A memory of a possible disaster averted.
|My salvage company,Sausallito Underwater Search, had a call for, rather to, salvage a 85 foot fishing boat on the rocks at Point Reyes, California. I took my novice diver, Robert Morgan to assist with this salvage.
The beach on which the vessel was stranded was a rocky shingle. The damage to the hull was minor. A couple of tucker patches and a few bolts and nuts stopped all the holes. The former owner of my company, was the insurance adjuster for the company that insured the boat. The idea was to remove the boat (pull it off the beach) and tow it to Crescent city.
Jerry, the adjuster, hired a Monterey Fishing Boat to do the towing and to pull the vessel off the beach. This was a low powered thirty footer. The boat tried numerous times to pull the vessel free. Finally, on the high tide the stranded boat floated free. But with the wind and storm that was blowing, the Monterey could not tow the boat. The bulk and weight of the stranded vessel, once afloat, provided enough "sail" area that the heavy wind could, and did, cause it to drift to windward dragging the smaller and lighter Monterey fishing boat around at the end of the towline.
Jerry ordered us to let out more line. I told Morgan to ease the line and let more out. He loosed the tow line, which went through a steel eye in the bow, by casting it completely free, instead of keeping it on the cleat and letting it slip. The line started to run freely through the eye. As it did so it picked me up by the wrist.
I had no choice but to walk along the deck with the line on my wrist. I could not slack it enough to get it off my wrist. I called Robert to me and quietly said, "If you don't get that line tagged off, I will lose my arm or go through that eye (which was about 4 inches in diameter) like sausage through a grinder.
He managed to get the line tagged off before I reached the bow, and later said that if I had hollered instead of speaking calmly, he would have panicked and completely lost it, and I would have lost my arm.
Finally we anchored the vessel, undid the tow line, and slept in our wet suits over night on the boat. Two days later Jerry had a ocean-going tug come and finish the tow to Crescent City.
From that time on, I made my own arrangements for tow or assisting vessels. Why Jerry, who should have known better, thought that the little Monterey would be able to tow the dead weight of the 85 foot 60 ton vessel against the wind and wave surge, I'll never know.