On the Job

Tender Operation Basics: Launching and Retrieval

7 January 2022 By Patrick Levitzke
tender retrieval
Patrick Levitzke

Patrick Levitzke is from Port Macquarie, Australia. He left in 2019 to begin yachting, and found his first job on a private 82-foot Horizon, cruising the U.S. East Coast, with just the captain. Currently, he’s a deckhand on a 210-foot private yacht and has plans to complete his 200-ton license this year.

Tender launching is a sure sign a charter is in full swing. You’re usually at anchor, and the show is well and truly under way with guest runs to shore, provisioning, garbage runs, anchorage scouting, and, if you’re lucky, crew runs ashore.

Launching tenders is always a delicate process, as there is serious potential for mishap. Today’s tenders, and the cranes that winch them off, are becoming larger and heavier, as are the yachts they occupy. Preparation is the underside of the iceberg. Rehearsing tender launching and retrieval is a prerequisite before any charter.

The first course of action begins with an intimate knowledge of the weather. Launching may take place with sunny skies, low sea-state, and not a breath of wind, but how long will the tender be in the water? Retrieving can likewise only be done safely in calm weather. You may also want to be aware of the tide and current, and how severely the mothership is swinging on her anchor, as this will require an experienced helmsman. With a good weather outlook, begin the pre-launch checks. Each launching and retrieval sequence is unique, and whether from three decks high or from a waterline garage, all crew must be trained fresh, no matter how many tenders they’ve launched on different vessels. Among the most important checks includes a very brief ignition of the engine, safety gear on board, batteries at good voltage, and all night nav lights visible. You never know if the guests might want to take a late-night foray ashore.

Preparation is the underside of the iceberg. Rehearsing tender launching and retrieval is a prerequisite before any charter.

When satisfied by the tender’s seaworthiness and the sea state, prepare for lifting. Inspect for proper seating of the lifting points, and general wear and tear of the lifting harness, lifting points, and the crane and boom itself. Any hydraulic fluid on deck or unusual, operational sounds are immediate red flags and cause for ceasing all operations and a further inspection. Ensure painter lines are attached stern and bow, and crew are never near the tender’s underside. With the decks clear, all lifejackets and harnesses should be donned, and all departments notified launch is taking place. Any listing that occurs from the extended weight should be properly prepared for.

Watch for sudden movement as the crane takes the tender’s weight; the same applies for the crane operator. Slow is pro. Once the tender is maneuvered to the proper boarding point, it’s time for the tender captain to board carefully.

Ensuring the lifting claw is well down and will not take any weight in the swell, the engines fire up, the helmsmen is free to disengage, let go of the painters, and continue on his merry way.

This article originally ran in the September 2021 issue of Dockwalk.


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