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Thread: Towing Boat to Boat

  1. #1
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    Default Towing Boat to Boat

    Lets talk towing. Unfortunately most of us have had to tow or be towed. I'm interested in learning more about what others are doing with regards to towing methods. I have a 26' and have had to tow a couple of boats over the years, and yes for the record, I too was towed. I have always towed by pulling the boat behind mine. This created a real challenge when we found ourselves in 7 ftrs. Is it better to tow along side, I have seen boats cleat off to each other and run side by side. Does the weather determine best method or is it merely preference? What say you?

  2. #2
    Member Sierra Hotel's Avatar
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    Default

    I've towed, and been towed.

    I've used a yoke tied off to the stern boat tied down loops, and then tied the tow line (or even better yet use a roller like on a winch) to the yoke. It spreads the load, and won't break off the cleats.

    When coming in to port, however, I usually tie up folks along side for docking - it's easier than the tow-behind.

    My $.02,

    SH

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    Default

    Stern tow is safest for transit towing. Alongside towing is generally reserved for mooring up in calm conditions considering ANY kind of weather or seas will bounce the boats off of each other pretty good sometimes causing some pretty serious damage if you do it wrong. I would never suggest alongside tow in anything greater than about 2 ft seas, unless you absolutely had to put someone over to the other boat for some reason. Its just not safe in greater than those conditions considering you like your boat or arms. Both tows have there advantages and I have personnally towed boats in both configurations, mooring those boats with both techniques as well. As a general rule of thumb though, stern tow for any transit, alongside tow for mooring up. The conditions will also dictate your technique, but this way usually works.

  4. #4

    Default More input.

    I agree with EPW. I have towed a lot, some for free and a lot for hire. Here is some more input....

    I see the mistake quite often... Make sure you have a long tow line in rough seas. The rougher, the longer. It will help a line break from a surge.

    If the boat being towed is walling in a following sea, loop a line out from it's stern. A fifty foot loop will help keep it's bow pointed straight. Tie from Port stern cleat and then loop out 50' of line and then tie to Starboard stern cleat. This also works for towing skiffs at higher speeds. I use short loops for skiffs though. I can tow a skiff at 18 + knots with this trick.

    Also, tow from the bow loop you hook your trailer winch to. If you tow from the boats bow cleat it will want to pull the bow down. Reaching your "winching loop" may be tough in rough weather so some boats keep a short line always attached and run up to the bow cleat for emergency.

    Many times, many, many times I have had to tow and the boat did not have a sufficent line. Your anchor line may get caught up in your prop and be ruined, what do you have then???

    Just trying to share some thoughts and experiences with those that may not have considered these.

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    Default rough water

    All good information. We should all have a good idea of what to do when it happens. To wait and figure it out in the heat of the battle can be a disaster. I was towing in a 22' with my 26' and when 22' would drop behind the wave it would almost pull me to stand still. Very scary situation. Based on your comments I would say that I didn't have a long enough tow rope.

    Your example of towing from the stearn cleats is interesting. You only use that method when there are trailing seas is that correct? Also there is no line attached to the bow, just the stearn?

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    Your example of towing from the stearn cleats is interesting. You only use that method when there are trailing seas is that correct? Also there is no line attached to the bow, just the stearn?[/quote]

    I read this as having 50' of line out trailing in the water behind the stern - just tie off the 2 ends to the port and starboard cleats acting as a small sea anchor to help keep the stern lined up with the bow. I don't see how you can tow a boat without being primarily attached to the bow.

  7. #7

    Default I got lost?

    I may not have been very clear, my wife says that a lot.

    I only tow from my stern to the dead boats bow and I use a make shift bridle that goes to both of my stern cleats. The boat being towed (dead boat) will have a 50' loop off there stern. This keeps the boat being towed from wanting to wander (zig zag).

    When we are entering a harbor and are in calm waters I then tie side to side with fenders between the two hulls for scratch protection. The easiest way to do a side by side for manuvering is to keep the tow boat aft of the dead boat.

    An example: if you have two 24' boats, the dead boat's stern will be even with the back of the cabin of the tow boat. This allows the tow boat to have much more control for manuvering. Tie the boats as tight as possible and use two spring lines, one forward and one aft. If you have any slack in the lines the operator will have a harder time.

    If entering a harbor and you have any seas or wake shorten your tow considerably (also bring in the stern loop from the dead boat) and tow into the protected harbor and then tie side to side. If you tow side to side in much for seas you risk parting lines, tearing cleats out, and scratching hulls. Remind your passengers that their body parts are not to be used as fenders.

    If you boat long enough, everyone will have the opportunity to tow or be towed.

  8. #8

    Default

    The replies to this thread have beens some of the best I've ever read on the subject of towing. Especially the last, by Itsryd.

    I've got some pictures from work, that help illustrate what he is saying.

    Here's 2 pictures of the Spring lines (the ones forming an 'X' running fore and aft...





    The spring line running from the barge (pretend it's a boat) forward to the cleat on the boat is the main spring line. It's the line that takes all the stress when towing ahead. It should be the first line attached between vessels, as with just that line the towing boat can get the broken boat underway and can even steer left and right. The other spring line takes the load when slowing down or backing up.

    The stern line...



    and bow line...



    are both run from the tow boat to the far side of the broken boat. The extra length allows for maximum up and down motion between boats in rough weather. If the lines was attached to the near side cleat there would be lot's of stress on the cleats as the boats moved up and down separately.

    In this example, the tow boat could be located a bit farther aft than it was, but it worked fine that day.

    One other thing to note... notice all the line eyes were located on the barge (broken boat.) That allows the crew to tighten up any slack (and there will be lot's of it as the boats get underway) without getting on the broken down boat. They can stay on the tow boat. It's easy to get all the lines tight, by turning left and right, slowing down and speeding up, and taking in any slack that develops.

  9. #9

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    I believe Chapman's shows various ways of towing. I think the Chapman's book is a must-have for all who boat in saltwater.

  10. #10
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    Default Tow Bit

    another thing to consider when using a tow line is where the tow line attatches to the towing vessel. In the photos above note the tow bits location on the deck about 1/3 of the boats length from the stern. This is an ideal tow bit location. It allows the vessel to pivot from that location making turning and control very easy.
    On most small craft with outboard power the only way to tow is by rigging a bridle from the aft corners with the tow line attatched behind the motor.
    This makes it imposible for the boat to pivot and requires a special knack to steer. Alot of people end up going in circles.
    Towing from the stern in this fashion is difficult because the direction the outboard is pointed usually controls the direction of travel which is not always the the direction the bow is pointed.
    If you can rig a bridle high enough to clear obstacles and the engine from the back of the house or gunnel you can sometimes get a good pivot point.
    Always try to tow from the lowest point possible to maintain your stabiliy

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    Default great info

    Guys-- I must say this is a great discussion. Great narrative and Brian W, pictures are worth a thousand words. Thanks for all the feedback.

  12. #12
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    Default Well

    I would only go to a side tow if your in calm water. Well the only way to help tow a boat in bad weather is to lengthen the line, have the other boat deploy a drift sock / drouge. Then try to use a bridal set up if possible. Run two lines off the front of the boat being towed, attach to the main line. I know all this is not normal gear most people have on a boat. 5 Gallon buckets ties off to the sturn will work. Anyways I have towed allot of boats during my 4 years with the coast guard so if you need more info just ask!
    Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

  13. #13

    Default

    Just to throw this in, I guess everyone knows that if you're towing someone behind you (or someone's in front of you towing you) that you need to stay clear of the line in case a cleat breaks loose and becomes a very fast moving projectile. I'll bet there are plenty of cleats out there that are simply screwed in or that don't have backing.

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