Saturday, August 23, 2014

Broken Tow Wire Re-cap

I've been home for the past 3 weeks and still have 2 more weeks before heading back up to Seattle for Session #6.  My last hitch was a Western Alaska run as the AB and I landed about 50 days of sea time, which equates to about 30 days of ATO, (Accumulated Time Off).  I unfortunately didn't write as much on this past trip as I'd like, but I posted a few things here and there. I recently picked up a new laptop to replace the one that was stolen from my car, so I promise to blog a bit more from here on out.

The final days of our trip included some interesting learning experiences.  The most memorable was a broken tow wire as we were entering Puget Sound near Port Townsend.  We had dropped back to put our reefer tech on the first barge (we were pulling a tandem), and upon retrieval of the tech, our rear barge's tow wire got caught up and snagged something on the bottom, instantly snapping the tow wire and sending our smaller 2nd barge adrift in the traffic lanes, which were luckily empty.

I was asleep when it happened, but the slowing of the engines and the commotion on deck woke me up.  I went out to see what was going on and saw our barge about 1/4 mile off the stern, pointing in an odd direction and not moving.  Meanwhile, the cook and other crew members were running around on deck pulling lines and such.  I jumped back into the house and threw on my work clothes and immediately assisted with the lines.
The plan was to come around and hip-up on the port stern of the smaller barge to regain control, while still towing our large reefer barge.  As we came about and tried to approach the smaller barge on the stern, the larger barge didn't make the turn (due to it's weight) and it grazed the side of the smaller barge, which then bumped into us and leaving a dent about 4-5' in diameter on the large barge.  It then continued on a course heading away from the tug as we were trying to jump off onto the smaller barge.  After getting the larger barge to flip around and behave, we hopped off and tied up to the smaller barge with double headlines, spring and stern lines.  In the process of getting a 2nd headline on the barge, the 1st line came up tight and snapped a few feet from where I was standing.  I heard it come tight and pretty much dove to the deck to get out of the way.  Luckily, it was a heavy cotton line and it didn't recoil with as much force as some of the newer synthetic lines.  It did however, sound like a shotgun going off, and it left a cloud of cotton fibers as if a duck had just been shot down from the sky.  It was an interesting experience to be a part of, and highly educational.

After finally getting 6 lines on the smaller barge and pointed in the right direction, we slowly brought her around the point at Port Townsend and headed south towards Seattle.  We put out a call asking for a no-wake courtesy from all passing ships and we steamed at about 3-4 knots throughout the night before arriving in Elliot Bay, Seattle around 06:30 where we handed both barges off to Western Towboat.  Because of our limited visibility around the starboard side of the smaller barge, we also posted a lookout on the bow of the barge as an extra safety precaution.

Once in Seattle, the smaller barge got put on a buoy and we were told to stay put and help a dive boat retrieve the tow bridle hanging down from the bow.  The diver showed up and helped us attach our working wire to one of the bridle links and we hauled it in, fired up the torch and cut off the broken end of the cable, attached a new swede wire/safety, hung the gear and went on our way.

The last few weeks home have been awesome.  Did some sailing on Lake Tahoe and have basically just been hanging out at home, fixing things and enjoying the time off.

I head back to PMI in 2 weeks to study Celestial Nav, Cargo Handling and Medical Care Provider, which will take about 4 weeks.  After that, It sounds like I may be on boat to Hawaii for a month.  My boss is supposed to confirm sometime soon.  I don't mind the Hawaii run, but it's fairly boring and we don't get to work Cargo, which means less pay, but no sweaty 20/hours days. I picked up a new GoPro, so maybe I'll make some vids and play around with some cool action shots.

I'll be blogging about celestial in a few weeks, so check back to see what that's all about.

I've thrown in a few pics of our broken tow wire for your viewing pleasure..

I'm also including a link to my Flickr album of a few past trips.  I'll be adding more trips to the album shortly.