Deck mounted tow system

After getting tired of wearing a North Water tow belt I’ve decided to set up my own deck mounted system. After doing some online research I’ve discovered two schools of thought on how the line should be run.

  1. Run the line to the boat in tow directly from a cam cleat mounted close to the cock pit on either of the sides. This allows the line to clear the stern and I would assume the towing boat would stay on course better.

  2. Same as above except that from the cam cleat the line runs through a bullseye or a fairlead mounted further back and along the center line of the towing boat.

    Will someone with experience in using either or both of these methods please comment on what works best and why? Thanks


cam cleat must have a fairlead
I can’t comment on where to mount your tow system, but as a sailor I can tell you that a cam cleat MUST have a fairlead. It can be separate (as the center-mount bullseye you mentioned) or it can be a part of the cam cleat. But if you just use a cam cleat and run the tow line directly to it, it will pull out if the tow line is pulled slightly upwards (like if your bow rises on a swell, and the towed boats bow rises on a different swell.)

camcleat and fairlead
natehanson knows his stuff however I prefer my towline and camcleat to be in front of me.

I am not very flexible and twisting my torso to open the towline bag and fiddle with the camcleat if needed behind me would compromise my balance in rough water.

You can also run an camcleat without fairlead and have the towline pass under a saddle (I make it go through a Dyneema loop) just behind you still in easy reach.

The saddle will prevent the twoline getting dislodged accidentally from ther camcleat in big seas.

Pic at

tow sys
Here is how I set my tow up…I use a belt tow converted to also tow with a cam in the top picture.

It can still also be used as a hand off belt tow sys.

in the bottom picture is a throw bag tow that can also still be used as a throw bag (for around caves where I might not want to go in if I don’t have to.

both systems are easy to use…and easially accessiable…

Best wishes


boat mounted tow
Keep the fairlead as close to the centre of the kayak as possible to avoid whatever you are towing from turning you.

Your’re right
you do need a fairlead with the camcleat. I forgot to mention that so thanks for pointing it out. The center-mounted one was in addition to that.


nice set up Roy
but I am not bendy enough to reach a bag that would be stowed that far back behind me.

I guess I should consider some yoga; it would be good for my rolling too :slight_smile:

The best deck tow rig I’ve seen…
…is one that a friend uses. It consists of a piece of cord that runs from gunwale to gunwale, just behind the coaming, with one end tied to a padeye and the other secured in a cam cleat. The tow rope is clipped to the cross-deck cord with a carabiner. The main advantage of this rig is that it allows the tow rope to slide left or right, depending on the direction of pull from the towed boat, much like a waist tow rotates on one’s waist. It pretty much prevents the towed boat from influencing the course of the towing boat, a common problem with tow rigs that use a fairlead centered on the deck.

Personally, I don’t like deck tows and don’t use one, but that’s another subject.