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Old 08-26-2016, 03:08 PM   #1
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How to safely tow another boat.

We do not have any towing companies (BoatUS for example) in our area so in the past Iíve towed about 1-2 boats a year that have run out of gas, had the engine quit or for some other reason. Since we bought Beachcomber we tend to go to out of the way places so lately we havenít towed anyone. Over the years Iíve come up with some good things to be aware of when towing another boat to make it safer for everyone involved. Hereís a few items in no particular orderÖ.

-The boat to be towed should transfer all of itís passengers to the tow boat except for the skipper of the towed boat. Everyone on both boats should don a PFD. This lightens the load in the towed boat and makes it easier to tow.

-The line to the towed boat should be fastened to the bow eye, or as low as possible on the boat to keep the bow high. (this might apply more to smaller boats than the ones we have)

-The tow line should be long enough that when the tow boat stops or slows, the towed boat has time to come to a stop so it doesnít run into the tow boat.

-Itís best to use a heavy line that has some ability to stretch and absorb any shocks but not an unlimited amount of stretch. See next suggestion.

-Itís a good idea to tie a towel or PFD about midway down the tow line. This way if the line breaks it wonít be as likely to snap back into either boat and injure someone.

-Hand signals between the tow boat and towed boat should be the same as for water sports, and should be clarified before starting the tow. A better bet might be VHF or cell phone communication if possible.

-For better control of the towed boat, before approaching a dock it should be brought alongside the tow boat and fastened to the side as it would be in rafting up.

-There should be a clear plan for what to do when you reach your destination. Should the other boat side tie to you, etc?

-Weight distribution in the tow boat is critical. You donít want everyone seated in the stern unless thereís nowhere else available.

-The tow line should be fastened to the tow boat using a bridle attached to two cleats if possible.

-On an I/O boat that is to be towed the lower units should be raised about half way. You want them in the water enough to still help with steering but high enough to minimize drag.

This list is certainly not a complete one so does anyone else have any ideas?
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Old 08-26-2016, 05:28 PM   #2
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No ideas of my own, but all the suggestions sound like good ones. You may want to add a suggestion to the skipper being towed to brace him (or her) self for flack from the ever-present dockwatchers. Just a part of the routine, and no malice implied.
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Old 08-26-2016, 05:41 PM   #3
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Be extremely careful with sidetows...


You can get into a situation where the only way to turn to one of the ways is to back down hard, letting the towed vessel's momentum pull your bow around past where you need it so when you start in forward again you can adjust to the correct track.


This is not for the feint of heart in crowded areas or when the wind/tide is strong.


The thing that helps the most is to have the other vessel as far forward on the towboat as possible...in other words the towboats rudder as far behind the vessel combo as possible.


Also don't side tow without significant fenders and not in areas where other boats will wake you.


Sailboats are a bit different....position is less necessary unless you are a lot bigger than them. For them...just act as propulsion if they have steering and let them steer with their big rudders.


Really hard to adequately discuss towing because of the myriad of tow vessels represented here....gets really tricky to say what is important or not when there is a large size between the 2 vessels.
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Old 08-26-2016, 05:48 PM   #4
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I recently had occasion to tow a sailboat that had broken down in the shipping lanes on a windless night. I concluded that it was safer to tow it side-tied than on a line. I have several reasons I concluded this was the better way, including that its crabbing season, and maneuvering to avoid pots with a boat in tow behind, would be awkward. Also, the end of the tow was into a harbor with a somewhat restricted entrance (where all the crab pots were deployed of course), and ferry boats. It's may be a bit slower to tow this way, especially with one boat having a differently shaped hull as more speed makes the boats either want to turn toward one another or away from one another. It was interesting.
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Old 08-26-2016, 06:05 PM   #5
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I strongly advise against side towing except in very protected waters with little chance of wakes...plus huge fenders, no boat overlapping structure, great lines to tie with,...just most non-pros aren't really set up for it. If possible and no danger, then of course it should be more controllable.


Avoiding crab pots is one thing, but not as bad as it seems, and much better injury or damage from hulls smashing.


Fine for the last bit entering a marina...but the pros usually wait till just entering and why you see the big tugs and tows swap tow types at inland water transitions due to the wave action.
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Old 08-26-2016, 06:27 PM   #6
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Quote:
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I strongly advise against side towing except in very protected waters with little chance of wakes...plus huge fenders, no boat overlapping structure, great lines to tie with,...just most non-pros aren't really set up for it. If possible and no danger, then of course it should be more controllable.


Avoiding crab pots is one thing, but not as bad as it seems, and much better injury or damage from hulls smashing.


Fine for the last nit entering a marina...but the pros usually wait ad why you see the big tugs and tows swap tow types at inland water transitions.
Appreciate your thoughts but don't want you to keep worrying. Big fenders-check; great lines-check; conditions a factor including sea state, boat wakes etc-check; experience in similar circumstances including on board a tow boat-check; structure and fit of the boats-check; avoiding fouling in a crab-pot line in a narrow harbor entrance on a dark night with ferry boats--big ones-who must maintain speed for maneuverability-definitely a major factor.
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Old 08-26-2016, 07:09 PM   #7
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Appreciate your thoughts but don't want you to keep worrying. Big fenders-check; great lines-check; conditions a factor including sea state, boat wakes etc-check; experience in similar circumstances including on board a tow boat-check; structure and fit of the boats-check; avoiding fouling in a crab-pot line in a narrow harbor entrance on a dark night with ferry boats--big ones-who must maintain speed for maneuverability-definitely a major factor.
fine for you as I said ...there are always exceptions. or proper preparations.

I have seen death, maiming, and plenty of damage from 2 boats next to one another in rough water...it isn't rocket science but it would be one of the least familiar/natural and most dangerous things many boaters could do....just passing that along for general, not specific consumption.
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Old 08-26-2016, 07:22 PM   #8
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fine for you as I said ...there are always exceptions. or proper preparations.

I have seen death, maiming, and plenty of damage from 2 boats next to one another in rough water...it isn't rocket science but it would be one of the least familiar/natural and most dangerous things many boaters could do....just passing that along for general, not specific consumption.
Very eloquently stated and having seen similar carnage, I could not agree more. There is an incredible potential for problems with stern and side towing. I have done this professionally and the risks are difficult to mitigate for the recreational boater. 99% of our boats and our crew, my boat and crew included, are not even remotely configured/prepared to tow. My insurance policy also specifically addresses towing...as in NO.
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Old 08-26-2016, 08:14 PM   #9
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My friend runs a tow boat, so I appreciate the comments regarding recreational boaters doing a side tow. I don't have the experience, and don't want to be sued, so I wouldn't side tow someone. I would tow somebody astern, but only in a dire emergency and if a tow boat or other certified responder was not around. Overall, its best left to the pros whenever possible.
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Old 08-26-2016, 11:21 PM   #10
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My insurance policy also specifically addresses towing...as in NO.
Really? I checked with my insurance broker in Seattle about towing after this question came up a few years ago on another forum. I was told I would be covered for liability if I was towing and damaged someone else's property and would be covered for damage to my boat if I was towing someone.
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Old 08-26-2016, 11:22 PM   #11
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I've towed and been towed.
Line towed untill we got close to the final dock space and then went to a side tow.
But the need for BIG fenders is real. I have two 2 ft diam beach balls and they got worked hard. My friend had two similar but maybe 16" diam. beach balls and they too saw some work.
Those fenders got squeezed hard and the lines worked.
I don't make a habit of it but sometimes it is needed.

The last time it was me that got towed by C-tow. Initially a line tow but for the final approach to the marina and the slip it was a side tow. I learned a bunch from him. His boat was much smaller than mine, outboard powered. He tied so his stern hung way back of mine and the lines were as tight as could be made. Speed was dead slow, only enough speed to maintain steerage. He had little trouble with mine.

Good also to have a mess of friends on the dock to toss lines to. C-Tow only had to get close enough to throw those lines.
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Old 08-26-2016, 11:37 PM   #12
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Everyone on both boats should don a PFD. This lightens the load in the towed boat and makes it easier to tow.
I doubt it.
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Old 08-26-2016, 11:59 PM   #13
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I am the ex owner of a recreational boat tow company and have 40 years professional maritime work history. Still my underwriter states in the policy for my present boat that towing another vessel will violate the warranty (exclude coverage) and any damage/liability will be for owners account. This is Geico. It was the same for a previous policy written in London by a Lloyds name.
Read your policies carefully fellas.


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Old 08-27-2016, 05:48 AM   #14
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We have towed boats and usually request the vessels anchor and line be passed over.

Then at the end of the tow we simply drop the anchor and let the yard bring the boat in , or the owner can do a side tow with his motorized dink.
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Old 08-27-2016, 07:40 AM   #15
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We . . . . . usually request the vessels anchor and line be passed over.
Then at the end of the tow we simply drop the anchor and let the yard bring the boat in , or the owner can do a side tow with his motorized dink.
That makes a lot of sense.
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Old 08-27-2016, 09:01 AM   #16
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My insurance also specifically prohibits towing. There is no tow company locally so most tows are done by commercial fishermen. That can be interesting since they like to tow at about 15 knots. The local Coast Guard will also tow people if no one else is available.

I understand the risks of side towing. It can be very dangerous. I once side towed my sailboat with my dinghy and nearly came to grief when I was severely waked by a large black boat with narrow blue and white stripes and a wide red stripe stripe on the side.
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Old 08-27-2016, 09:46 AM   #17
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I understand the risks of side towing. It can be very dangerous. I once side towed my sailboat with my dinghy and nearly came to grief when I was severely waked by a large black boat with narrow blue and white stripes and a wide red stripe stripe on the side.
Hmmm . . . . . . . you mean maybe something like these?

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Old 08-27-2016, 09:51 AM   #18
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One item that has been completely left out of lists for safely towing another boat - display the proper lights at night. Your vessel and for that matter the other vessel may not be normally equipped for this display. If you are thinking that you will be towing someone elses vessel insure that you have portable lights for this function.
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Old 08-27-2016, 11:44 AM   #19
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Towing lights for occasional towing are a good idea, but not required to be legal...rule 24

*(j)] Where from any sufficient cause it is impracticable for a vessel not normally engaged in towing operations to display the lights prescribed [by |in] Rule 24(a) or (c) [or (i)], such vessel shall not be required to exhibit those lights when engaged in towing another vessel in distress or otherwise in need of assistance. All possible measures shall be taken to indicate the nature of the relationship between the towing vessel and the vessel being [towed as authorized by Rule 36.*
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Old 08-27-2016, 12:15 PM   #20
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I prefer to tow with the towed boat's line and keep a knife handy near the transom to cut away just in case. I've only towed with this boat twice, but both in benign conditions.

I better go back and read my insurance policy.
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