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Thread: Towing a skiff---Advice needed

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    Member Cap'n Ron's Avatar
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    Default Towing a skiff---Advice needed

    Going to help out some active duty guys out in May and tow a skiff for them about 40 miles in PWS. I have a Hewes 26' Alaskan with twin Honda 135's, and will be towing a Crestliner 18' open skiff with a 30 hp tiller motor...I have had my own skiff towed once years ago by a big overnighter, so this is something I need some advice on. Yes, I tried a forum search but really didn't turn up anything. That said, here are a few things I am thinking, and please critique this and add what will help:

    1) tow only when calm, seas 2' or less, probably very early morning or late evening, when boat traffic is also slow?

    2) tow with a bridle, line to each of my stern corners from the bow eye of the skiff, short at first to get out of Valdez harbor, then lengthen until skiff is well-back in my wake?

    3) Should I remove the skiff motor? Or, leave it on skiff, and then should it be down to provide better tracking even though it will make a lot of drag, or tilted full up?

    4) If I leave the motor on or not, should I put some gear to weight and stabilize the skiff, and if motor on, just weight the front of skiff? Hmmmm...if I am careful do I have to worry about flipping the skiff and losing the gear?

    5) Tow speed....10-12 knots max? I can hit about 15 knots before I start up on step....I do not think power will be an issue, I can get on step with one of these motors.

    6) Turns....big, wide turns I suppose (probably all I could do)?

    7) What else do I need to think of?

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    Moderator stid2677's Avatar
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    I tow my inflatable quite a bit, it has a jet, so I leave the engine on but tilted up in shallow drive. I use a tow bridle and 100ft tow rope I also tie a 50ft piece of rope to each corner of the raft in the back forming a U to act as a tail to help keep it tracking right. I also add weight to the nose.
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    Member hoose35's Avatar
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    You should be able to tow that boat on step no problem. Use a long towline/bridle. I would take the motor off if feasible, I was towing a skiff and the tilt mechanism broke, we had to tie it up to keep it out of the water. Maybe not a big deal if you are going to pull slow, but I didn't want the extra drag in the water. I would use poly and not nylon for a tow rope because it floats and less likely to get fouled in your props if or when you have to stop.
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    Member chico99645's Avatar
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    I towed a 14' skiff with a 20 HP Merc last fall through Lake Louise and Lake Susitna. It was a little choppy as well but not capping. I tied a line from one rear cleat to the other passing behind the motors about 8 feet so I had plenty of room for my motors to steer and line to stay just out of the water when on step. They I tied a line from the front bow eye on the skiff and tied it to a large caribeaner on the other end. The caribeaner was free to slide on the line right behind my motors and if I had to cut if free quickly all I had to do was cut one line attached to the cleat and the carribeaner would pull through the line. I can't remember the amound of line I had out exactly but I did adjust it a few times until the skiff was centered in my wake and the bow was just about where the water was starting to flatten out but still just slightly riding up on the slight slope. To guess, I had about 50' of line. Once I found that sweet spot on the rise it never porpoised and tracked real well when hit by side chop while I made a few turns. I was not really restricted to wide turns but certainly didn't take sharp ones either. I personally took the motor off mine and put in on the floor board and tied it down. Hind sight, since it rode so well, that probably was not nessessary and I didn't remove it on the return trip. I did put about 200 pounds of gear and fuel in the boat so it was not so light. As far as speed goes, I got on step and then backed off just a little. I was averaging abouit 20 knots. I did have a spotter on the skiff at all times as well, which helped in adjusting the line length to find the sweet spot.

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    Member Cap'n Ron's Avatar
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    Wow, I don't think I have ever seen three such info packed responses in a row, thanks guys! Between you, I am feeling more confident already. Anyone else have anything to add? It sure will be nice to go maybe 20 knots, sounds like I can watch it and adjust for the "sweet spot". I will have 3-4 other people aboard and the boat owner for sure will be spotting!

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    Member spoiled one's Avatar
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    Since the boat owner is going to be coming along anyway, why not just have him follow in your wake? It might be more efficient..maybe? You will be experiencing a lot of drag. I have towed a 14 foot achilles with my current boat and burned about 3 gallons per hour more than just hauling it on the back deck.
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    I have towed 14, 16, and 18 foot Lunds many times in S.E. Alaska and never had any problems, even in the slop. They key for me was to keep the skiff light (throw all the gear in the big boat) and leave the skiff motor on the transom, tilted up. The weight at the stern of the skiff seemed to help it trac better and it kept the bow up. I tried towing it with the motor down and didn't like it at all, it seemed to add a lot of unnessary drag. When I had the horsepower, I would tow the skiff on step. Have plenty of of line so you can get the skiff to ride "in the sweet spot." Your boat will probably create some "hills and valleys" in the wake and I always like to get the skiff in such a position that it looks like it's trying to come up one of the hills, not going down into one of the valleys. As you mentioned in your origninal post, take your turns wide. If you turn too sharp you can drag the skiff into your wake, kinda a "following/quartering" sea and the bow can plunge into the wake give you quite a tug.

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    Good on you for helping out some of our military members. I'd be happy to help out as well if need be. Anyway, all great advice and pretty much mirrors my experience. I've towed my dingy around with a 10hp motor on it as well as a 16ft lund. While I prefer to tow it with the motor on I had a friend lose his outboard while it was being towed. My advice, tow it with the motor mounted but bolt it to the boat if possible and if not make sure it's very very securely mounted. Then, as others have said, have plenty of tow line so you can adjust it to ride in your sweet spot. Mine was about 150-200ft behind my boat and I think we both have 26ft Hewes. I'd also haul on step and take wide turns. Finally, I like Chico's idea. Use a caribiner in the middle of a line tied between your two rear cleats. Easy to cut off and allows the boat to easily slide along the line.

    Like you said...great thread and great advice. Hope you have a good summer this year and maybe we'll finally have a chance to hook up on the water.

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    All good advice so far ... leave the 30hp on the skiff tilted up and locked. Leave fuel can in skiff connected and ready to go along with necessary boating gear in case someone has to get into the skiff and get it moving to avoid any mad scrambles during beaching, anchoring etc. Just my 2cents.

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    Member Cap'n Ron's Avatar
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    It just keeps getting better! That last two cents spends like a dollar in a developing country....hadn't thought of having to get someone in the skiff in a hurry and underway...

    Pete...glad you are still spoiled, but what happened to your avatar? I know that picture, but too little for the purpose!! Anyway, the boat owner is in the sandbox right now with his friend that is coming, his brother is in the airforce somewhere, the other guy is in Fairbanks, and none have any boat-running experience. So, if it is really nice, I may have him follow some of the time anyway, but 42 miles is a long way on a tiller! Not sure how fast that skiff can go anyway, probably 20-25 mph with one or two people. But, he has never been where we are going, he bought a lot sight-unseen, so I seem like an expert to him, wow is he in for it There are two other sets of guys coming out in other boats, and one set is also a rookie, Indiana farmer/carpenter that bought a cabin and lot sight unseen, but he is going to love it! So are the other guys ...they have fished with charters out of Homer and Seward a couple of times, so at least have been on the ocean before. The skiff will be left at the lot, and they will be back several more times, if the army does something really weird and give him his request to transfer to Alaska...his tour in the sand is over this spring.

    Well, that motor will weight maybe 160 lbs so not easy to put on and off the skiff, so glad we can leave it on. Floating rope and sliding carribeaner seem a great idea, so does the loop at stern of skiff Stid suggested, for better tracking, but seems it would add a lot of drag too. Getting on step would sure be nice, but as Fullboat says, if the bow catches the wake, it could really jerk and possibly plunge, so will have to try that carefully.

    Patrick, yep we have the same boat. Will you be around Valdez or PWS the week of May 14-21? That's when we are heading out...I'll be back for a month later too, so maybe we can finally join up.

    Every situation is different, so we will take all the great advice here, take it easy, and learn as we go. I'll be sure and post some pictures, especially if we get one of these boys a nice flatfish or bear! By the way, he is paying $700 to have Lynden ship that skiff and motor from Merita in Anc to Valdez, any better ideas (no trailer...)???

    Thanks, everyone!

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    Member spoiled one's Avatar
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    Well that makes sense, Ron. Might have to switch avatar pics, eh?
    Spending my kids' inheritance with them, one adventure at a time.

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    Member Cap'n Ron's Avatar
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    Avatar makes Patience look even bigger! Some day.... well, now that this thread seems to have run it's course, I was thinking of a way to change your signature picture for April 1, but don't think that's possible...yet, there are people on these forums that have great skills, and some playful moderators, so think about this guys and gals! And now for that other thread...

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    Moderator stid2677's Avatar
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    Just of word of caution, make sure is you use a caribeaner you might want to attach a float to it to prevent it from sinking and fouling your prop. That is why I use a tow bridal I made. I made sure to use a float to keep the tow line from sinking into my prop area.
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    Member Cap'n Ron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stid2677 View Post
    Just of word of caution, make sure is you use a caribeaner you might want to attach a float to it to prevent it from sinking and fouling your prop. That is why I use a tow bridal I made. I made sure to use a float to keep the tow line from sinking into my prop area.
    Great advice too, Stid, I think I am ready to do this now! Thanks everyone ~~~~ Ron

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    Member ak_cowboy's Avatar
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    If the skiff starts plowing into your wake just shorten the tow rope. There's a sweet spot I'm sure you'll find.

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    Member Cap'n Ron's Avatar
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    Hmmmm....How'r those boots on ice, cowboy? Once we get going, sounds like a little adjustment will make it work well...particularly like the idea that I can tow on step, we got places to do and things to go, so may as well get out there and get to it!

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    Member ak_cowboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cap'n Ron View Post
    Hmmmm....How'r those boots on ice, cowboy? Once we get going, sounds like a little adjustment will make it work well...particularly like the idea that I can tow on step, we got places to do and things to go, so may as well get out there and get to it!
    Work great once I screwed the studs in

    Take lots of pics!

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    Member Cap'n Ron's Avatar
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    Plan on the pics....these guys I am taking out will be PWS virgins, so a lot of fun will be had, let's hope we don't have anything with frowns in it!

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    Ok, so this may sound like a stupid question, but here goes. I too would like to tow my dingy from time to time instead of throwing it up on the deck everytime we are going to run a little ways. That said, I am struggling to understand how all of the experienced tower's are adjusting the tow line. I understand the advice to be to run the tow line through a tow bridle and adjust the length to find the sweet spot. Are you running it out say 100' and then putting the excess rope/tow line on the deck or are you cutting the line and then just tying back into as needed?

  20. #20

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    I'm sure you would already, but just another reminder to securely tie in everything on the skiff. Even in good conditions, things can happen very quickly when towing, especially at speed, and it could swamp or flip. Have a good safety line on the outboard. Without someone in the boat, it is easier to not notice things vibrating loose until it is too late.

    Some type of extra tag line is good to have. Consider what it would take to get ahold of the skiff if the tow line breaks away from it rather than from the tow boat. Without a bow line, in open water, in chop, it can be tricky to get ahold of a loose boat. Having that one dragging from the back could make it a lot easier and safer to grab.

    Play with the positioning of the boat in your wake a bit when you are running. We used to tow our zodiak all the time behind our 26' cabin cruiser and found a huge difference in tow load depending on where in the wakes the raft was located. With our setup, we found having it slightly on the downslope of the stern wake was the best, but you had to watch it closely. If you adjusted your speed, it could "gain" on the next wake and dive in. Towing with the raft going up one of the waves was probably about twice the load. With something as big as you are planning to tow, those differences could be significant in overall speed and fuel consumption. I probably wouldn't try to have it surfing down the wave, but also would not just have it on the steepest part going up the wave either.

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