How much wind/waves can I tow my inflatable tender in? (coastal) - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 18 Old 07-22-2018 Thread Starter
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How much wind/waves can I tow my inflatable tender in? (coastal)

Cruising in Canadian West Coast protected waters, I'm just wondering how much wind we can have before the dinghy stops being a life raft and becomes a liability (and should have been stowed on deck, deflated, strapped).

I normally tow it on a 25ft painter and it is about 9ft long.
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post #2 of 18 Old 07-22-2018
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Re: How much wind/waves can I tow my inflatable tender in? (coastal)

Some years back I had to move my 43' motoryacht to another harbour, no wind or waves to speak of. I had always lifted my dink when heading out but this time I got lazy and towed her. 8knots looked good, 10knots looked good. boosted her to 13knots and looked back to see my dink doing barrel rolls 20' above the water. When she came down my 8hp Suzuki kept going to the bottom of Lake Ontario.
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post #3 of 18 Old 07-22-2018
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Re: How much wind/waves can I tow my inflatable tender in? (coastal)

Well, we almost always tow, unless the Strait of Georgia is acting up badly enough we really shouldn't be out there in the first place. Never really had an issue. But oddly enough we learned a few week ago that our dinghy (a 10', fibreglass-hulled rib) goes airborne around 39 knots. We turned down a channel that had the wind funnelling through and the gusts started climbing until...whoosh! Landed upside down and we had to do some quick man overboard to retrieve the gas tank and seat. (no motor on board of course)

So now we know :-)

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post #4 of 18 Old 07-22-2018
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Re: How much wind/waves can I tow my inflatable tender in? (coastal)

If you are going this time a year, you should not have to worry about wind and waves. I only saw 1 windy day of any consequence in 14 days. We sailed downwind after this storm towing the boat in leftover chop and swell, towing a boat with no problem.

Without giving a quantified number of when it's good to still tow, I will point out when it gets too rough to be towing safely, it is not a good time to try to drag your dinghy onto the deck. I would check the weather and play it safe. If you see people safely dragging their dinghy in conditions you have it on the bow, you can reconsider your comfort level.

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post #5 of 18 Old 07-22-2018
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Re: How much wind/waves can I tow my inflatable tender in? (coastal)

I have limited experience on the west coast, but I learned through similar hard lessons never to tow a dingy for more than short stretches, and only in good conditions. It’s all too easy for the tow to go sideways very fast if wind or seas or something else changes quickly.

Far better to carry the dink on board if you can.
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post #6 of 18 Old 07-22-2018
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Re: How much wind/waves can I tow my inflatable tender in? (coastal)

Even when we had to sail with the Zodiac on the foredeck, instead of the reinforced davits we now use, it seemed the height of laziness to tow out most valuable ancillary boating item, instead of bringing it aboard. It takes less than 5 minutes to put it on the foredeck or the davits, and even less to put it back in the water. For those who remove the motor, that's by far the most labor intensive part of stowing a dink, anyway.
I just don't understand those who tow their dink. We see it every single day down here in the West Indies and hear of lost or flipped ones every day, too. Why risk it?
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post #7 of 18 Old 07-22-2018
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Re: How much wind/waves can I tow my inflatable tender in? (coastal)

I collected little rubber drinks all over the Salish Sea. Mostly upside down and painter snapped/chafed. My own distasters include a 12' fibreglass skiff tied alongside while at anchor. Williwaw hits,bow painter snaps, wind flips.20hp dunked. fishing gear drifts. Pissed.
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post #8 of 18 Old 07-23-2018
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Re: How much wind/waves can I tow my inflatable tender in? (coastal)

I am not familiar with the conditions on the west coast. But towing a dink rules should apply in any region.

Wind can be a problem if the dink is light I would think in very strong breezes.

Wave height and direction may be the main concern. But they are usually large (and often confused) when the winds are strong.

I have towed several different dinks for decades.

NEVER tow a dink with the OB attached. (exception is short run in a protected harbor... to a dock for example)

Most dinks have 3 points at the bow to attach a line... port and starboard tow rings and one in the centerline used for the pennant to tie to a dock.

I suggest you use all three points. The bow CL ring as a "security line" not under tension.

use two separate lines tied to the boats stern cleats. You can use a towing bridal which comes with a float and a single attachment snap hook you connect your port and starboard tow lines to. They should be long... about 25-30' You can use them to "trim" the dink to be in the optimal position for the waves. Try to trim the dink to be on the from side of a following wave.... sort of riding down a hill. The back side will add a lot of drag. On top it can get pushed around and flip in heavy winds. My tow is usually 20' aft. It's a 10' RIB.
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post #9 of 18 Old 07-23-2018
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Re: How much wind/waves can I tow my inflatable tender in? (coastal)

I tow mine regularly 24 miles out to Catalina and back (actually, a common thing to do around these parts).

SanderO makes great points about towing. The only thing I would add is that I prefer to rig my bridle a bit differently - I use a single line slipped through the bridle ring, instead of two lines tied to a shackle as in his photo. This way, the ring slides on the line and ensures that both sides are always pulling with equal tension.

I think the idea to add a secondary line to the bow ring is a good one - thanks SanderO.

20-25kts wind is pretty typical in my area and I haven't had problems towing yet - I never tow with the outboard mounted.
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post #10 of 18 Old 07-23-2018
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Re: How much wind/waves can I tow my inflatable tender in? (coastal)

@Lazerbrains makes make an interesting point. My two lines connected to the brindle allow me to trim the boat awthwarthship... There are times when I we are heeled a lot and I want the dink more on the lee side so I let make the windward line longer (let out and re tie). This makes the dink move to the lee side.

I have towed across the Gulf of Maine a few times and encounter some large wave trains. I've not had any problem... never lost a dink, or had it flip or get swamped. I remove everything loose in the dink when I tow.

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