Ideal line for contact tow setup?

I got stainless steel carabiners to make a contact tow setup for my sea kayak. What would be the ideal kind/weight of line for this, and where would I be likely to find it for sale?

Right now I’m just using some kind of woven line (white and red) used, I think, in sailing, because I had it lying around. (It isn’t as smooth as I would like.)

Thanks in advance for the info. I’ll be away for a bit and may not be able to reply, but I really appreciate your suggestions. (I got great info here in response to my previous knot-typing question. I’m using a rethreaded figure 8 to attach the biners to the line and a slippery sheetbend for a quick release between the 2 sections of line comprising the contact tow.)


check out
Virginia Sea Kayak Center on-line. They have a great contact tow setup with a couple of biners and flat webbing. It is easy to adjust, stores on your deck rigging in front of the cockpit, and compact.

Va Seakayak Center’s contact tow
I took a look. Looks good. Adjustable length is a nice feature.

I do have my own stainless biners – an investment. So at this point I’d like to finish what I’ve started!



Use them
You needn’t purchase that short tow from VSK, even though supporting good shops is da bomb.

My setup is very similar. I had leftover 1 inch webbing with quick disconnect. Went to luggage/shoe repair shop and asked owner to sew my carabiners to the webbing. 5 minutes later, I had my own rig.

I use polyester cord…

– Last Updated: Sep-23-09 8:44 AM EST –

...~3/16" diameter. I prefer something bright for the contact tow, so I can see it easily. I came up with a simple method of coiling the 3' cord that makes it easy to stow on deck and it's accessible with either hand and works on either side of the boat. I'll have to shoot some photos of it and post them.

The one thing that my system requires is a cord across the foredeck to attach the 'biner's to. I prefer cords and sliders to bungee and rig all my boats with it, so it's a non-issue for me. If you don't want to go this route, a friend of mine came up with a simple rig that uses just the perimeter lines on the boat. You need cord or webbing that's long enough to thread under the perimeter lines and across the deck, then loop each end over the perimeter line and back to the opposite side of the boat and clip it to the perimeter line (the cord/webbing is 3x the width of the deck). To use it, you simply unclip the 'biner on the opposite side from the boat you're going to tow, which gives you a deck width's of length to work with.

Personally, I think adjustable length in a contact tow is unnecessary, as it's typically only used in emergency situation where you need to get someone out of trouble immediately. Once out of danger, you unclip and perform the necessary rescue.

If you're trying to keep two boats rafted together for an extended tow, tying them together at the cockpit can be dangerous in anything other than flat water conditions. What's typically done is that the boats are attached to the same tow line - which is run through the deck rigging on the rescuer's boat and clipped to the victim's boat - and the rescuer simply lays on the victim's deck to provide stability. That at least allows the two boats to roll independently in the event of a capsize.

If you feel the need to attach the boats, you can adjust the length of a cord or webbing by winding it around a deck line and clipping it to itself, or by tying a knot (or knots) in it. That keeps the rig simple and compact when used for emergency towing.

Any sewing machine will do the job…
…especially on flat webbing. A few rows or bartacks of nylon stitching is more than strong enough for the forces encountered in towing.