I drifted onto a shoal. My bad - talking to marina and not paying enough attention to where I was drifting. Called Towboat US from Ft Pierce who is based about 1 mile away. They arrived about 45 mins later.
Told towboat operator I had drifted down from the north. First he tried to pull me west. Boat pulled easily through mud. After a few minutes he started pulling me north and almost immediately the boat started floating. Towboat said to follow him, so I followed him under tow. Rudder
operated correctly and I was able to follow behind towboat.
Towboat turned to north-east and pulled me across several mud bars.
Towboat next said he was pulling south. It was dark by now, so I don't know which direction he actually went. Again he pulled me across several mud bars with the boat floating between each.
Towboat said he was trying east. Again we went across several mud bars. At one point the boat was almost out of the water
and laying on its side. The boat floated after each time it crossed a bar.
Towboat eventually said tide was falling and he was quitting. He just untied his line and left. He left boat grounded on a bar, rocking back and forth from front to back with waves. I deployed an anchor
and 25 or so feet of chain.
Towboat returned at 5:20 am and pulled northwest. Boat came right off and did not ground again. It was clear during tow that rudder
did not work - boat only turned to starboard. Towboat towed me to marina and I tied to pier.
Damage to boat is a broken rudder, minor damage to hull
where broken rudder stub gouged hull
, and minor scrapes to the bottom of the keel
. The rudder is bent to to the port side, indicating the damage was caused when the boat was towed across a mud bar on its starboard side.
In my opinion, Towboat made several mistakes
which resulted in damage to my boat.
1) Operator did not have a map of the shoals in the area, which is readily available on Google Earth
. On day 2 when he had the map he pulled me directly to deep water
2) Operator failed to use his depth sounder
to chart an exit from the shoal area.
3) Operator repeatedly dragged me from deep water onto shoals. Operator grounded me more than 10 times. Some of these groundings were in extremely shallow water with the boat laying on its side. One grounding I estimate the water depth
to be 19 inches, based on the water coming up to the edge of the sink which is 18.5 inches from the edge of the hull and another .5 inches for hull thinkness. After each of these groundings he pulled me into water deep enough to float my boat.
4) Operator failed to use the information his depth sounder
gave him to avoid dragging my boat onto very shallow shoals.
5) Operator failed to use a strategy appropriate to prevent damage to the the rudder of this boat. The design on this boat is well documented. In my opinion, his strategy of simply dragging the boat repeatedly across shoals is inappropriate for any sailboat.
6) Operator towed me west, northeast, south, and east before finally trying the correct northwest direction on day 2.
7) Operator failed to secure my boat when he quit for the night.
He simply untied from my boat and drove away, leaving my boat grounded out and rocking back and forth with every wave. It would have been much safer and less damaging to leave the boat floating. This repeated rocking from front to back may well have been the action that dislodged the rudder from its mount.
I could have stayed where I was originally and waited for the tide to float me off without damage, or I could have heeled he boat over and lifted the keel
off the bottom. Instead I called TowboatUS for professional assistance. In my opinion, Towboat failed to exercise professional responsibility.