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Old 04-09-2014, 04:07 PM   #1
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Towing a runabout

We'd like to try towing our lake boat behind us on a few short trips this summer. She's a 17' with a 90hp outboard, we'd be pulling her behind our Grand Banks 42 and the maximum trip duration would be under three hours. I haven't quite got my head around the logistics of leaving and retuning to our marina yet . Aside fom that part, any advice on line length and type, bridle fabrication etc.?
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Old 04-09-2014, 04:15 PM   #2
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We'll be pulling our Dusky 17' through out the Bahamas this year. We had Denver Rope make us a bridle. We plan to tow it close when in the canal and have someone jump on and drive it while we dock the big boat, then get a dock for it. we haven't tried it yet but it "should work". Oh and also have someone on the swim platform when were about to stop or have to wait for a bridge or whatever. We plan to only tow it when at least three people are on the boat.http://www.denverrope.com
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Old 04-09-2014, 04:24 PM   #3
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Keep in mind when towing a largish skiff: It's hull speed is way below that of the towing trawler, so the skiff is usually right in the transition to planing speed, and takes alot of pull to move it at the trawler's happy speed. I've towed lots of stuff with my 38, and if I try to go 7.7kts, the big ones put a heck of a strain on the tow line. Eats fuel too. My dink just surfs, no sweat there.

I've towed a 20' pontoon boat from Abacos to NC, all offshore. That was an adventure. Both boats made it, though!!!
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Old 04-09-2014, 05:48 PM   #4
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I just made up a bridle to tow a 13' Whaler behind our boat. One thing I was cautioned about was coming up with some kind of system to keep the Whaler from running into the stern of the tow boat when you're coming to a stop.

I used 3, 5' sections of 3/4" Schedule 40 PVC for each side of the bridle with the 3/4" poly line running down the middle. Each section is fitted with couplings so the sections will join end-to-end. The whole bridle, when the pieces are separated from each other (but still have the rope running down the center of the pipe) breaks down into a 5' long bundle.

In theory it should work just great. Our first tow will be later this month. I'll let you know how it works.
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Old 04-09-2014, 06:58 PM   #5
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We towed our 13' Whaler in open water many times, particularly in recent years when we were marina based, because we used it a lot once docked at our home port and the finger pier prevented lowering it from the boat deck. We got away with just using 3/4" poly with a "redneck bridle" of dock line to center it and add some "give".

When leaving or entering the slip, we brought it hard up to the swim platform bow-to with an intervening fender or two, and proceeded VERY slowly and carefully. First, all of a sudden we had a 75' LOA boat, not a 61.

Second, it could be swamped or go awry if nudged too hard in reverse. We stopped before turning in to the fairway to bring it in or let it out; it took a bit of muscle power, but even Ann could do it; I would encourage you try pulling your run about in from 100 ft or so with a little current working against you. You have to have it hard-to because even floating line can be sucked into the props in reverse. Don't ask me how I know this.

The ideal position when underway is typically to have the tender riding the second or third wake "wave" back. This gives some stretch to the line (floating tow lines do not have a lot of that) and generally a smoother ride.

Other good sources for bridles and how to spec them are Miami Cordage and Rope, Inc, though I'd guess there are a few good shops in the PNW for same. While we towed in some very rough conditions, it was typically at 9 knots and for no more than a couple of hours, so I never got around to investing in the "right" solution.
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Old 04-09-2014, 08:54 PM   #6
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I tow a 17' logic marine center console with a 50 hp Merc. I tow it short with 2 lines, one from each rear cleat to each forward on the 17' LM. I have a small cleat in the center of the swimplatform that I attach a short line to the bow eye, this keeps it centered and keeps it from over running the platform, this line is slack while towing. I used this set up for locking and last year after going thru a lock I left it for the last 18 miles back to the marina, I was making about 6 to 6.5 mph and it worked great. I think I'am going to keep using this set-up instead of going back to a longer tow line, I do leave the lower unit barely in the water that helps it track and the little bit of drag keeps it off the platform. If I wanted to go faster I would go back to the 60' to 80' tow line. Good luck
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Old 04-10-2014, 12:10 AM   #7
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Towing a small runabout boat (13' to 18') is not difficult. I've done so for decades. Use good thick line and good snap hitches

1. Line fastened to each side transom corner cleat with center loop tied into the line. Leave no slack, i.e. make it tight between cleats.

2. Snap hitch on end of tow line snapped onto tow behind boat's tow hitch. Snap hitch also on leading end of line.

3. For really slow tow, such as close boating quarters as well as docking maneuvers... etc. Feed leading end snap hitch on tow line through center loop and tie off the extra length of tow line to one or the other corner cleat. Leave tow behind boat only 5 to 6 feet off transom

4. For towing at speed let tow line out till its leading end snap clamp can be fastened onto center loop.

Total length of line for speed will be determined per boat towing and the towed boat Tow behind boat should have ample rubber-strip/fender protections on bow and all sides for "gentle bumps" that will occur during docking.

Helps to have assistant for different needs - but not necessary. With some smart boat handling it all can be accomplished single handed.

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Old 04-10-2014, 06:02 AM   #8
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Some folks find the tow more stable if the prop is pulled and the outboard left down as a rudder.

Tow on second wave back.

No problem.
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Old 04-10-2014, 12:25 PM   #9
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FF--good idea you mentioned in removing the prop. I'll do that if we're towing any distance. Thanks.
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Old 04-10-2014, 12:36 PM   #10
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Thanks for the advice all, much appreciated! - Boyd
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Old 04-10-2014, 12:48 PM   #11
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I have towed tenders for thousands of miles and often at fast speeds. It is important to have a strong enough tow eye and I have seen the typical trailer winch eye break when towed. You should consider upgrading the eye on the tender to a stronger eye with a good sized backing plate.
I would also suggest a radar reflector on the tender and you might consider carrying a very bright light that you can put on the tender if you get caught out after dark.
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Old 04-10-2014, 12:53 PM   #12
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I have towed tenders for thousands of miles and often at fast speeds. It is important to have a strong enough tow eye and I have seen the typical trailer winch eye break when towed. You should consider upgrading the eye on the tender to a stronger eye with a good sized backing plate. I would also suggest a radar reflector on the tender and you might consider carrying a very bright light that you can put on the tender if you get caught out after dark.
Yep we had one put on. I'm going also get a radar deflector, that's a great idea!
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Old 04-10-2014, 12:56 PM   #13
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Some folks find the tow more stable if the prop is pulled and the outboard left down as a rudder.

Tow on second wave back.

No problem.
IMHO - After having towed plenty of outboard boats, inland waterways and on coastal journeys: It is best to have o/b motor centered, raised high as possible, and locked firmly in the raised position. Boat towed automatically follows in direct path with towing boat. Secret is how long the tow line is. Depending on wake the towing boat throws, speed of tow, and towed boat’s hull shape/size determines best length for tow line. Experiment, you will find best tow line length.

Note: Towing a runabout at speed is fine and easy in good weather conditions. In mildly bad conditions it can start to become a hassle. In real bad conditions it is a BIG PIA and you may actually lose your tow for one of several reasons. In following seas of any extent beyond mild you can quickly get into trouble - again for one of several reasons. I know! Been there, done that!!
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Old 04-10-2014, 01:02 PM   #14
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We'll be pulling our Dusky 17' through out the Bahamas this year. We had Denver Rope make us a bridle. We plan to tow it close when in the canal and have someone jump on and drive it while we dock the big boat, then get a dock for it. we haven't tried it yet but it "should work". Oh and also have someone on the swim platform when were about to stop or have to wait for a bridge or whatever. We plan to only tow it when at least three people are on the boat.
Any thought of towing the Dusky alongside while in the canals?
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Old 04-10-2014, 01:06 PM   #15
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Any thought of towing the Dusky alongside while in the canals?
We thought of that, but when along side the t-top is almost level with the STB side walk way overhang and we don't want to chance scratching the fiber glass or hurting the t-top.
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Old 04-10-2014, 02:13 PM   #16
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IMHO - After having towed plenty of outboard boats, inland waterways and on coastal journeys: It is best to have o/b motor centered, raised high as possible, and locked firmly in the raised position.
Some narrow beamed boats like smaller Whalers or Carolina skiffs and similar boats roll over very easy with the motor tilted up and stay turtle...they are then very hard to flip back over.
Boat towed automatically follows in direct path with towing boat.
Not all boats, especially at slow speeds (when they are bow heavy or many just when the bow fall from the rise caused by speed).

Secret is how long the tow line is. Depending on wake the towing boat throws, speed of tow, and towed boat’s hull shape/size determines best length for tow line. Experiment, you will find best tow line length.

Note: Towing a runabout at speed is fine and easy in good weather conditions. In mildly bad conditions it can start to become a hassle. In real bad conditions it is a BIG PIA and you may actually lose your tow for one of several reasons. In following seas of any extent beyond mild you can quickly get into trouble - again for one of several reasons. I know! Been there, done that!!
Older bow eyes that are the chromed ones and not SS U-bolts are very susceptible to breaking...usually boats from the 90's on...it would be pretty rare to break the U-bolt although they may loosen and leak after many miles. I've pulled hundreds of boats off sandbars and never had one of the SS U-bolts break...only bend if pulling full throttle from an angle. However...I have seen some really nice custom bow eyes (maybe production but haven't seen one in a store/catalogue)...they would be worth it if doing a lot of towing.

Bridles aren't really necessary unless the boat you are towing is big or heavy compared to the boat that's doing the towing...a 36 foot trawler towing a heavy 25 CC with twin outboards might benefit from one but a 40 something trawler towing a 17 Whaler with a 70 on it would be no big deal...use a bridle on the towed vessel if you are not using the bow eye.

You really shouldn't have to remove the prop....freewheeling the average outboard prop won't cause much drag, it shouldn't overheat anymore (even less) than if you were running it...and the only reason would be is if you were towing thousands of miles and didn't want wear in the lower unit. The advantage of the prop and motor down is when slow and maneuvering....the drag is usually enough to keep the boat tracking straighter.
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Old 04-10-2014, 03:31 PM   #17
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When towing something bigger than usual, I put a line between the transom cleats then loop tow line to it. That keeps the tow on center. No real need for an actual fab'd bridle.

Towing little things, tow line goes right to a single transom cleat. Off center, but tows just fine.

On the outboards, there is no thrust bearing where prop shaft shift dog splines meet reverse gear, and that's where it will rub when towing in neutral. If towing long distance I'd probably pull the prop, or if boat handles fine tilt motor up. Never heard of a problem coming from this, but gearcases are expensive in the Bahamas!!!
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Old 04-10-2014, 11:11 PM   #18
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We towed a 19 foot aluminum boat to Alaska last summer with no problems. I made my own bridle. I spliced eyes in both ends of two pieces of nylon line, and added a float on each one as nylon does not float. These will act as a shock absorber. Next I looped my towing line through two of the loops and spliced a loop in the towing line, effectively attaching the two nylon lines to the tow line. I used Samson Amsteel line. This line extremely high strength, it floats, is easily spliced, and is very flexible. Use a good quality stainless snap to attach the tow line to the dingy, and your ready to go.

I would always stop outside of a marina and pull in dingy in, and tie it along side the big boat. I almost always moored on my starboard side, so when calling the marina for a slip, I would tell them I had a fishing boat tied along side, and I needed a starboard tie if possible. They were always good about accommodating me. I was always able to keep the small boat along side and never had to tie it elsewhere and pay separate moorage.
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Old 04-11-2014, 02:30 PM   #19
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Interesting thread. For those in the PNW or other areas with high, fast current, have you ever run into an issue where the strong current started to push the towed dink toward the boat doing the tow?
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Old 04-11-2014, 02:38 PM   #20
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Interesting thread. For those in the PNW or other areas with high, fast current, have you ever run into an issue where the strong current started to push the towed dink toward the boat doing the tow?

Would the current also push the tow boat the same amount, and if it was pulling no current would be able to push the towed boat to the tow boat?

Now when stopped the wind-age and current would most certainly effect both boats differently, but that is to be expected.
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