Over the years he has ripped out bow eyes, had lines viciously snap back at him, and let loose the smaller boat to save the larger. To keep all of this drama to a minimum, it’s all about the gear, experience and training.
||Handling the Toughest Yacht Tenders in the World
By David Seidman
As Capt. Rob Loveall of the 117-foot Annastar tells it, “We come into St. Barts and we’re lost in a fleet of 200-footers, and they can be towing full-size-cabin sport-fishing boats.” Not to be left out, the Annastar recently supersized from an Intrepid 370 center-console to Intrepid’s 400 model.
With the indulgence of big tenders comes big problems. Loveall says that towing can be a challenge in the best of times, and often downright dangerous. He’s had boats veer off wildly or charge at the yacht, only to come up short on the tether to be whipped back in place with frightening force. “Sometimes in big seas we’d lose sight of the boat for days, hidden by waves,” he says with a shaking head. “The only clue it’s there is the almost constant strain on the aft cleats.”
Right now, the go-to guys for making up a towing rig like this are at Rope Inc. (ropeinc.com) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. They made the one for Annastar, and while there are many variations, this is a good example.
Starting from the yacht’s stern there is a bridle with 60-foot legs made of 1˝-inch braided, highly elastic nylon to absorb the thousands of pounds of shock. The two ends that come back to Annastar are spliced into lines made of Spectra for about four feet and then formed into eyes large enough to fit over the yacht’s massive aft cleats. Spectra is 10 times stronger than steel, has zero stretch and is soft and pliable so it’s easy to handle, plus it floats — so it is less likely to get fouled in a prop.
To prevent chafe where the bridle touches the deck and passes through the hawsepipes, there is protection from a sheath of Spectra, covered with an additional layer of Kevlar, the stuff they make bulletproof vests of. This might seem like overkill, but chafe is a major factor in tow-line failure, and Loveall says he has seen line wear out after only 10 hours.
Each leg of the bridle and the 120-foot main hawser of one-inch Spectra are eye-spliced together. Each eye has a Spectra sleeve covered by nylon to — once again — reduce chafe. On the tender’s end of the hawser is a Tylaska T30 snap shackle that’s critical if a quick release is needed, but at the same time it’s the rig’s weakest link. Not that it’s engineered or made poorly. It looks tough as hell, is big enough to hold in two hands, is rated for a 50,000-pound working load. So you have to believe (and pray) that it’s up to the job with no possibility of jamming.
The snap shackle clips onto a stainless-steel eye that has two Spectra lines eye-spliced onto it. These lines are the tender’s pendant, making the final short run to the two massive bow eyes. The lines have spliced eyes with stainless-steel thimbles that are connected to the bow eyes with 1˝-inch shackles. The pendant stays on the tender, draped over the anchor chock when not in use.
“Over the years I’ve broken almost every fitting,” Loveall admits, “but we don’t break anything anymore.” Hard-won lessons: ones that have led him to an improvement of his own that even we small-boat owners can use. He makes up hard, low-friction, plastic Delrin shim washers to keep the shackle pins from sliding back and forth, which can enlarge the holes they pass through, allowing the pins to bend and fail.
See the Mighty Tow towing page on this site.
Contact a Rope Inc. representative today for a quote for your towing rope application.