City: Port Orchard, WA
Vessel Name: Violet A
Vessel Model: Nordic Tug 42
Join Date: Mar 2008
This is an article I have saved just in case. Sorry the pictures did not come across but maybe the description will be enough. Send a Private Message and I can forward the WORD doc.
Tow Yourself In
By Capt. Alan Hugenot
Let's imagine a scenario: You are a mile from the dock, the engine has died and you called the U.S. Coast Guard for a tow. Because no lives are in immediate danger, the agency refers you to a commercial towing company, and the price is a few hundred dollars.
Then you remember your dinghy and its small outboard engine – should you tow yourself in?
The answer depends on weather conditions and how much experience you have. If there is any wind or current, your dinghy's small outboard will not be able to maneuver the larger vessel. You could overload and damage the engine. Even worse, you could lose control of your boat.
In any kind of weather, you are better off calling in professionals. Experience is key and that is what professional towboat skippers offer. The price is often a few hundred bucks – and it is worth it.
However, if there are two of you onboard; if there is little or no wind or current; if the tow is a short one; and if you have actually practiced and gained some experience, then towing your boat with a dinghy can be a handy skill to have at your disposal.
You can, of course, gain this experience. Early on a windless morning, preferably in a secluded anchorage or lake where there is no current, you and a friend can practice towing.
Begin by launching the dinghy and installing the outboard. Because the engine will be operating at nearly full power, and under a great deal of load, check the oil and top it off if necessary. Also, remember to bring extra gasoline. At nearly continuous high throttle, you may use a lot more fuel than usual. Get out three spare dock lines and have life vests, a boat hook and fenders available.
First, you need to know how to place your dinghy so that you can steer the vessel being towed. Most people automatically think that they should place the dinghy out in front of the cruiser with a long towing line, or hawser. But the truth is that there is nothing harder to steer than a large boat at the far end of a towing line.
Instead, tie your tender alongside so that the stern of the dinghy is aft of the bigger boat's rudderpost. Your outboard motor should be astern of the larger boat's transom, and the dinghy's bow should be canted in toward the big boat's bow. This will allow you to apply leverage with your outboard where it is needed to turn and steer the bigger boat.
If you ever watch older stern-drive tugboats in a harbor, they will push and pull a ship by applying leverage at the stern. Similarly, if you tie your dinghy on the aft quarter of the larger boat, you can maintain control of the vessel.
A PROPER SIDE TIE
Securing the dinghy in this position requires a three-point tie, which is where the spare dock lines will be used.
Remember that you will need your regular dock lines to tie the boat in after you tow it, so you will have to use spares to secure the tow. It is a good idea to use nylon when towing, because it stretches and absorbs the shifting loads.
Choose the side that will be most advantageous when you approach the dock. If you tie up on the starboard, put your dinghy on the port side. If you will be making a turn into the berth, pick the side that will be on the inside of the turn. If you turn left into your berth the dinghy goes on the left side. This will allow you to see where you are turning.
Above: Attach the dinghy on the aft quarter using a three-point side tie. Below: Slowing bring the dinghy's outboard up to three-quarter's throttle to move the larger boat at a speed of 2 or 3 knots.
Besides the bow line and stern line, running a spring line from the tender's bow to the larger boat's stern is crucial (see drawing). This is the line that gives you control, allowing the dinghy's engine to drive the larger boat's hull.
Run your lines from mooring cleats on the larger boat to the “D” rings on the tender. You may find that you don't have cleats or rings where you need them aboard either boat, or that they are not anchored firmly enough to make you comfortable.
This is a lesson: in order to do this properly, you may need to make modifications, such as adding extra D rings. Until then, be extremely careful with the loads you place on hardware. It is better to pull sideways on the D rings than up, for example, because the chances of tearing the rings out are less.
CREW WITH A VIEW
Tighten all the lines so that the dinghy's inflatable hull is slightly smashed-up against the larger boat. This way, the inflatable makes a perfect fender (though it never hurts to hang a towel between the two boats to prevent chafing).
The big boat will block the view ahead and the person operating the outboard will lose visibility. That's why the second crewmember is key – to serve as a lookout on the bridge of the larger boat.
Before setting out, put on a life jacket and require your crewmember to do the same. He may be out of sight from the dinghy, and you will have no way of knowing if he falls overboard. Likewise, he won't be able to see you most of the time and know if you've taken a tumble.
Whenever I hear some self-satisfied boater gloating that they have never fallen in, I think that he hasn't been boating long enough to get his feet wet. Every professional boater knows that falling in the water is inevitable. Every so often, it just happens. I have fallen in the water many times between the dock and the boat, while working over the side or while using a dinghy.
Side-towing with the tender is a prime opportunity to fall in, so wear the life jacket.
HOW TO TOW
Before you start the tow, prepare the rig the fenders and dock lines on the larger boat so that your crewmember will have them ready when you come alongside.
When everything is properly rigged, get in the dinghy, start the outboard and begin towing. Your deck hand should stay on the larger boat to help by steering according to your orders. You should also instruct him to be the lookout and report what he sees.
You are the skipper, but he is your eyes.
Slowly bring the outboard up to speed, but don't exceed about three-quarters throttle. This is where it will be most efficient, and will move your boat along at 2 to 3 knots. At this speed, a short one-mile tow will take more than 20 minutes to complete, but the slower pace will prevent overheating and overworking your engine.
If you have to turn into a berth, your dinghy will be far enough aft to get about half the boat into the slip before the tender blocks further progress.
Your crewmember will have to get on the dock with a bow line, and possibly a forward-facing spring line, to tie the cruiser off so he can then come over and help you untie the dinghy.
You can then use the dinghy to push on the transom and move the boat the rest of the way into the slip, or you can pull the boat into the slip using the dock lines.
You can then secure things and call it a day – or better yet, get out there and try it again!