>Fixing it all on the Munro


My name is Brandon Grass, from Oalthea, Kansas. I am a Boatswain’s Mate Third Class, I’ve been in the Coast Guard for two and a half years and I’ve been on the Munro for a year and a half.

This morning we started setting up for towing. The fishing vessel that we are escorting is having some problems with their engines and they may not be able to maintain speed.

A team of Munro engineers went over on the small boat this morning to try and work on the engine and get things up to speed, but just in case the problem can’t be fixed, we were directed to break out the gear and set up for towing.

It took us about thirty minutes to get the gear broken out and set up. Most of the towing gear consists of different types of line that have to be faked out on deck and made ready for passing to the other boat.

There are three types of line that we use during the towing evolution and it takes a minimum of seven people to complete the evolution including the gunner, the line cutter, the hatchet man, the Petty Officer In Charge (POIC), the thimbleman, a phonetalker and the small boat team on standby.

The evolution starts with one of the gunners mates shooting a shot line tied to a ball, over to the other boat as we pull up alongside. That line is tied to the pre-reeve messenger, which is attached to the ship with sailing twine. As the pre-reeve messenger pays out the line cutter will go along and cut the sailing twine.

The pre-reeve messenger is attached to the graduated messenger which is a series of lines spliced together in gradually increasing sizes. As the graduated messenger pays out the line gets thicker and thicker until it is almost the same size as the towline. The graduated messenger is attached to the towing pinnate, a thick length of line that bridges the graduated messenger to the nylock thimble.

The nylock thimble is a shackle that joins the towing pinnate and the towline. A bright orange cherry fender is attached to the thimble to tell us where it’s at when it’s in the water and to help keep the heavy metal shackle afloat.

The towline is a thick braided nylon line. We have six hundred feet faked out on the port side and the line is then made up to the tow bit, a large bit in the middle of the fantail. As the towline pays out, the hatchet man will cut the twine that ties the towing line to a thick piece of wood called the strong back. The strong back helps maintain control of the towline by keeping it from paying out too fast.

There is an extra four hundred feet of towline faked out on the starboard side to let out in case we need to get the vessel being towed in step with us.

In step means when we (the Munro) are at the top of a swell, we want the vessel we’re towing to be at the top of the swell behind us, and when we’re at the bottom of the swell, we want them to be in the bottom of the swell.

Safety is one of our primary concerns during a towing evolution. The greatest threat during a towing evolution is the parting of a line. When a line parts, or breaks, under heavy strain, it snaps back with enough force to severely injure or kill any personnel nearby. Before every towing evolution, the line is thoroughly checked for fraying and any weak points in the line that may break. All of our lines are in excellent condition.

CWO Thomas Quass, BMC Greg Papineau, BM1 Heath Smith, BM2 Tim Meyers have all seen and executed a towing evolution before, and there are a number of people on board who participated in the towing evolution that we conducted last year at TACT (Tailored Annual Cutter Training).

I am confident that we are going to be able to execute the evolution safely and without incident. We have the equipment, the people and the experience we need to successfully execute this evolution.