30 | BoatU.S. Magazine
Rule Of Twelfths
Learn a simple rule of thumb for es-
timating the height of the tide, given
only the time and height of high and
low water. www.BoatUS.com/ruleof12
upper-body strength, the buoyancy of his life
jacket, and a boost from a passing wave to
Thompson quickly secured the towline
to the sailboat’s windlass and foredeck
cleat. Captain Robert Butler then ordered
Shelter Island’s engines to be set at one-third power. The sailboat’s bow swung away
from the rocks but wouldn’t move forward.
At three-quarters power, the engines’ turbochargers kicked on, and the sailboat finally
started inching slowly toward deeper water.
But with a rapidly falling tide and almost
a quarter-mile to go before the sailboat
reached open water and safety, its progress
was far too slow.
Butler reluctantly ordered the engines
opened to full throttle. The reason for his
caution had to do with something towers
refer to as “tripping,” which can occur when
cross swells, towline angle, and the pitch of
the stranded vessel cause the towing boat to
roll over. The best defense against tripping
is to keep the two boats aligned perfectly.
With the engines wide open, the sailboat
began moving steadily forward, jumping a
few feet each time it was lifted by a passing
swell. About a half-hour into the salvage,
the sailboat’s windlass could no longer take
the strain and pulled out of the foredeck.
But the cleat continued to hold. Shortly
before dawn, Vessel Assist Shelter Island’s
crew had towed the sailboat safely back
out to deep water. Remarkably, there was
no serious damage. The time it took for the
towing crew to load their boat, travel almost
40 miles to the jetty, devise a strategy, swim
the towline ashore, then gradually maneuver the sailboat back to open water was a
little over four hours — a textbook example
of what it takes to complete a successful
salvage on open water.
On the West Coast, BoatU.S.’s towing affiliates
are Vessel Assist boats. Elsewhere in the country,
they’re known as TowBoatU.S. For information
on towing versus salvage, visit www.BoatUS.com/
salvage. For info on BoatU.S. towing services,