Have you ever seen a coastal or offshore tug while out sailing? Did you realize that they could be towing astern–and the towline could be invisible? Learn the vital steps you need to take to avoid serious injury or damage to your sailboat. Follow these three easy steps along with the illustration to stay safe on the waters of the world.
Sail in inland, coastal or offshore waters, and you will encounter tugs and their tows. What you see may or may not tell the entire story. For example, you will see the tugboat first. But is he or she towing or not?
How can you determine whether —in accordance with the Navigation Rules–the vessel you see will be considered just another power-driven vessel or a vessel engaged in towing. Why is this of vital importance to the sailing skipper?
I believe first and foremost — “trust but verify”. The tug skipper and crew might have forgotten to display the proper day shapes or (at night or during periods of reduced visibility) special lights required for a vessel engaged in towing (find out more about day shapes and lights in Captain John’s eBook Navigation Rules Made Easy).
I believe the binocular rises to the top as a critical “must have” navigation tool. My binocular cost less than $125 on sale (West Marine) and has provided great service in a variety of seagoing conditions. Look for the phrase “nitrogen charged” in the specs. This indicates a waterproof–not just water resistant–binocular.