Plymouth – My first tow job (Feb 2004)

by Tim.  

22nd February, 2004: For the many years I’ve been a member of our club I have always relied on the good will of others to tow our boats to the dive sites and back. Without this goodwill it is impossible to use our own boats.


It has been my aim for a long, long time to trade in my trusty (now rusty) Cavalier for something capable of not only towing but also able to handle launching and recovery. The trouble was my old Cav was so reliable and such cheap motoring I was somewhat loathed to part with it.

The catalyst for me to come off the fence and finally do something about it was taking on the position of Diving Officer. If I’m organising a dive I need to be certain of at least one person being there who is able to tow, launch and recover a boat – me.

It was then obvious that I needed a car capable of handling slippery slips – so it had to be a 4×4. But most of the time I only want it to be a car and I didn’t want a particularly big vehicle. After a long and tortured time of trying to determine what was the best vehicle to attach to my tow bar I narrowed it down to 3 or 4 contenders. Finally I went with my gut feel and chose a Landrover Freelander TD4, if for no other reason than I’ve always liked the look of them.

Today (Sunday 22nd Feb 2004) was the day when I would put it, and also myself, to the test with my first tow job.

I had originally opted for Brixham as the place to do the deed as I know the slip well and it is nice and wide; however the wind being northerly was all wrong so I went for Mount Batten at Plymouth instead (another wide slip I know well). Venue decided it wasn’t difficult to find a willing crew to accompany me on my first mission. As for the dive site, weather permitting it would be an old but popular favourite – the James Egan Layne.

So how did it go? Well, the towing bit itself I have to say was much easier than I’d expected. The Freelander coped well and mostly I hardly noticed the boat was there. As advised by my co-pilot I took corners wider to compensate and ensured a lower gear was selected when going down hills and of course adhered to the 60 mph speed limit. Then inevitably came the bit I had been dreading. The evil hour was upon me. It was launch time!

When reversing a boat I am informed there are two main ways to do this. One is to twist your body through 180 degrees and observe it from the rear window. The other is to watch it from the wing mirrors. Fortunately nobody had thought to bring a video, as my numerous failed attempts must have been highly amusing to onlookers. For me I found the rear window method worked best and I eventually sort of got the hang of it and the boat was launched.

Later, when it came to recovery I hit a snag. Without the boat on it I couldn’t see the trailer through the rear window, so wing mirrors it had to be. Suffice it to say I eventually found the water, though my route there was not as direct as it could have been.

The distinct advantages with it being a very chilling winters day was, a) there were few people about, b) the slip was very quiet and, c) it was cold enough for me not to get too hot and bothered. I would not like to have attempted that same exercise on an August Bank Holiday weekend I can tell you.

Incidentally the dive was a cracker. We could see the wreck from the surface so the vis must have been 5 metres plus. For my buddy it was his first wreck dive, which was quite fitting, as the Egan Layne was my first wreck dive too. With a stiff northerly breeze the return trip was wet and splashy and very chilling but the dive more than made up for it.

Having had such a fun day out we naturally had to have a debrief at our usual watering hole. Parking the boat there was another story. Still as they say, ’Practice makes perfect’ so hopefully I will have plenty of opportunity to practice.

Safe diving (and driving), Tim


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