to deliver it safely to the box or to the berth. At the same time, it is very important to connect both vessels with bow and stern mooring lines, as well as springs so that they cannot catch on each other. Mooring lines are positioned so that during the maneuver they distribute the resulting thrust to many points on both yachts. And this also applies to stopping! In addition, the towing boat must ensure that his stern does not come into contact with the yacht being towed. Thanks to this, the entire towing hitch will be able to maneuver better, and in the event of rough seas, they will not hit each other. In addition, during mooring, the helmsman of the towed vessel can go aft and estimate the distance to the berth from there. Unfortunately, this is only possible when the towing boat is about the same size as the yacht being towed.
The easiest way to achieve distribution of thrust on vessels of the same size is by using the wefts in the middle of the hull. When moving forward, the angular thrust on the springs leads to the fact that the yachts are tightly pressed against each other. The result is precise steering of two vessels. Depending on the state of the sea, you will need to securely install fenders to absorb the pressure. The fenders act in part in the same way as the shock absorbers for the cables. If the sea is rough when entering a port, both yachts should be able to navigate the waves differently. Therefore, the cables must be sized to avoid unnecessary jolts and jerks.
When the towing vehicle needs to stop, the distribution of forces shifts to the bow and stern mooring lines. As a result, both vessels are also pressed against each other, and part of the resulting thrust is transferred from the mooring cleats to the fenders.
If the yachts are of different sizes, towing at the side becomes more difficult. On small yachts, there are often no cleats in the middle of the hull, and handrails or cable ties are not suitable alternatives. If a larger vessel is towing a smaller yacht, the small ducks should be unloaded first. When moving forward, the thrust on fore and stern ducks should be uniform. Fenders are attached in the middle of the towed vessel. In this situation, the oblique angle also distributes power to both lines and pressure on the fenders, keeping both boats in position. When the towing hitch is stopped for some moment, the stern mooring takes over all the thrust. Therefore, it makes sense to use another spring. However, due to the lack of cleats in the middle, it is often difficult to attach it to the bow cleat of the towed yacht, so in such a situation, increased attention is required during stopping.
This problem also occurs when the towing vehicle is smaller than the yacht being towed. In this case, a stern spring is required to stop. Typically, the spring and stern mooring lines take over the thrust and push both vessels against each other. But when moving backward without additional springs, reliable fixation is not ensured, and the bow of the towing vehicle turns towards the hull of the towed yacht. The entire towing hitch is bent and becomes uncontrollable for a while. The only way to avoid this is to have a very tight stern mooring line. However, this will put unnecessary strain on the ducks in the event of rough seas.
Landing a vessel aground in intertidal areas carries a great deal of risk. As the water level changes every minute, the chances of being afloat are reduced. Actually, this is not a reason to panic, because in the worst case, the voyage will simply drag on for half a day. Any sailing yacht going out to sea must be able to survive the situation when she is completely on land without damage. If a change in weather is expected, or if the wind and waves have already driven the yacht into shallow water so that it cannot go aground on its own even during high tide, then you need to hurry. In such cases, professional towing vehicles often use the full power of the engine and do not pay special attention to possible damage. And ordinary yachts rushing to the rescue often have to compensate for the insufficient power of their engine with the help of various tricks. If the injured ship has not run aground very strongly, then sometimes it is enough just to turn it with the help of the stern mooring in the direction of deep water. In this case, the keel is often released from the ground so much that the yacht can then be simply pulled into deep water.
If it is not possible to turn the yacht, but there is a small boat, you can additionally try to bank the injured yacht with its help. Insufficient power of the lifeboat can be reinforced with a rope tied to a tree on the shore, or with an anchor.
But the most important thing is that the towing vehicle itself does not go into shallow water to transfer the towing cable to the injured vessel. If there is no lifeboat, you can throw a rope on a fender or life bib into the water from the windward side of the injured vessel. The wind will bring him to the grounded yacht. However, it is not easy to calculate wind and current. If the fender is carried far to the side, it will take a lot of skill to carefully approach the injured yacht on your boat.
In the Bahamas, I saw one trick, however, it can only be used in relatively clear water: the mainmast turns to the maximum distance and is securely fixed with a safety cable and sheet. A tow rope is attached to the knock, which is then pulled along the sand under the keel. This requires a person with a snorkel, mask and fins. When the cable is pulled, the yacht heels for a moment and goes aground.
If the yacht has buried the keel in the silt while moving forward, you can anchor using the elongated fore-halyard, and fasten the tow line around the keel. Then the towing boat gives throttle at certain intervals, and the crew of the injured yacht keeps the cable, on which the anchor is fixed, in the maximum tension. The yacht starts to sway and thus gets off the silt. This method can be simplified if, instead of an anchor, you bring a cable to land and fix it on a tree.
Even among sailors, “a bottle of wine and a huge thank you” is not always a sufficient expression of gratitude, as Gunnar Brock of Pantaenius, a yacht insurance company primarily in southern Europe, can attest. "Today, for simple towing of a vessel, they are asking for a reward equal to the value of the yacht or even more." These claims are not substantiated, but, nevertheless, local courts often award huge sums of money.
Unlike Germany, where such issues are handled exclusively by the German Society for the Rescue of the Victims of Shipwreck, funded by donations, there is almost no free alternative to commercial tugs or ship rescue firms.
It doesn't matter if it is a red rescue boat, a fishing boat or another yacht: insurance companies always advise not to enter into any agreements on the spot, but rather call their own insurance company's hotline as soon as possible. Since the salary for salvage work can be equal to the value of the yacht, under no circumstances should any promises be made to the tugboat. If he insists on concluding a contract, you can use the Lloyds Open Form agreement, which any serious tugger will agree to accept.
In addition to the value of the yacht, other factors play a role in determining the salvage reward. As a general rule of thumb, the more you can do yourself to successfully complete the maneuvers, the better your position will be when discussing the amount of towing fees.
When removing a vessel from the shallows, yacht crews have to compensate for the missing engine power using various techniques. Here are some examples of how you can do this.
If something goes wrong while towing, torn cables, curved railing posts and even torn ducks are left as an unpleasant memory on one of the two ships. “The answer to the question of responsibility often depends on whether the towing vehicle is at fault. The best protection for both parties is provided by a combination of liability insurance and comprehensive insurance, ”says Gunnar Brock. If private yachts help each other, it should be clear that the injured ship will pay for minor damage on board its "savior" without any bureaucratic formalities. But if commercial vessels are involved in towing or there is a need for expensive repairs, then insurance companies should be contacted.
In principle, each captain is responsible for his own yacht. But as a towing vehicle, you take responsibility for performing the maneuver. In this situation, a tangle of responsibility and guarantees arises, which may be incomprehensible to an amateur. Tips like those that can be read on forums on the Internet: "Whoever passes the cable, he answers," cannot be considered appropriate.
Before setting off in areas where there is a high risk of being aground, such as in intertidal areas, it is worth reviewing your insurance policy. After all, it indicates under what conditions the comprehensive insurance covers the payment of rescue operations, and whether there are any restrictions. If you have any questions, you can always get an individual consultation on the insurance company's hotline.
Like the German Shipwreck Rescue Society (DGzRS) or its equivalent RNLI, public and government rescue services in other countries provide free emergency assistance. But this does not always mean towing (for example, if you have taken too little diesel with you). There are huge bills for providing such "technical assistance". One consolation: this is how you finance the free rescue in the event of a real accident! If you have not received an invoice, as, for example, DGzRS, then the rules of good form suggest making a donation to the organization that helped you.
On the rocks
When the yacht runs aground and cannot free itself, you need to call for help. The fastest way to do this is by maritime radio communications. If the sea is not stormy, and the breakers do not threaten the life of the crew, the usual landing of the ship aground NOT AN ACCIDENT... That's why it is not allowed to use the "SOS button" or send a signal „Mayday“. If you still need to attract the attention of the maximum number of ships, you can send a distress signal PAN-PAN on channel 16:
PAN PAN PAN PAN PAN PAN
This is sailing Yacht Paulinchen, DC4303
Run aground in position xx ° xx, x N xxx ° xx, x E, two miles southeast of Borkum Lighthouse. I can't free myself; I require tug assistence. Vessels close by and able to assist please reply.
Or in Russian:
PAN PAN PAN PAN PAN PAN
Sailing yacht Paulina, DC4303
Run aground xx ° xx, x north xxx ° xx, x east, two miles southeast of Borkum Lighthouse. We need the help of a tug. Any nearby ship that can help, please respond.
It can be assumed that other yachts nearby will soon respond. In most cases, such a request will be answered by the appropriate Coast Guard or MRCC. Consequently, near about. Borkum is to respond to the DGzRS with its call sign “Bremen Rescue”.
Lloyd's Open Form
Very often you can hear or read about the recommendation to conclude an agreement with the towing vehicle.
Lloyd's Open Form. This standard agreement, namely the Lloyd's Standard Form of Salvage Agreement, is considered an international model for salvage operations. The injured ship and the rescue firm agree primarily on the “No cure, no pay” rule. It specifies that the towing vehicle generally has the right to demand payment only in the event of a successful rescue. For example, in the case of a ship that has received a hole, this rule provides for its delivery to the port. The amount of remuneration is determined based on the value of the salvaged yacht and everything on board. Part of the Lloyd's Open Form contract is an arbitration agreement, which provides better legal protection in the event of a dispute. The English text can be found on the website of the insurance company Lloyd's... Direct links to documents are also posted on the website segelnmagazin.de.
Emergency phone numbers
Germany: DGzRS (Bremen Rescue), mobile 124124, landline +49 421 53 68 70
Denmark: Lyngby Radio, +45 66 63 48 00
Finland: Turku MRCC, +358 204 10 01
Sweden: Stockholm Radio General 112, G? Teborg MRCC +46 31 69 90 80
Norway: Stavanger JRCC, +47 51 51 70 00, Bod? JRCC, + 47 75 55 90 00
Poland: Gdynia MRCC, +48 586 20 55 51 (MRCC), mobile 120
Latvia: Riga MRCC, +371 67 08 20 64
Lithuania: Klaipeda MRCC, +370 46 39 12 57
North Sea / Atlantic Ocean
Germany: DGzRS (Bremen Rescue) all mobile operators 124124, fixed network +49 421 53 68 70
Netherlands: Den Helder JRCC, +31 900 01 11
England: Coastguard short number 999 (ask to connect with Coast Guard)
Belgium: Oostende MRCC, +32 59 70 11 00
Portugal: Continent: Lisboa MRCC, +351 214 40 19 19, Azores: Ponta Delgada MRCC, +351 296 28 17 77
Greece: Aspropirgos JRCC, +30 210 557 32 47
Croatia: Rijeka MRCC, +385 51 91 55, Split MRSC +385 21 36 24 36
France: La Garde MRCC, +33 494 61 16 16, Korsika MRSC + 33 495 20 13 63
Turkey: Ankara Main SARC, +90 31 24 25 33 37
Italy: Cagliari (Sardinia) MRSC, +39 070 65 92 10, Palermo (Sicily) MRSC +39 091 604 31 11
Malta: Malta RCC, +356 21 25 72 67
Spain: Balearic Islands: Palma MRCC, +34 971 72 45 62, Canary Islands: Las Palmas MRCC, +34 928 59 75 51
News and articles
During the summer season, Bonifacio in the south of Corsica is every sailor's nightmare. Everywhere the sea of yachts, which are crowded as they can, almost on top of each other, ferries and pleasure boats hum and rustle from early morning until late at night. All the time you need to let one of them pass, and all this jerking back and forth, noise and screams are maddening. So, very soon you start to wonder what you are doing there.Read more…