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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation
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Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.


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Old 12-19-2011
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Towing A Boat

A few days ago I was coming into the harbor and heard a guy calling the CG on the VHF for help. He was 1 mile out into the ocean from me and had leaked all his engine oil out and had no replacement oil on board. Apparently he had fixed the leak and wanted some oil. Boat was dead in the water with sea anchor out. His boat was about a 35 foot offshore fishing boat. I told CG I had some oil and would head his way. On the way out found I only had 1 qt- not enough to refill. There was also one other boat in the area so I went by and asked if they had some oil. This boat did not have oil but offered to tow them in (this boat was about a 40 foot commercial fishing boat). There were no other boats in the area and it was near sundown so this man was happy to get some assitance. He was towed in by the commercial boat.

Question: Could I tow a 35 foot off shore fishing boat with my 15,000 lb, 34 foot sail boat with a 20 hp diesel? Seas were 3 foot wind swell with an 8 foot ground swell running.
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Old 12-19-2011
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You can tow a boat even it is much larger than your boat. The speed will decrease dramatically but you will be able to tow.
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Old 12-19-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by celenoglu View Post
You can tow a boat even it is much larger than your boat. The speed will decrease dramatically but you will be able to tow.
What would be the proper tow line length for a boat that is smaller than the boat that is being towed? Should you use a snubber to absorb shock loads? What type of towing line is best?
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Old 12-19-2011
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The length should be nearly equal to the wave length of the sea. In this case both boats will be on top or at the bottom of the waves. Although they recomend a piece of weight to be suspended in the middle, it does not help any. The line should be as elastic as possible. Classic shock absorbing gear sold in chandelaries are very good in mairnas but do not serve anything in towing. The thickness of the line should be the thickness of the smaller boats standard mooring lines. The loads on attachments is really very high so it is better to sacrifice the line instead of the boaats cleats.
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Old 12-19-2011
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Make sure that you tow from a strong part of your vessel. Rather than using the cleats, use the primary winches and a bridle. I would use the dock lines and anchor rode as they will be nylon and therefore stretchy.


As well

- set a system of hand signals
- agree on a towing speed
- select a VHF channel for communication.
- minimize the number of people in the cockpit - if the towing line snaps it will be deadly.
- agree on the terms of the tow
- if being towed, be aware of salvage rights
- watch for chafe points
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Last edited by jackdale; 12-19-2011 at 01:52 PM.
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Old 12-19-2011
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Make also sure that your lines are not connected to a point verry close to the back of the boat, you will loose nearly all your steering.
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Old 12-19-2011
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Sometimes if the tow boat is smaller/under powered towing from the mast step facilitates steering.. it allows your boat to pivot and have more effective control on the direction you're going.

Towing a heavy cruiser with an outboard equipped tender is best done in reverse (ie tow from the bow) for short distance/inside marina work, or strap the boat along the tow-ee's quarter, and, well-fendered, 'push' the bigger boat around.

We once got our 16,000 lb 40 footer headed home with a 8 foot inflatable and 5 HP Nissan strapped alongside until the wind picked up. We could manage about 2-3 knots in calm conditions.
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Old 12-19-2011
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towing

Coast guard reguires you to have a towing endorsment even for assisted towing. Best idea is if you dont have experience or the equipment to tow another vessel dont! Assist in any way you can to help them but remember when you put the tow line on you become responsible for both boats and their crews and cargo.
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Old 12-19-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Capt~Sam View Post
Coast guard reguires you to have a towing endorsment even for assisted towing. Best idea is if you dont have experience or the equipment to tow another vessel dont! Assist in any way you can to help them but remember when you put the tow line on you become responsible for both boats and their crews and cargo.
Doesn't that fly in the face of the requirement to render assistance?

I am not aware of similar Coast Guard endorsement in Canada.
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Old 12-19-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Capt~Sam View Post
Coast guard reguires you to have a towing endorsment even for assisted towing. Best idea is if you dont have experience or the equipment to tow another vessel dont! Assist in any way you can to help them but remember when you put the tow line on you become responsible for both boats and their crews and cargo.
I do not believe you are correct if you are offering a free no strings attached tow, which I have done with sail boats the same size as mine- boat was also about to hit a reef, so I would not worry about some piece of paper getting in the way. I think you are correct if I plan to charge or get some money. Also, the CG was aware of the fishing boat tow and did not talk about any kind of tow endorsment- they were just happy we helped and did not need to send the CG equipment out.
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