Launch Operations

Launch operations are an important skill in handling a boat. The launch provides access to shore and the ability to go places the larger vessel can not. Into shallow bays and coves, running up the many rivers, or simply getting to shore when there is no space at the dock, or no dock at all.

Lowering the Launch

Lowering the launch on the Nordic Star to go ashore

The Nordic Quest has the easiest launch operations of any vessel I have had a chance to travel on. A well designed power davit makes lifting the launch on and off the top deck quite easy. It takes less than ten minutes to have the launch in the water and ready to go. In a pinch and calm conditions I can do the operation myself. Two people is a better solution, one to work the top deck and one to receive the boat as it is lowered.

The control for the davit is retrieved from the drawer where it is kept. The davit is raised into position and the shackle secured to the lifting harness in the launch. This harness is three simple cables attached inside the body of the launch brought together at one ring. There is no need to ever remove the harness, once used the harness simply drops into the floor of the launch. Harness secure the launch us raised, swung over the railing and lowered alongside the boat. With the davit locked in the highest position it can easily raise the launch over the railing with no need to drop the railing.

Do make certain the drain hole bung is in place before lowering into the water. I would never forget that… Really… Never.

It is critical to consider safety in this operation. We have developed a few rules to insure no one is injured. Importantly, no one stands beneath the launch as it comes over the side. It is too easy to stand directly underneath on the gangway to catch and stabilize the boat as it is lowered. This would be a bad place to be if the cable broke and hundreds of pound of boat suddenly dropped. A better idea it to hand the painter line down and to use it to stabilize the launch as it is lowered. The person below can stand at the bow of the launch and not underneath.

Recovery is much the reverse of the launch. One team member drives the launch alongside, or pulls it around from the stern with the painter line. The motor is lifted from the water and stowed. The shackle is then secured to the lifting harness in the center of the launch. The launch is then lifted clear of the water and swung onto the upper deck to be secured.

Some care is important here, a number of hazards exist. The shackle is quite heavy, a solid piece of steel. While raising and lowering it must be controlled to prevent it from swinging and injuring a person or damaging the boat. It is usually necessary to connect or disconnect the shackle from inside the launch beside the boat. This means boarding the launch or leaving the launch and boarding the boat. A life preserver is a good idea, in case of a bad fall this will keep a possibly unconscious person afloat.

Any time the launch is free of the boat at least two methods of propulsion are available, the motor, and a set of oars. If the motor stops working it is possible to return under oars, if slowly.

Many of our most memorable adventure involve the launch… Driving up to the face of a glacier to land and explore. Pulling crab pots so heavily loaded with crab the launch is rolling to the side. Rowing into a marble cave with thousands of salmon passing underneath. The launch greatly expands the possibilities, we make sure it is ready to go.

About Andrew Cooper

An electrical engineer living and working on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i. Webmaster for the website. Sometimes the first mate/deckhand/launch driver/anchor detail/cook/dishwasher and mechanic aboard the Nordic Quest.
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