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DON'S LOG: stories, experience and advice

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.

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.

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".

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