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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation > Towing A Boat
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Thread: Towing A Boat Reply to Thread
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Topic Review (Newest First)
01-15-2012 08:05 PM
Capt Len Responding to a midnight call, found an anchored 38 ft fish boat on a nasty lee shore in 25,,30 knts. discussed the plan with the owner to receive his line looped with a bowline around his anchor rode .A deft piece of maneuver (my stern ,his bow) got the line on my stern cleat as I headed back.out.Looped line slid down the rode and chain to the anchor, picking it of the bottom as we both made our way to shelter behind an island. Hauled my end up short. Taking in the slack rode was easy now with no weight on it (no power for winch) and continued the tow back to Lund.
01-15-2012 12:31 PM
jackdale
Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoff54 View Post
Not many people carry a a suitable tow line but as long as the boat being towed has good ground tackle and as long as the water isn't too shallow, there is an alternative that also has some advantages.

On the vessel to be towed, attach a dock line (the longest one you can) to the anchor chain, just above the anchor (or the anchor itself, depending on the anchor type) and connect it to a bridle on the towing vessel. The anchor is then played out until a suitable distance is achieved and the chain/rode is then snubbed off on the towed vessel, as it would be if anchoring.

The weight of the ground tackle helps to keep the tow taught and acts a a shock absorber to reduce snatching and minimize stress to the points of attachment. Just make sure to shorten the tow if necessary as you enter shallower water.
I like that. It is not unlike the tow cable used for towing barges. The weight of the cable is what moves the barge. When you look at a tow cable it is hanging down at about 45 degrees; it is not taut to the tug.
01-15-2012 11:07 AM
mikieg there is always someone that cites some crazy reasons as to why someone else should not do something. if we always followed the doom and gloom worry wart type's advise, no body would ever do anything. we would all be at home sitting safely on our couches on the internet, now wouldn't we?
i would bet my last dollar on the fact that if ole capt sam were stranded afloat, he would gladly accept a tow without ever asking, "hey buddy, do you have the proper coast guard paper work authorizing you tow?".
most states have good samaritan laws protecting the those rendering aid in good faith.
01-15-2012 05:36 AM
Geoff54 Not many people carry a a suitable tow line but as long as the boat being towed has good ground tackle and as long as the water isn't too shallow, there is an alternative that also has some advantages.

On the vessel to be towed, attach a dock line (the longest one you can) to the anchor chain, just above the anchor (or the anchor itself, depending on the anchor type) and connect it to a bridle on the towing vessel. The anchor is then played out until a suitable distance is achieved and the chain/rode is then snubbed off on the towed vessel, as it would be if anchoring.

The weight of the ground tackle helps to keep the tow taught and acts a a shock absorber to reduce snatching and minimize stress to the points of attachment. Just make sure to shorten the tow if necessary as you enter shallower water.
01-14-2012 10:57 PM
fallard Several years ago, I towed a 34' sailboat for several miles with my 35' sailboat. We were heading into the seas in winds that had subsided to 25 kts, about 6 miles offshore. My 24 hp Yanmar with a 3-blade MaxProp was able to keep us at 3.5 kts. Our combined displacement was probably on the order of 25,000 lbs.

I rigged a bridle using dock lines attached to my stern cleats and had a loop ready to pick up the other guy's tow line, comprised of about 100 ft of connected dock lines--also rigged to a bridle to his bow cleats. Getting close enough to pick up his towline was a bit dicey, as he was drifting at about 2kts, beam to the seas. I "crossed the Tee", with him throwing the tow line, being rather careful not to have it go in the water and possibly around my prop. Once we got him turned it was fairly straightforward towing him.

Once we headed into the seas, the other skipper was able to work an engine problem. He had been knocked down in gusts in the upper 30 kt range and lost his raw water pump prime. He was unable to work the problem in a beam sea, but went to work as we headed into it and was able to get his motor going, as his wife steered, before we reached the narrow, rock-lined, serpentine inlet to York Harbor, ME. He released the tow line from his end and I reeled it in. With the current associated with the 9-ft tides, I was grateful not to have to tow him all the way in! Our towline arrangement was 3-strand, 5/8" nylon. Neither lines nor deck hardware were the worse for wear.

If you do take someone in tow, they will need to actively steer their boat to track yours. I was on the receiving end of a tow last summer and can vouch for the necessity to mind the steering on the boat being towed.
01-14-2012 09:09 PM
NCC320 Some years ago, a 45ft heavy ketch with inoperative engine was trying to sail through the channel on our creek in the process of returning to his slip. They couldn't quite make it, went on the wrong side of the channel marker and got stuck in the mud. I was close by on my 28 ft. 7,500 lb. sailboat (12 hp, single cylinder Yanmar) and was hailed to come to their assistance. This was in the days before Sea Tow and the like. It's calm, shallow water with a soft bottom. I didn't see too much at risk in trying. They dropped their sails so we wouldn't have contend with the wind (which could help or hurt at various times in the maneuver). My sails were already down since I was also returning to my slip at another marina. I took over one of their anchor rodes from their stern to my stern (had to manever close enough to pass the line without me getting aground also). I felt my only chance to get them off was to pull them directly astern on the exact recipical of their original course. I really didn't think my boat would get them off, but it did. Once I got them into the channel, I had them move the tow line forward to their bow, with my end still at the stern. I was very careful to make sure that in repositioning lines that I didn't get the line fouled in my prop, keel, or rudder. In all this, I didn't take time to make bridle and just tied the line to one of my stern cleats (I believe on my particular boat that the cleat fastening was probably stronger than the winches). I towed the boat probably less than a quarter mile to their slip (on the end of one of the marina docks). The water in the creek is shallow and before we could get to the pier, they were again hitting the bottom. I could not get them completely to the pier, but did approach it with my own boat close enough to pass the line to people on the pier. The tow line was secured to a piling and the towed boat winched itself in to the pier. I don't think that I put my boat into to much danger or risk. Pulling out the cleat was the most probable failure point, but I was pretty confident that the boat would be stalled before that happened. In retrospect, it would have been better to have taken time to make a bridle, but I didn't do so. In the end, I was glad to help, and would hope that if the situation was reversed, someone would help me.
01-14-2012 08:05 PM
jackdale
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sea Diamond View Post
The towline snaps and his boat winds up on the rocks.
On that thought; minimize the number of crew on deck. If that tow rope breaks it could be deadly when it snaps back.
01-14-2012 06:22 PM
Sea Diamond
Towing

I agree with Jackdale on many points, and would underline the point to first
"agree on the terms of the tow".

If I was the towing boat, I'd make it clear that this is just helping out a fellow sailor and I'm not looking for any salvage rights, but conversely don't accept responsibility for any mishaps. If you're towing the wrong guy, lack of agreement could come back to bite you. eg. The towline snaps and his boat winds up on the rocks.
01-14-2012 05:24 PM
pdqaltair
Quote:
Originally Posted by jackdale View Post
John Rousmaniere recommends that the strain on towing lines be taken up by winches rather than cleats. I would suggest that winches have larger backing plates that cleats.
I don't think we should state this as universal.

a. I have pulled winches out of 2 boats that did not have backing plates. I was just grinding. Both were well-known brands, but the winches were added by POs.

b. Cleats can be very good.

I think you have to inspect the boat. Both should be up to the job, but....
01-14-2012 04:20 PM
jackdale
Quote:
Originally Posted by TQA View Post
If in shallow water make sure the towed boat has a stern anchor that can be dropped at a moments notice.

If no stern anchor the bow anchor will do in an emergency.

Use lines from the towed boat if possible, if out at sea use a LONG tow, 10 boat lengths or more if possible with a stretchy section. Make sure you can drop the tow somehow. A breadknife works well in the hands of a frightend man.

If in calm waters and the tow is expected to end up alongside somewhere or stern to a wall consider an alongside tow as this gives much more control. Broadcast regular securite messages esp. if on the ICW to get other vessels to slow down in your vicinity.

Of course you are prepared with the appropriate day and night signals ? ? ?

I have towed twice, the hip tow on the ICW was easy and the power boats did slow down, the night tow in offshore waters was not so easy untill I added all the line I had to get sufficient length, even then I found that the towed boat veered to one side and dragged me off course all the time.

OH YES on neither tow did I have the correct signals or lights.
Good posting. I would add that you should use the length of the tow to synchronize the vessels relative to the wave action. This will lessen the jerking of the line.
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