Sunday, September 23, 2007

Runaway boats

Dave Drenick of Vessel Assist Dana Point raises a good question after viewing this video on YouTube:

Perhaps you have already heard the story; a 20' outboard center console has tossed its only occupant out into the Connecticut River, and the boat is making circles on its own. I guess the day shape for "Underway, not under command" would be appropriate. Anyway, a number of differing agencies spent a good deal of time and effort to stop this boat.

At some point, a small SeaTow boat manages to get a line on the runaway, possibly onto a stearn cleat. The SeaTow boat promptly gets rolled over, dumping two more people into the river. How do you explain that to the insurance company?

Eventually, someone fouls the runaway's prop with a line, and the drama comes to an end.

Now, this story is not meant to condemn SeaTow; indeed, they were there trying to help, and the poor decisions the crew made were probably the result of having tried just about everything else to bring the circling menace to a stop. So, back to Dave's question.

What is the best strategy for dealing with a runaway boat? The traditional tactic of laying a line in the path of the runaway has proven to be a dubious solution, especially for outboards, whose skeg seems to push the line under the prop. This tactic has one thing in its favor: assuming you are prepared to cut the line you drag, there is little danger of getting tripped or injury to the assistance crew.

Some other ideas: get inside the circle, come alongside and hit the shift/throttle lever with a boat hook. Get inside the circle and transfer a person across to the runaway (presumably this technique would be used with those of us driving inflatables). Instead of trying to place a line in the path of the runaway, how about a large plastic trash bag, or a plastic blue tarp? If it fails to foul the prop, it might block the intake and cause the motor to overheat at least. Finally, why not just let the thing run out of gas, assuming its not threatening anyone? Set up a safety perimeter to keep traffic away, and let it cirle for hours?

Of course, using the kill switch lanyard would prevent any need to respond to runaways....

Your ideas and proven techniques are welcome.

Friday, September 14, 2007

BOAT/US Captain Directory Service

In case you missed the press release, BOAT/US is implementing a captain's referral service. The main focus appears to be on delivery captains. One thing sparked my interest though:

We will be offering a new Delivery Captains Directory Service to make it easier to find reliable people with the knowledge and skill to relocate your boat to a new port, brush up on your boat operating skills or move your boat in advance of a hurricane. This service will be open to everyone, Members and non-Members.

I believe that BUS Insurance offers up to $1000 to help offset the costs of hauling an insured boat before a hurricane arrives. (this is not part of the towing membership coverage, but only offered to insurance customers)

It occurs to me that BUS already has a huge stable of licensed captains: all the TowBOAT/US captains across the country. I don't know how many there are, but I would guess perhaps five or six hundred? So, the question is: will the BOAT/US bureaucracy put the names and numbers of all the local TowBOAT/US towers into the Captains Directory data base?

For more information, go here:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


At least, out here in New England it is. I trust everyone has had a busy summer. Things were slow to get started out here, and it seemed that we sort of just limped through July. Then August hit! BAM. Before the boat fire (see last post), I had a wind storm with 40kts in the middle of the night; that put 4 boats on the beach and one on the bottom.

On Labor Day, we had some brisk 25-30 kts, and we had this 44'er dismasted:

So, I'm not complaining, but rather explaining my lack of posts lately. I hope you too have been so busy that you didn't notice....I'll be back at the keyboard more as fall approaches.
Anyone have some exciting photos they want to share?