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Old 03-02-2021, 09:40 PM   #1
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Question Towing a small fishing skiff?

Greetings,
I am planning to buy a trawler within the next two years. Eventually, I will do the liveaboard thing.

Here is a scheme/plan/dream for a trawler liveaboard, move about, and fish-a-lot lifestyle. I am just curious if parts of my thinking (any of it ) are reasonable. I would like to visit and fish the many quiet and not-so-quiet harbors of the east coast. Spend several days in each. Explore in a little boat, and then move on. Unless of course, the fishing is really hot.

To do this, I would own a displacement trawler about 40', and tow a small rigid body fishing boat/tender. By a small fishing boat, I mean 14' and 800 lb. The boat/tender will be lined with fenders to keep comings and goings gentle. I would spend most of my time in the anchorages when I am not at home port. I do not expect I would ever want to make more than a 40-mile voyage on any day. I would be traveling 7 knots. I would be picking my days to avoid any bouncy weather. A proper towing harness should make the forces gentle.

Why a rigid tender? Maybe I have my priorities backward here, but I have a 14' power catamaran that does a better job of most anything than boats much longer. I also fear what a fishhook or gaff might do to an inflatable.

Is it reasonable to tow a boat/tender/dingy this heavy? How will a marina take it I want a slip for the night and have boat in tow?

Please share with me your thoughts, concerns, and experiences?

Thank You
Will Do
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Old 03-02-2021, 10:11 PM   #2
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It should work fine. Just pull your tender alongside when docking. Only thing to watch out for is thunderstorms when off shore. They can whip up heavy seas quickly and swamp your towed tender. Some have had to cut their dinghy loose when this happened so they could control their trawler in the storm.

David
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Old 03-02-2021, 11:09 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Will Do View Post
Greetings,
I am planning to buy a trawler within the next two years. Eventually, I will do the liveaboard thing.

Here is a scheme/plan/dream for a trawler liveaboard, move about, and fish-a-lot lifestyle. I am just curious if parts of my thinking (any of it ) are reasonable. I would like to visit and fish the many quiet and not-so-quiet harbors of the east coast. Spend several days in each. Explore in a little boat, and then move on. Unless of course, the fishing is really hot.

To do this, I would own a displacement trawler about 40', and tow a small rigid body fishing boat/tender. By a small fishing boat, I mean 14' and 800 lb. The boat/tender will be lined with fenders to keep comings and goings gentle. I would spend most of my time in the anchorages when I am not at home port. I do not expect I would ever want to make more than a 40-mile voyage on any day. I would be traveling 7 knots. I would be picking my days to avoid any bouncy weather. A proper towing harness should make the forces gentle.

Why a rigid tender? Maybe I have my priorities backward here, but I have a 14' power catamaran that does a better job of most anything than boats much longer. I also fear what a fishhook or gaff might do to an inflatable.

Is it reasonable to tow a boat/tender/dingy this heavy? How will a marina take it I want a slip for the night and have boat in tow?

Please share with me your thoughts, concerns, and experiences?

Thank You
Will Do
I carry my +750 lb dinghy on long passages, but for short trips, I tow. Although it is an inflatable, so I don't need to deploy fenders, I can usually ignore it while docking, so long as I dock to the side that it is furthest away from.
My painter is short enough that even though the dinghy is ignored, there is no possibility of it getting to the propellers.
At 8 knots, it behaves well under tow. Your speed is even better.
I don't recommend towing with a bridle, or even a long towline. Reduce your stress by towing on a short painter, so that nothing can go wrong. If you were travelling at 20 knots, a long towline, allowing you to keep your dinghy on the back of a following wave, might be better. At 7 knots, up close is best.
You will need to learn how yours behaves, to get the right number and placement of fenders.
On arrival at a marina, most have room for your dinghy to be at the dock under your bow, or across your stern, without extra charges.
At anchor, I like to tie my dinghy to the side of the boat, painter to the midship cleat, stern tied off to the stern cleat. It behaves best there.
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Old 03-03-2021, 04:26 AM   #4
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ONLY my opinion. Remove the motor when you have tender in tow. If it swamps or you must cut it loose, you lose only the tender.
When you are towing the tender and motor, clamp the motor in the center position or it will wander off port or stbd.
Just MY opinion.
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Old 03-03-2021, 05:06 AM   #5
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Since the OP is new, I'll offer a slightly different take on choice of dinghy. Depends if this is just a small Jon boat with outboard or something more grand

A good friend is polar opposite of me. Given the choice between luxury and simplicity, he'll go the lux route every time. He has a 14-ish foot RIB with center console steering and a Bimini. Nice boat, at least in the surface. Except it's too heavy to drag up a beach so he can't really use it to land anywhere - I mean it has a 45-lb Group 24 starting battery for crying out loud! It's really a small boat in its own right so a bit big to tie up at many dinghy docks. But it's great for doing circles around his yacht. His girlfriend looks smashing toodling along in her big brimmed sun hat and Jackie O sunglasses.

And he thinks I'm nuts for going old school 310 RIB (10 ft) with pull start outboard weighing 225 lbs combined. Accessibility is much greater. Yea, I have to sit on the tube, but we both do about the same speed.

Im surprised there isn't more concern about bringing a 14 footer into a marina. At the very least, backing into a slip while towing a dinghy or making a U-turn because you came into the wrong fairway or assigned slip is occupied could be a challenge beyond marina pushback. It's one thing to have a small RIB tied up to your boat. Another to have a 14 foot tender, especially if it's a center console style.

Also, for the tow painter, I would think longer would be better to absorb shock load on cleats. 3-strand nylon for stretch.

Peter
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Old 03-03-2021, 07:18 AM   #6
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As a professional tower of small boats, towing always has its perils. Some easier to address than others.


Lots of boats tow all kinds of smaller vessels. And that's the point. Different combos do work better than others. Some boats tow better than others.


Somewhat most important, many successfully tow, but I think most really are not doing it as a full time cruiser. The reason is varied.... but having done it plenty myself with my boat too, I would bet many accept the short term issues, but doing it full time is above their stress thresh hold.
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Old 03-03-2021, 08:37 AM   #7
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Greetings,
I am planning to buy a trawler within the next two years. Eventually, I will do the liveaboard thing.

Here is a scheme/plan/dream for a trawler liveaboard, move about, and fish-a-lot lifestyle. I am just curious if parts of my thinking (any of it ) are reasonable. I would like to visit and fish the many quiet and not-so-quiet harbors of the east coast. Spend several days in each. Explore in a little boat, and then move on. Unless of course, the fishing is really hot.

To do this, I would own a displacement trawler about 40', and tow a small rigid body fishing boat/tender. By a small fishing boat, I mean 14' and 800 lb. The boat/tender will be lined with fenders to keep comings and goings gentle. I would spend most of my time in the anchorages when I am not at home port. I do not expect I would ever want to make more than a 40-mile voyage on any day. I would be traveling 7 knots. I would be picking my days to avoid any bouncy weather. A proper towing harness should make the forces gentle.

Why a rigid tender? Maybe I have my priorities backward here, but I have a 14' power catamaran that does a better job of most anything than boats much longer. I also fear what a fishhook or gaff might do to an inflatable.

Is it reasonable to tow a boat/tender/dingy this heavy? How will a marina take it I want a slip for the night and have boat in tow?

Please share with me your thoughts, concerns, and experiences?

Thank You
Will Do
We have had no problems towing various boats and sizes at speeds from 6 to 18 knots. Some of the keys to doing this without issues were:
- good strong towing points and placement on each boat
- a good tow bidle of sufficient lenght
- all the towed boats we had were self bailing
- all of them were also over 15' and could handle reasonable seas
- we had a plan for each segment of our towing routine
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Old 03-03-2021, 08:39 AM   #8
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Since the OP is new, I'll offer a slightly different take on choice of dinghy. Depends if this is just a small Jon boat with outboard or something more grand

A good friend is polar opposite of me. Given the choice between luxury and simplicity, he'll go the lux route every time. He has a 14-ish foot RIB with center console steering and a Bimini. Nice boat, at least in the surface. Except it's too heavy to drag up a beach so he can't really use it to land anywhere - I mean it has a 45-lb Group 24 starting battery for crying out loud! It's really a small boat in its own right so a bit big to tie up at many dinghy docks. But it's great for doing circles around his yacht. His girlfriend looks smashing toodling along in her big brimmed sun hat and Jackie O sunglasses.

And he thinks I'm nuts for going old school 310 RIB (10 ft) with pull start outboard weighing 225 lbs combined. Accessibility is much greater. Yea, I have to sit on the tube, but we both do about the same speed.

Im surprised there isn't more concern about bringing a 14 footer into a marina. At the very least, backing into a slip while towing a dinghy or making a U-turn because you came into the wrong fairway or assigned slip is occupied could be a challenge beyond marina pushback. It's one thing to have a small RIB tied up to your boat. Another to have a 14 foot tender, especially if it's a center console style.

Also, for the tow painter, I would think longer would be better to absorb shock load on cleats. 3-strand nylon for stretch.

Peter

"Im surprised there isn't more concern about bringing a 14 footer into a marina."
Never a problem when we towed our larger RIBS - the one we towed the most was 19' as one example but not the largest.
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Old 03-03-2021, 08:46 AM   #9
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As a professional tower of small boats, towing always has its perils. Some easier to address than others.


Lots of boats tow all kinds of smaller vessels. And that's the point. Different combos do work better than others. Some boats tow better than others.


Somewhat most important, many successfully tow, but I think most really are not doing it as a full time cruiser. The reason is varied.... but having done it plenty myself with my boat too, I would bet many accept the short term issues, but doing it full time is above their stress thresh hold.
I've towed a small Whaler to the Bahamas (Exumas) a couple of times and you're right, you can't ever quit taking it into account in almost everything you do. You sure want to wait for that perfect Gulf Stream crossing day.

But, it sure is nice to have it when you get there!
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Old 03-03-2021, 09:05 AM   #10
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Not a full time cruiser by any means, but went through a similar thought process a few years ago. I have a 36 ft SF that I carried a dinghy on the bow for years. Weight limited me to an inflatable floor 10 ft with a 9.9 2 stroke outboard. In anything but calm water it would beat me to death and the sitting position, either on the tube or cross seat, hurt my back. When the light weight RIBs came out, I got one. It rode much better, but was not much better on my back and too hard to stow on the bow - require chocks and dragging the Al bottom on the bow to get it in position gouged the surface. So I researched tow options. I tow to the Bahamas so not insignificant worry items. My punch list was - center console with bench seat, around 1000 lbs or less. Ended up with a 14 ft Twin Vee with 50 hp. I can tow at 20 kts. Towed it in 4-5 ft seas with no issues. Low bow height worried me, but ended up being a benefit as pulling up on beaches and just stepping off is a great feature and it rides high enough when towing that it doesn't stuff. In protected waters, I would take that boat any distance the fuel supply would tolerate. It is undoubtedly the best riding 14 ft boat I've been in and handles anything up to 2 ft amazingly and I feel safe in up to about 4 ft depending on period etc. When in the Bahamas, it opened a whole new world of exploring with comfort. When pulling into marina's just tie it up to the side, pull up to a day dock or wherever directed and ask to tie it up to a dinghy dock or something until you get the big boat in the slip.
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Old 03-03-2021, 09:16 AM   #11
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I tow a 13 ft. Bullfrog with a 30hp off the SoCal coast. The high bow makes it ideal for towing in weather and the no air, foam filled core with squared off gunwales for easy on and off access from the mother shop are also positives.

Anchorages and mooring fields are the easy part, but marinas can be a challenge.

I often travel solo, and it’s just too much to deal with to maneuver into marinas when I am by myself, so I don’t bring it unless I have someone with me to make sure it is behaving back there while marina maneuvering. Also, the marinas can have you park in some tight spots, and the Dinghy just won’t fit.

The key to boat travel IMO is being flexible, and to minimize any unnecessary drama.
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Old 03-03-2021, 10:26 AM   #12
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Keeping the dinghy in the water will require bottom cleaning (and periodic painting). If it were me, I would opt for a dinghy small enough to go on davits.
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Old 03-03-2021, 10:45 AM   #13
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Not a full time cruiser by any means, but went through a similar thought process a few years ago. I have a 36 ft SF that I carried a dinghy on the bow for years. Weight limited me to an inflatable floor 10 ft with a 9.9 2 stroke outboard. In anything but calm water it would beat me to death and the sitting position, either on the tube or cross seat, hurt my back. When the light weight RIBs came out, I got one. It rode much better, but was not much better on my back and too hard to stow on the bow - require chocks and dragging the Al bottom on the bow to get it in position gouged the surface. So I researched tow options. I tow to the Bahamas so not insignificant worry items. My punch list was - center console with bench seat, around 1000 lbs or less. Ended up with a 14 ft Twin Vee with 50 hp. I can tow at 20 kts. Towed it in 4-5 ft seas with no issues. Low bow height worried me, but ended up being a benefit as pulling up on beaches and just stepping off is a great feature and it rides high enough when towing that it doesn't stuff. In protected waters, I would take that boat any distance the fuel supply would tolerate. It is undoubtedly the best riding 14 ft boat I've been in and handles anything up to 2 ft amazingly and I feel safe in up to about 4 ft depending on period etc. When in the Bahamas, it opened a whole new world of exploring with comfort. When pulling into marina's just tie it up to the side, pull up to a day dock or wherever directed and ask to tie it up to a dinghy dock or something until you get the big boat in the slip.

I get it...it worked for you.


But as I mentioned, not all combo towboats and tows work and some boats tow better than others.


Also part time towing and the tow boats capabilities are only parts of the equation. Doing it full time can be more effort than it's worth...and that should be part of the equation too.... depending on cruising habits and true dingy needs.



As long as the OP gets that or anyone else referencing this thread will be OK....like the old expression..."whatever works for you" is more applicable than ever and when it comes to choosing and using dinghies...really hard to know till you try.
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Old 03-03-2021, 01:04 PM   #14
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"I get it...it worked for you.

But as I mentioned, not all combo towboats and tows work and some boats tow better than others."


Did not mean this was the answer for every situation and there are not any drawbacks. Just trying to answer the OPs question "Is it reasonable to tow a boat/tender/dingy this heavy?" and pointing out some of the features important to me.

The best situation is to get something that meets your criteria that you can lift and get on the boat also. I just could not get there from here.

Drawbacks are as stated with marina docking etc., although not insurmountable. There is also the possibility of sudden storms that can make having a tow a safety concern.

Also, OP mentioned wanting to fish areas along the way. A towed dinghy might be more beneficial for that, but while getting there it's always out back and in the way making trolling too difficult.

I still have my inflatable which goes with me for fishing trips - doubles as a life raft in warm waters.
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Old 03-03-2021, 01:11 PM   #15
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My main point...the difference in doing full time versus occasionally.


But no, you are correct....it certainly can be done.....and best with eyes fully open.
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Old 03-03-2021, 04:18 PM   #16
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Keeping the dinghy in the water will require bottom cleaning (and periodic painting). If it were me, I would opt for a dinghy small enough to go on davits.
We just put bottom paint on ours. I usually use Vivid, so it doesn't hurt it to be out of the water for storage.

I'll never think less of anyone who says it's too much trouble, because it can be. I'm just willing to put up with the hassle and risk for the payoff.
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Old 03-03-2021, 04:30 PM   #17
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We just put bottom paint on ours. I usually use Vivid, so it doesn't hurt it to be out of the water for storage.

I'll never think less of anyone who says it's too much trouble, because it can be. I'm just willing to put up with the hassle and risk for the payoff.
'I'll never think less of anyone who says it's too much trouble, because it can be. I'm just willing to put up with the hassle and risk for the payoff"
Agreed...
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Old 03-03-2021, 04:58 PM   #18
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We towed our 13' Boston Whaler in a variety of sea conditions. When rigged properly with the right bridle and length from mothership, engine skeg submerged a bit to help with tracking, it towed like a dream in some pretty nasty stuff at "trawler speeds", times when we were very thankful to have stabilizers on our old Hatteras.

A good friend of ours towed a 14' Carolina skiff behind his 40 something foot Marine Trader over many many years of full time cruising up and down the east coast, mostly single handed. He virtually always anchored out. (Be careful operating in reverse when towing behind!).

Personally I liked towing more in open ocean rather than in the ICW; the biggest hassle but not a huge deal once well practiced, was getting in and out of marina slips. The majority of the time we kept the skiff up on the boat deck.
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Old 03-03-2021, 08:41 PM   #19
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I think self bailing is probably the number one safety factor for a towed tender, unfortunately the under 16 foot list of self bailing hulls is pretty short and I can’t think of any new boats under 15 foot other than some flats skiffs but they are not really all that capable once you go past 1 foot waves so not suitable for your application. Self bailing allows the tender to be swamped and recover fairly quickly, I’ve swamped my hobie power skiff once in surf and by the time I cleared my eyes out it was pretty much empty of water. 2, 3” scuppers drain water pretty quick on a small boat. And I tow my 15 foot power skiff with mine and it’s perfect in my option. Definitely has a ride outside of its size class when I’m beating around in it. Tows quite well and tracks straight. I suppose if I was planning a multi day underway trip I’d consider pulling the motor off but my skiff is self bailing even with the motor on so I don’t know yet haven’t made the trip or had to make the decision yet with that boat. I’ve towed a 40 foot sailboat with my 42 foot trawler 600 miles through the gulf icw though so I really don’t think towing is all that complicated. Depending on situation does require an extra set of hands though. If it floats it tows, may not tow well but can be done if desired.
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Old 03-03-2021, 09:04 PM   #20
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If you have not learned it already, you will soon. All boats are a compromise. Your main boat and the dink. Your plans sound reasonable but be prepared to change plans.

A good towing harness is a must. I like the idea of removing the dinghy motor until you are more confident of your skills and boat handling.

Many boats which tow dinghy put the dinghy "On the Hip" when arriving in port. Doing this will lessen the effect of the dinghy on your boat handling. Sometimes you can request a slip on the end or at the "T" , it makes things easier yet.

Others may have different opinions but I find the dinghy to be a real pain when at anchor. It responds to wind and current variables different than the big boat. You may find yourself awaken at night by a strange 'bump in the night" which is the dink kissing the big boat. Another problem is when your anchorage goes to hell in the middle of the night, Where is the dink??? In friendly anchorages I like to tie the dinghy to shore.

You will figure it out,

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