Line Handling Commands – Geek Out on Them

Yes, it’s that topic again.  We discuss them a lot in the Ops world, every year.  And yet every year we have folks get underway and use them inconsistently or not at all.  Why is that? 

Now I’m not suggesting everyone turns into A.J. Squared Away.  Who is that?  Here are a couple of online definitions:

  • A.J. Squared Away:  (name for) a sailor who is always “squared away,” meaning always has a perfect shave, perfectly ironed uniform, spit-shined shoes, haircut with less than 1mm of hair, etc.
  • A.J. Squared Away:  Naval term for the mythical sailor who has his s**t together.

There are some topics for which we need to be more squared away than others.  No one will get hurt if your boots don’t have a perfect shine.  But mess up an alongside tow by miscommunicating a line command and you might bend the boat or lose some fingers.  This is not an exaggeration. 

Besides, it’s in the pledge you took when you became a member – remember that?  It goes like this:  “I solemnly and sincerely pledge myself to … abide by the governing policies established by the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard.”  Where are the line handling commands?  Well, they are not in the Boat Crew Qualification Guides, nor in the new Boat Crew Handbook (BCH16114.1) – they are in the Nav Standards (COMDTINST M3530.2F).

My good friend and fellow Auxiliarist Michael Brown was on a patrol on another facility last year and handling lines on the bow.   When departing from the dock the following exchange occurred:

Coxswain:           “CAST OFF LINE 1”

Michael:               “CAST OFF LINE 1 AYE” and dutifully (and tongue in cheek) removed the line from the bow cleat and tossed the line onto the dock.

Coxswain:           “WAIT!…Why didn’t you bring the line aboard like we always do?

Michael:               “You said CAST OFF LINE 1 – you didn’t say TAKE IN LINE 1…”

The standard line commands include some that are more relevant to the cutter world – for example, our facilities do not have capstans.  But these are some of the more important commands.  Use them!

STAND BY YOUR LINES—————————Man the lines, ready to cast off or moor

SINGLE UP (line number)————————-Take in all but one bight so there remains a single part

DOUBLE UP (line number)————————Pass an additional bight on the specified line

CAST OFF (line number)—————————Cast off from your boat and leave line on other boat or the dock

PUT OVER/PASS (line number)—————Pass the specified line and provide slack

HOLD (line number)———————————-Do not let any more line out even though it might part

EASE (line number)———————————–Let a line out until it is under less tension, but not slacked

SLACK (line number)———————————Take all tension off a line

TAKE THE SLACK OUT OF (line number)—Take all the slack out of a line, but do not take a strain

SHIFT (line number)———————————–Move a line to the specified location

HEAVE AROUND ON (line number)———–Take a strain on a line

AVAST HEAVING (line number)—————–Stop taking a strain on a line

TAKE IN (line number)——————————Allow enough slack to undo other end and bring the line aboard