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A Look Back in Time
Street's Sailings
Street's Tips
Boom Vangs
Storm Staysails
Li'l Iolaire
Going South
Dragons in Brest
Wooden Dragons
Classic Dragons
Getting There
TransAtlantic Crossings
Iolaire's Last Cruise
The Baltic 1998
Green Power at Sea
Chart History

Towboat Hitches

(Tow boat and lighterman hitches)


A Tobo hitch is the proper way to secure a line around a Samson Post. A Clove hitch is not the way to secure a line around a Samson Post. If there is great strain on the clove hitch it will bind up tight and the only way to get it loose is to relieve the strain on the line to the Samson Post or, use the Universal Knot Opener - a sharp knife.
In contrast the Tobo Hitch can be untied under load and more line can be veered. A Tobo Hitch is not only useful for securing a line around a Samson Post but works perfectly on winches.
On Iolaire there is very little space for winches and cleats, so we dispensed with the cleats. All lines leading to winches are secured with Tobo hitches.
To tie a Tobo hitch pass the line three or four tines around the Samson Post, or the bits, then take the bite of the line underneath the line under load, dump the bite over the top of the winch, bring the end of the bite up around the top of the winch again. Bring the bite underneath the line and then over the top of the winch. All is secured. 206 words
Becued Anchor - If you are anchoring in an area where you feel the anchor may foul on debris, get hooked under a rock lodge, or are anchoring in deep water of unknown bottom, this is the time to rig a becued anchor. A becued anchor, a forgotten technique is from a pre- World War II Uffa Fox book). It can be done with a Herreshoff, Nevins, Luke or similar anchor anchoring with line. If anchoring with chain it is difficult to do with the above type anchors as it is difficult if not impossible to reliably secure the chain around the head of the anchor. If anchoring with chain and you wish to rig a becued anchor use a CQR (or CQR type there are a lot of copies or near copies), or a Bruce
Secure the anchor chain to the eye in the head of the anchor (where a tripping line is usually secured). Lay the chain along the top of the anchor, then secure the chain to the normal shackle on the arm of the anchor, with three or four turns (if using 5/16th chain, more for larger chain), of 1/8" flag halyard. Tie off with square knots, double square knots. This will work fine for a temporary anchorage, in areas where you are worried about fouling, jamming on rocks or debris. This is especially useful if anchoring in deep water waiting for the tide.
If the anchor is fouled heave away, lashing should break it out. If it does not, secure a block and tackle to the anchor line lead the fall of the black and tackle to a winch, and it will certainly break out. A four part tackle to a small 8 -to- 1 winch gives 32 -to- 1, enough to break the lashing!!!The Barden Beefing Block — When John Varden redid Avel to race as a gaff rigged cutter in the Mediterranean he wanted to keep everything traditional. No winches. But, he did want to set his head stays up as tight as possible.
In 1995, right after Iolaire's rebuild we took part in the Cannes and St. Tropez regattas. We were moored along side Avel.
I noticed when we first came in, a Harken block and tackle in the lower runner tackle. By the time we had Iolaire put away the Harken tackle was gone. The next day just as they were going out I noticed a Harken tackle. Again, it disappeared in the evening.
I finally figured out what it was. It was John Barden's method of developing as much power on his back stay runners as he could get with a modern two speed winch. Hence I call it the Barden Beefing Block.
The normal method on gaff rigged boats for roller runners is a wire strand with a hook, that can be disconnected when running down wind, leading to a four part tackle. Four part tackle on a 2:1 giving identical advantage of an 8:1.
However, for the Barden Beefing Block, where the forward lower block is normally a Becket Block with the end of the tackle spliced into the Becket on the Becket block instead Barden had a shackle. Just before he went sailing he disconnected the shackle and installed a four part Harden Tackle with a clam cleat between the Becket and the end of the tackle. In this way he had a four part tackle on the end of an eight powered tackle. This gave him mechanical advantage of 32:1. The same as a winch and possibly more powerful than a winch as he could put two men heaving on that tackle, each man easily developing 6,000 lbs. line pull. Less friction it would still be easily 5,000 lbs. on his lower runner.
On Partridge I think they do the same thing, but instead of using a modern Harken gear they use a traditional small block and tackle.
This is certainly something to be remembered. It means that even on the traditional gaff rigged boats the runners can be set up heavily loaded without the aid of a winch.
As I have continually said "you can not invent anything in sailing. If you look back carefully you will discover way back when someone did the same or almost the same thing and it has been forgotten about"
This is true of the "Bardon Beefing Block" as eight years after I saw it on Avel, I was given a tour of Marilee, a New York yacht club 40, restored and converted back to her original rig.
Herreshoff used the "Bardon Beefing Block" back in 1913 but instead of having a small tackle in line he head a big tackle lying along the deck. The runner was taken in on the coarse trim, then two big Scandinavians put ther backsides into the fine tune tackle. God knows how much line tension they were able to put on the backstay.
However, if the topmast backstay is rigged in the same way as the main backstay and backed by the "Bardon Beefing Block" the headstay (topmast stay) could be loaded up and the big "yankee" jib topsail could be carried to windward.d
Look back in history, Captain John Illingworth of Malham fame (Maid of Malham, Myth of Malham, Mouse of Malham, and Mix of Malham) in the 1930s racing his gaff rigged yawl in Hong Kong carried his beg Yankee to windward and cleaned house regularly. It is mentioned in his book "The Malham Story" but unfortunately he does not mention how he built up enough tension on his headstay. I wonder if he did not have the same rig as the "Bardon Beefing Block".

Piloting Stories

This story was reported by Bill Robinson, long time editor of Yachting back in the early 1960s.
In the early 1960s when cruising to the Bahamas, visiting yachts always hired a local pilot as the charts were famous for their in accuracies and the only guide available Harry Ethridge's was in it's infancy, and did nto cover in detail many areas. The Bahamian sloops were all shoal draft, finding a pilot that conprehended the draft of a modern yacht was difficult. Thus an owner of a boat drawing 7-ft. Hired a local Bahamian Pilot. Knowing the Bahamian sloops were much shoaler than his boat that drew 7-ft. He took out the boat hook, stood it on end, put a piece of tape on the boat hook at 7-ft. and pointed out to the Pilot that that was the draft. The Pilot said, "Yeah Boss, Dat fine. No problem."
Then cruised for a month, in and out of all the nooks and crannies in the Bahamas, and never once touched the bottom. The owner was extremely pleased with his Pilot. A day or so before the end of the cruise they were coming in to a harbour, where the water looked rather shoal, proceeding very slowly under power. The Skipper called to the Pilot, who was up forward, "Pilot, how's the water". The Pilot reported back "Ten". The Skipper put the engine ahead and they promptly ran aground!
Much confusion, recrimination and anchors went out. Finally they managed to back her off and anchored safely. The owner chastised the Pilot. "Pilot, you have been sailing with us almost a month and have done a magnificent job. You have never run us aground, and you know the boat draws 7-ft. When I asked you how much water you said 'ten'! We only draw seven and still we ran aground. How could we run aground in ten feet of water?" The Pilot looked at him and said, "No Skip. I didn't say ten feet. I said 'tin'('thin'), the water getting t'in (thin)Skipper, means there ain't enough water."
There is a sequel to this story where Iolaire got parked where the water was getting "t'in"
Iolaire has seldom been aground in the while exploring the eastern caribbean but has frequently been PARKED.
The difference is when aground it is completely unexspected and the boat is in a dangerous posistion, you are PARKED when in sheltered water exploring you come to a stop as the water getting "t'in".
In 1983 when Iolaire was exploring for the first time the Spanish Virgins and the south coast of Puerto Rico we were beating to windward along the south coast of Vieques.
We were short tacking along the shore eye ball navigation. As we reached the eastern end of Puerto Real I decided we wanted to anchor off Esperanza in the anchorage east of Cayo Real.
The chart showed 10' of water between Vieques and Cayo Real.
As we approached the gap my excellent crew the late Alston Blackett who knew the above story of the Bahamian pilot said "skip de water getting t'in". To which I said " the chart shows 10', the water is just crysalt clear. Even if the chart is a couple of feet off we are heeled over we will clear the shoal water"
To which Alston replied " I don't care what de chart say de water getting t'in"
"relax Alston, the chart can not be that far off" I replied as we slid to a stop on the sand!!!!!!!
So dinghy over and we ran a long anchor line to the dock in Esperanza, secured a four part block and tackle to the anchor line, ran the fall of the tackle to the big 18 to 1 nevins midship winch and cranked away.
With a mechanical advantage of 4 to 1 on the tackle, and 18 to 1 on the winch, when you deduct friction loss we were still developing about 60 to 1 mechanical advantage.
100 lbs pressure on the handle, the line pull on the anchorline was probably 5 to 6 thousand pounds, but she still did not move.
At this point a fiendly sport fishing captain came out with his high powered whaler, and offered to help. We gave him our spinnaker halyard with another 50' of line attached to it. He took a strain, then slowly opened the throttle until the strain was such that our middle life line was in the water.
We lifted off, and with the tension on the anchor line being like a gigantic rubber band we were "sling shotted " into the anchorage. We immediately dropped the line to the dock, quickly dropped the main, rolled up the headsails weather cocked on the missen, then backed the missen, picked up some sternway, dropped the anchor and all was all set.
We retrieved the anchor line later but first invited the skipper of the whaler on board for a beer or two. Introductions were made, the skipper name was Charlie Connelly.
He did not want any money for his help, a few beers followed. It turned out he had lived and fished the south coast of Vieques for many years.
He said he would be happy the next day to give us a grand tour along the south coast of Vieques.
I organized a charter at a very reasonable fee. He gave us a complete tour, in and out of every nook and cranny from Esperanza eastwards to the very easternmost part of Vieques including the area inside the bombing range that did not show on the NOAA chart.
That area was only covered by a restricted use DMA chart not available to the public.
However the island was full of ex military and that evening drinking beer in a bar with some of Charlie's friends it turn out one of them was an ex submariner who had served a submarine in the same squadron as the Sea Leopard, the sub I served on during the Korean war.
It turned out he had a copy of the restricted DMA chart which we managed to copy.
This was used to develope Imray Iolaire A 131 which until the Navy closed down the bombing range a few years ago and NOAA added the area to their chart, the Imray Iolaire A 131 was the only chart that showed the eastern end of Vieques.
Dispite three time during the years informing NOAA personally in their office in DC the NOAA chart still shows 10' between Cayo Real and Vieques yet if sailing there remember what the late Alston Blackett said"never mind what de chart say de water getting t'in"!

Piloting Story

I showed last month's story to my old friend Dick Griffin, Harbour Pilot of St. Thomas and he said, "Oh hell Don. Things like that happen all the time. I dropped a 10-ton anchor on Volkswagen bus!"
"How the hell did that happen?" I asked,
"Well, I was taking a Japanese freighter into the old sub-piers in the sub base, and I called - 'All back one third.' There was a lot of shouting in Japanese and I looked to see if we were getting any stern wash. There was none, so I called 'All back two thirds'.
"At this point a Japanese covered in engine grease comes running up from the engine room with some bits and pieces in his hand and starts shouting at the skipper in Japanese. Obviously I was not going to get any stern wash. I told the captain to let go the starboard anchor. There was a little splash as the starboard anchor ran out and I realised, that wasn't going to stop us. So I told them to let go the port anchor. They were very slow in letting go the port anchor. They did let it go until we hit the dock. The anchor came smack down on top of a Volkswagen bus, compressing it to a height of about 18 inches. Luckily no one was in it.
But I wonder what the insurance company said when the owner reported his Volkswagen bus had been totally demolished by a ships anchor being dropped on top of it."