When I stepped aboard a friend’s little motor cruiser, the first bit of kit I noticed was a rescue throw bag hanging at the ready from the wheelhouse overhead. It got me thinking about the usefulness of a dedicated rescue line and the fact that I didn’t have one. I’d assumed that with all the lines I have on board, including my heaving line with a monkey’s fist, whichever one I could lay my hands on could be used as a throw rope in an emergency. But what I might have handy might not float or be coiled in a manner that I could deploy quickly and throw accurately.
So, I recently bought a Scotty Rescue Throw Bag to fill the gap in my safety gear. Its bright orange bag is 8″ long, 4 1⁄2″ in diameter, and it has a disc of 3⁄4″-thick closed-cell foam for flotation on the inside and a band of retroreflective material on the outside for enhanced visibility in the beam of a flashlight. The top of the bag is made of mesh, making the bag self-draining. A cord and spring-toggle tighten the opening around the loop at the end of the line stuffed in the bag so there’s no rummaging around to find the loop to hold onto when throwing the bag. The line is a 50′ length of 9⁄32″ floating polypropylene kernmantle rope. Each end of it has a bight tied with a figure-eight knot. (The knots take up a bit of the line, so its working length is 47′.) The rope is “flaked” into the bag so it will pay out without getting hung up. The bag and line weigh just under 14 oz.
To throw the bag, you open its mouth, hang onto the loop with your non-throwing hand, and pull out about 10’ of line. Next, grab the bag with your other hand and throw it underhand, overhand, or sidearm—whichever you prefer. I practice mostly underhand and some overhand. The aim is to get the bag to land beyond the rescuee with the line draped over them. The 47′ length of the line is more than enough. My best throws, on land where I could measure them, were at 45′. More often the bag landed at a distance of 35′ to 40′. Throwing with accuracy comes with practice.
There are different methods for stuffing the line back into the bag, and all involve pushing just a few inches of line in at a time. It may seem messy, but it ensures the line will feed out without getting hung up when the bag is thrown. You can hold the bag open with pinkies and ring fingers on both hands and feed the line in, pinching it between thumb and index finger, alternating hands as you push line in. I prefer holding the bag with the ring and pinkie fingers of my right hand and guiding the line with a bit of friction with a stationary right thumb and index finger. The thumb and forefinger of the left hand pull the line in a few inches with each pull. Having the line draped over your shoulder makes either method easier.
Restuffing the bag takes a few minutes and isn’t necessary or practical if you miss connecting with the rescue on the first throw. The coiling methods in this issue’s Technique article are much quicker and ensure the rope doesn’t get tangled when the coil is thrown along with the empty rescue bag.
Christopher Cunningham is the editor of Small Boats.
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