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Old 02-10-2016, 12:54 PM   #1
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Towing Questions

Hi folks,
I am new to power boating and so I have lots of questions. Today's questions involve towing another vessel. Where do you attach the tow line or bridle on your own boat? I have hawseholes on each stern quarter that lead to cleats. Would this be strong enough to tow another vessel? I would hate to rip out my cleats.

Second question would be at what speed would you tow a vessel similar in size to your own, in calm conditions?

Thanks, I just figure I should have an idea about this before the need arises, if ever.

Cheers, Bill
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Old 02-10-2016, 01:22 PM   #2
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Let me start by saying i would be inclined to leave towing to TowBoatUS or SeaTow. They have the experience, equipment and insurance.

Speed would be the minimum required to maintain steerage. I think a bridle off the stern cleats would be simplest, but I have also seen boats being towed while tied beam-to-beam.
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Old 02-10-2016, 01:25 PM   #3
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Let me start by saying i would be inclined to leave towing to TowBoatUS or SeaTow. They have the experience, equipment and insurance.

Speed would be the minimum required to maintain steerage. I think a bridle off the stern cleats would be simplest, but I have also seen boats being towed while tied beam-to-beam.
Ditto.
If you don't know how to stop a towed boat, don't put yourself in that situation.
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Old 02-10-2016, 01:28 PM   #4
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Wxx: it'll stop quick enough when it rams yours stern, don't you worry bout it
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Old 02-10-2016, 01:41 PM   #5
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Keep the tow line long until about to dock, and then tie alongside for docking?

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Old 02-10-2016, 02:08 PM   #6
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Markpierce is absolutely correct. If you are not in "calm waters" insure that the towing line is long enough to place your vessel and the towed vessel on the crests at the same time (not the same crest). Furthermore when towing alongside place your rudders and props aft of the stern of the towed vessel.
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Old 02-10-2016, 02:08 PM   #7
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Check with your insurance company...I'll have to check my policy but I thought it may now prohibit towing.


Towing vessels much smaller than yours is a good way to practice. Towing a 40 or so trawler if you are not good should only be towed to safe water near a dock then something more suitable to towing and capt with experience can take it in all the way.


No one can guess the ability of your cleats, that's on you but usually they will tow another similar sized trawler at a knot or so under hull speed fine.


Chafe gear is what will blow your mind....you will chafe through lines very quickly if things are less than great to start with.
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Old 02-10-2016, 02:09 PM   #8
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I use the anchor bridle secured by the two stern cleats at hull speed. Since we seldom anchor might as well use it for something.
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Old 02-10-2016, 02:42 PM   #9
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I set up a tow line when I foolishly bought a 19' Fibreform runabout. Foolish, because I didn't spend enough to get a good boat, so I had to spend waaay too much of my precious weekends getting it running again after the kids had used it.
But I digress.

The towline is 100 ft long, floating 5/8" blue Poly 3 strand. I spliced a bridle into one end and loops into the bridle end. I left the free end free, so that it would fit whatever was being towed. The bridle fit best through the side hawse holes at my stern, clearing even the dinghy that hangs on stern davits.
After getting rid of the runabout, I have used this towline a few times, responding to a couple of distress calls, and towing a club member home from an outstation. The latter was the most interesting, as, when I approach my home marina and advised them that I had a disabled member in tow, I was directed to drop him off at the open dock in the very heart of the marina. That required pulling him through a couple of narrow passages and then giving him enough momentum to reach the open dock, while I scooted out of the way in the opposite direction. All worked out as planned, and I received an appropriate reward (left at my door) later.
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Old 02-10-2016, 03:12 PM   #10
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ok help me out, why the suggestions to tow at or near hull speed? It seems to me that would add more stress on the cleats than necessary.
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Old 02-10-2016, 03:22 PM   #11
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I use both back cleats, and build a weight equalizing harness with a rescue pulley centered to distribute the load equally to both cleats. I keep the harness fairly short, it's purpose being to equally load the cleats, and use 150' of 1/2" nylon line with plenty of stretch. By the time it passes back and forth to the pulley you have about a 30' harness.

I have the towed vessel use it's line, preferably nylon with plenty of stretch, that way they can adjust the length of the tow depending on swell conditions. If the towed vessel can "cast off" the tow as you approach the dock, that's the best way to disconnect. If you time it right they will have enough inertia to get to the dock, approach upwind when possible letting the wind push the vessel to the dock.

I wouldn't tow in any kind of sea but minimal, or any kind of swell but long interval and moderate. I towed a Nordic Tug 32' this past summer, and made almost my normal speed at the same rpms. We had to lengthen the tow line to avoid "pulsing" from the swells, and asked every vessel in our area to respect the tow and to reduce their wakes for us.

I have training with a fire department rescue team at building weight equalizing systems, so it's an easy thing for me to improvise. I wouldn't tow from a single point unless that point was built for it. You can forget about towing at any speed but displacement, it's not going to happen.

Don't tow unless you have to! Don't tow any further than you have to, to the closest protected anchorage is the best call.
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Old 02-10-2016, 03:33 PM   #12
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ok help me out, why the suggestions to tow at or near hull speed? It seems to me that would add more stress on the cleats than necessary.
Probably not all the way there...but say a knot under shouldn't be stressful unless the conditions are.

The best answer to towing speed...is whatever you can...yet keep some catenary in the towline. Not a guaranteed way to tell but once you feel it...it will feel right.


Not sure about this slingshotting people to the dock unless it is very calm winds and no current. If you can't maintain control of them to the dock and maintain control of yourself, then a dropoff to a more maneuverable tow boat is recommended. Once released, reconnecting and getting reorganized inside a marina before drifting down on other boats is very difficult.
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Old 02-10-2016, 03:35 PM   #13
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Probably not all the way there...but say a knot under shouldn't be stressful unless the conditions are.

The best answer to towing speed...is whatever you can...yet keep some catenary in the towline. Not a guaranteed way to tell but once you feel it...it will feel right.
Makes sense, thanks!
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Old 02-10-2016, 05:18 PM   #14
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Let me start by saying i would be inclined to leave towing to TowBoatUS or SeaTow. They have the experience, equipment and insurance.
.
I would agree with this post 100%. If you don't know how to tow a boat and have a boat set up to tow a boat, don't even try it.

And nobody can tell you everything you need to know about towing a boat on a web forum. Don't make the mistake of printing out this thread and thinking you now know everything you know to tow boats.

Towing your dinghy would be the exception.
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Old 02-10-2016, 05:21 PM   #15
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AKDoug,
I intend to put two chocks about 5' apart on the caprail aft of the main cleats for the bridal line. Mainly to keep the tension close to straight aft from the cleats to prevent sideways or inward pull on the cleats. I've heard the hull can bend that way.

Have you ever anchored (primary) off the stern? I'm thinking swinging would be reduced even if attached to only one cleat.
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Old 02-10-2016, 06:05 PM   #16
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My boat isn't set up for towing. Cleats aren't positioned for that purpose.
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Old 02-10-2016, 06:29 PM   #17
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Another vote for the inexperienced to leave it to the pros. Even experienced boaters think twice about towing it is not always a simple thing and there is some danger involved. Tow lines can snap more likely in the hands of neophytes. A snapped tow line can be very destructive even deadly. Also steering under tow may be difficult or impossible if rig is not set up well lines tied off aft of the rudder can make turning the tow boat difficult. Dedicated tow vessels try to tow from in front of rudder or OB power allowing the tow boat to turn and change direction of the tow force note how a tug boat does it. Some boats are better able to tow than others and the boat being towed makes a big difference also some much harder than others.
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Old 02-10-2016, 07:23 PM   #18
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AKDoug,
I intend to put two chocks about 5' apart on the caprail aft of the main cleats for the bridal line. Mainly to keep the tension close to straight aft from the cleats to prevent sideways or inward pull on the cleats. I've heard the hull can bend that way.

Have you ever anchored (primary) off the stern? I'm thinking swinging would be reduced even if attached to only one cleat.
Nope, I never have. The cleats on the stern are way too small for my taste, and anchored through the cap rail, so the bolts are long and small. If I were going to have to stern tie, I would break the weight equalizing harness back out and use it with both stern cleats.

The length of the equalizing harness keeps the load forces low, you want to keep the angles very low on the cleats or you run into an issue called "force multiplication". At 90 degrees to the cleat the load force runs about double and you will break something almost for sure. My forces are so low you can untie the knots in the harness by hand after a tow.

I would love to have one large center cleat on the bulkhead inside the stern and a pair of hawse pipes on each stern quarter...
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Old 02-10-2016, 08:02 PM   #19
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Keep in mind, when you agree to tow a boat, as captain, you are now liable for that boat. Your insurance WILL NOT COVER YOU OR THEM unless you are a USCG certified captain and have the towing endorsements required and your insurer agrees to it as a part of the contract. Iminent peril excluded.
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Old 02-10-2016, 08:08 PM   #20
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Keep in mind, when you agree to tow a boat, as captain, you are now liable for that boat. Your insurance WILL NOT COVER YOU OR THEM unless you are a USCG certified captain and have the towing endorsements required and your insurer agrees to it as a part of the contract. Iminent peril excluded.
Not exactly true...you only have to have the USCG Assistance towing endorsement to accept money for the tow.

As far as I know, many insurance policies will most certainly cover you...mine always did..but yes that could be changing so check. Hopefully a broker TF member can help there.


https://www.boats.com/how-to/towing-on-the-water/

Towing and the law


If you decide to tow another vessel, you become a "Good Samaritan" in the eyes of the law and are thus protected from liability as long as you "act as any prudent person would". A lot of well-meaning skippers have been sued over that nebulous phrase so, if you have any qualms about your own abilities, don't attempt to tow another boat. Good seamanship will always be a defense but you may find yourself up against an "old salt" in court who will swear you were inept in your actions. In addition, your insurance policy probably has a clause that frees them of liability if you don't exhibit what they consider to be good seamanship.
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