How a boat passes me I'm towing

By Jack Fletcher


During my hitch at CG Station New London Ct. I was duty coxswain one Saturday and we got a boat call of a cabin cruiser in distress at the entrance to Niantic Bay west of New London. After getting all the necessary information we got underway, in CG40448 and out into Long Island sound. There was a fair chop, maybe 3 feet and windy.

Niantic Bay is fairly large and eons ago they built both a railroad bed and roadway across the middle of the bay, on the extreme right side of the bay there is/was a railroad and automobile bridge. This "cut" allowed vessels to pass through and enter the inner bay. The whole "cut" was lined with restaurants, bait houses and the like. Both sides had sheet piling and all kinds of small boats would tie up there.

I arrived at the entrance to the bay and we passed back and forth trying to locate the vessel in distress. Finally near the left side of the bay and amongst rocks and shoals and in the 3 foot seas we found the 24' cabin cruiser. Within minutes this "old man" of maybe 40 years (I was 25) rowed out in a small punt to our boat. He was soaked and really looked beat up from the seas. I advised him I couldn't do much because there was no one on board in distress and the extreme shallow water made it impossible for me to get a line on him.

He pleaded for me to help and big hearted me, always feeling sorry for the underdog gave in. I told him if he could take our towing line in on his punt and get a line on the boat we would take a strain on him and see what happened. Well low and behold he fights the seas, makes it to his boat and makes the towing line fast on his bow bit. I rotate the 448 around as you have a lot more pulling power going forward instead of aft, because of the wash going out instead of under the boat. Anyway the line gets quite tight and nothing happens. I keep the pressure up for a few more minutes and all of a sudden his vessel slides off the rocks and breaks free. I keep up the strain and within minutes we are in deeper water. Well the guy jumps up and down with joy. We shorten the towing line to about 100' feet and get underway to the inner bay and the local marina.

Well maybe I was out to late the night before or maybe I should have been, because what happens next is something I have relived many times over. I enter the "cut" and start under the Railroad bridge and notice many boats tied up enjoying the weekend and I am generally daydreaming when all of a sudden the 24 footer I'm towing passes me by at a fairly high rate of speed on my port side. Then it hit my brain "you stupid, dumb, idiot you should have taken him along side" anyway, there is a strong incoming tide coming through the "cut" and forcing all the craft that are tied up to strain on their mooring lines. This also propels the 24 footer through the cut at a high rate of speed. Well the poor guy steering the craft has not power to control his boat and does his best to try not hitting the 42 foot fishing trawler tied up. Well guess what, he hits the trawler bow to bow, scratching his fiberglass but splitting the trawler's old wooden bow down to the water line. all this time I'm full astern trying to get him under control. By this time we have attracted the attention of everyone on the shore. Anyway I get the 24 footer along side (DAH! finally) and get him to the marina post haste and they start pulling him out of the water immediately. I return to the trawler to find her taking on water. We take her along side and get her to the same marina where the hauled her out too.

Well I decide not to stick around the crime scene very long, we got underway and back out in the Sound so I can lick my wounds. When we got back to the station and I told the OOD about what happened. He advised me to wait until Monday and make out a full report for the old man.

Well low and behold "Jacks" luck prevails again, Monday morning the insurance adjuster called me first thing and thanked me for "saving" the 24 footer from certain doom in the rough seas, he states the damage is very minimal to his boat and Oh also don't worry he will fix the trawler also, so don't worry about a thing.

The first thing I did was find the OOD for the weekend and convince him not to say a word as it was all history. Every boat call I made after that I got the boat along side as quickly as I could.

Jack Fletcher EN2, served in the Coast Guard from 1964-1969.    


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