The steamer appointed to tow you, having hoisted your pendants at the fore, waits till you hoist your own pendants in reply, to indicate that you are ready, and then takes up a position ahead. You then send your hauling-lines on board by which she hauls the towing hawsers in. A longer scope in a breeze than in a calm, is of course necessary; mats should be placed in the hawse-holes, the palls of the capstan all down, and bars swifted.

In a tideway, or in a breeze, the steamer first anchors ahead, and takes in and secures hawsers; the ship weighs, lastly, the steamer.

Should the breeze freshen and the sea get up, direct the steamer to veer a breaker astern, which hook and take in, that, in the event of a hawser parting, there may be no delay in hauling on board another.

When towing alongside, fore-an-aft springs should be passed in addition to the bow and quarter lashings; one hawser going from the after part of the ship to the fore part of the steamer, and the other reversely.

In May 1892, H.M.S. "Narcissus" towed H.M.S. "Shah," from Portsmouth to Bermuda; the latter ship had been dismantled, and everything except the lower masts taken out of her.

She was towed at the full length (150 fathoms) of two 6 inch wire hawsers.

Although the "Narcissus" was fitted with towing bollards on the main deck, it was considered best for various reasons to tow from the upper deck. The Conning Tower forward in the Gun Battery was selected to tow from. To make the hawsers fast, the "Narcissus" used 8 shackles of her own sheet cable 2 1/8 (inch). The cable was middled and a complete round turn taken around the Conning Tower, the ends of the cable being brought aft, and out through two fairleads built in on the quarter, and then shackled on to the end of the wire hawsers, a swivel piece being at the end of the cable; a Senhouse slip was introduced into each part of the cable on the quarter deck, the whole being arranged so as to ensure there being nearly a length of cable outside the ship.

To prevent rendering round the Conning Tower, and to hold the "Shah" if one hawser went, Blake stoppers were put on abaft the Conning Tower and lashed to securing bollards, wire seizings and lashings were also passed round the cables at the Conning Tower, and strong cross lashings just abaft. Planking was placed along the deck under the cable, also wood chocks, or stanchions faced with iron, were placed at the after battery doors, and round the Conning Tower to take the chafe, &c.

In the "Shah", her two bower cables (2¼ inch) were double bitted on the main deck, compressors boused to &c., the ends then led forward through a hole cut in the upper deck (lined with iron), out through the bow gun ports, swivel pieces put on each end, and the wire hawsers shackled on, having about a shackle of each bower cable outside the hawse. Senhouse ships [sic] were introduced into the cable on the upper deck, to enable it to be shipped if necessary. Two spare 6 inch hawsers were supplied to the "Shah".

A crew to the "Shah" was supplied from the "Narcissus" consisting of 1 Lieutenant, 1 Sub-Lieutenant, 2 Warrant Officers, and 100 men.

The "Shah" was taken in tow at Spithead on the 10th May, the ships with the "Seahorse" in company arrived at Madeira on the 16th, coaled, and left again on the 19th without the "Seahorse", which ship returned to England; they arrived at Bermuda on the 31st May. To tow through the Narrows, only one hawser was used, and this shortened well up. Fair weather was experienced on the passage out.

561. A SHIP IN TOW OF ANOTHER. — When the ship ahead puts her helm down, to go round, the ship in tow puts her helm up, and always endeavours to keep directly in her leader's wake.

562. BOATS IN TOW. — Dismount the gun, and place it at the bottom of the boat amidships; shift the shot-boxes aft, and haul the boat close up under the stern — the closer the better. Tow with a hawser from each quarter, to keep her steady, and as a precaution in case one carries away. Reeve one through the shackle in the stem, take a turn round the standing thwart, and let a hand hold on to it, ready to ship in a moment; take the other also round the thwart, frapping it in slackly to the stem, (for if out on the bow, the boat would steer widely), and let it be similarly attended. Caution the cox[s]wain to be particularly careful about the steerage; call all out of the boat but these three hands, and see the hawsers parcelled in the nips.

Watch the boat yourself from the steamer, not leaving her for a moment, and acquaint the officer of the watch should the swell of the water rise up to the gunwale, that the steamer's speed may be slackened. If you see the water come over, do not wait till she buries herself, but give the order immediately to let go in the boat.

I had the misfortune once to be implicated in the loss of a pinnace that was stowed under, in a calm day, without a ripple on the water; and therefore know that you cannot be too careful.

In towing a light boat, reeve the tow-rope through the ring in the bow, and secure to the bolt in the keel. If secured forward, you run the risk of tearing the bows out of her.

Captain Alston's Seamanship, 1894. pp 404-407.

Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius

Sjöhistoriska Samfundet | The Maritime History Virtual Archives | Seamanship | Search.

Copyright © 1994 Lars Bruzelius.