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Boston Whaler 370 Outrage
In addition to Intrepid, a select few boats are built strong enough to do the job of a megayacht tender.
Boston Whaler 370 Outrage
Captains love it because it’s built like every other Whaler; it won’t sink. They also appreciate the portside dive door that opens inward, making it easier for guests to get on and off the yacht without climbing over gunwales.
One captain I spoke with said that he had just towed 700 miles in 30-knot winds and eight-foot seas with no problems. “We got lucky,” he said. “It’s not if something will go wrong, but when.” Loveall agrees, which is why Annastar carries specialized towing insurance. Even so, he says, that the policy covers only 50 percent of the boat’s value during the day and none at night, which gives you an idea of the serious risks involved.
To put the odds in their favor, captains prepare for the worst. Most center the boat’s engines with the drives down to provide additional directional stability. Some drag a line behind to help hold the boat straight and to serve as a handhold if a crew has to swim for a tender that has broken free. Fuel tanks are kept full, the keys left on board, hatches and gates secured, water and food stowed, and foul weather gear kept ready in case a crew member has to run the boat offshore. They check bilge pumps but don’t depend on them, because batteries can lose power. It’s best if the tender has large-capacity freeing ports and scuppers and is watertight and self-bailing. And, of course, the yacht carries a sharp axe capable of quickly cutting the tow line.
Since one boat is towing another, the correct navigational lights must be shown as specified in the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (Colregs) Part C, Rule 24. The lights on the tender should have their own dedicated battery, with solar recharging/backup, so as not to drain the main starting bank. Many captains place a radar reflector on the tender so it shows up on a passing ship’s radar as a tug-and-tow and makes it easier for the captain to monitor the boat on his own radar.
The tow starts with the tender lashed “on the hip,” sitting on the yacht’s quarter, for better control while in confined waters. The tow line is attached and the boat cast free once in open water. To retrieve the boat the yacht is kept moving ahead at dead slow while the crew manually pulls the tender in. The captain never backs up the yacht to get the boat since that increases the possibility of a fouled prop.
In good weather Loveall tows fast; many captains run up to 25 knots. “We found that once the tender gets on plane there is less drag,” he tells me. “We only lose about 1 knot from our cruising speed.” He adjusts the hawser length to fit the conditions, with the tender usually sitting on the back of the wake’s third wave, riding bow up. When headed downwind, he slows down, letting the boat drag a bit to keep it from overrunning the yacht.
Towing a big boat is tricky and potentially dangerous. One cautious captain said he prefers to ship the tender rather than take it on long passages. “We avoid the risk of bad weather and losing the boat,” he says, “and I get a better night’s sleep.”