kayak towing

My son is going to start paddling a kayak and I would like to hav the option to tow him with my kayak if he gets tired. I paddle a loon 138 or loon 160 and he will be paddling perception acadia scout.

What’s the safest way to tow one kayak with another ?



You can either buy or make a tow line. You can either use a belt around your waist or have connected to your boat. The main safety thing is that you can VERY quickly release the line from you (or your boat) in case of problems. A quick release belt (much like divers use for their weight belt) or a quick pull cleat on your boat can serve this.

If you’re on common lake water you can use a fairly short line, but in the open ocean with large swells a longer line (50’ or so) is key to avoid having your son plow into you down a wave. Some also like a bungee of some sort on a small part of the line to handle shock, but that may not be critical for you.

quick release for a kayak
mounted tow line (towing from the waste can be very tiring) http://www.flickr.com/photos/gnarlydog/3305242609/in/set-72157604806048123/

is another quick release for a deck mounted tow (Harken)


Best Wishes


Flatwater towing

– Last Updated: Apr-01-09 10:19 PM EST –

If you are paddling on flat water in calm conditions you want a very short tow, maybe 2 or 3 feet from the bow of one to the stern of the other. Into the wind, same thing. With a quartering wind you want one boat length between boats. With a following wind or sea, you want the distance between waves. On a lake that may be about a boat length. If you paddle on the ocean or other large body of water, get instruction. I prefer a waist mounted tow belt with quick release. You could also just use a length of rope and a mooring hitch.


flat water only
This is just for flat water, no ocean or big water involved.

Thanks for the suggestions.

I know I need something that’s quick realease, just didn’t know my options.

professional guides

– Last Updated: Apr-02-09 7:36 AM EST –

use commercially available tow harnesses---essentially about 40-50 feet of line with a carrabiner on one end and a nylon webbing belt on the other that goes around your waist---when not in use the line is coiled inside a nylon bag attached to the webbing ---cost between 35 and 50 dollars---mine is 50 but can double as a throw rescue bag. As part of my guides job I've towed kids in a tandem kayak up to a mile and 1/2 without tiring and with no other problems

not bow to stern
Towing bow to stern is not only difficult to release, but also will make the towing boat very hard to steer.

Whatever you use to tow, attach it to yourself or directly behind you on your boat. The other end goes on the bow of the towing boat.

I tow belt is probably the easiest solution, IMO.

Try this one

– Last Updated: Apr-02-09 9:29 AM EST –

Sea Tec Tow Line. Waist mounted, quick release and quite hardy. Make sure you practice with this, or any, tow system in favorable conditions before you try it is something more difficult. You can daisy-chain it to make a shorter line like 15 ft, which is probably what you'll usually be using. But if you need a longer one this gives you the option.


No, you don’t!
You DO NOT want to attach the bow of one boat to the stern of another with a short rope - regardless of the conditions - as it does not allow you to disconnect the tow immediately in the event of a mishap. It’s unsafe, period.

With all the options of waist and deck mounted tow rigs, it doesn’t makes sense to ever “Mickey Mouse” a tow rig unless it’s an emergency and you have no other choice.

All towing is tiring

– Last Updated: Apr-02-09 9:30 AM EST –

I haven't found towing with a waist rig to be any more so than any other method.

Bow to Stern

– Last Updated: Apr-02-09 5:17 PM EST –

If you guys are referring to my earlier post, read it again. I was talking about the distance between boats, not attaching the tow bow to stern. I can see why that could easily be misinterpreted, sorry. Also, instead of spending $50 for a tow belt, I don't see the problem with a length of rope tied with a good slip knot, like the mooring hitch. I am a flat water guide at the USNWC in Charlotte and have real world experience towing. Most of the tow rigs the other guides are made out of carabiners and webbing, I guess a carry over from their whitewater experience. Calm flat water is different from open water ocean towing. I should add that there are times that we have to tow two boats instead of just one, lots of fun doing that into the wind.

I’ve towed my kids in their Scouts
on calm small lakes & small lazy rivers. Made a tow rope easily and inexpensively out of 2 caribiners, black bungee from Menards (remove metal hooks), and poly rope (I think 1/4). Easy to make, easy to use, quick to release, and cost under $10. I think the first was 25 ft. long, but 15-20 ft. worked better to tow Acadia Scouts behind 12-foot rec boat.

Skills are better than fancy gear
I’m with Zerbe on this one. If you’d learn a towing hitch or another release knot, then you could set up the towed boat to have a release line in their cockpit so they can release the not at the bow. You would also have your own release line it your end. This is better than any towing system I’ve seen The commercial rigs only have a quick release at one end.

I like to tow with a cleat instead of a belt and I use a simple cleat with a quick release knot instead of a less reliable quick release cleat.

For my rig you only need 50 or 60 feet of line and a tow belt or a cleat.

On the other hand the throw bag line that doubles as a tow line could be very handy as it serves two purposes.

Use what you want but practice every chance you get. When my boys were much younger we got to practice a lot, because young boy have no endurance and they need to be towed back almost every time. When it is warm they have more fun with rescue practice and playing bumper boats that they do actually going someplace.

Now that they are older we have to force ourselves to make time to practice.

Knowing some basic knots is indeed an important skill for any boater. But a couple of the times I’ve seen a tow called for, there was no way anyone could tie any sort of knots. One feature of a towing system, IMO is that it must be ready in a second. You need to be able to back into a tricky spot, clip onto the deckline of the boat that needs rescued, and get the hell out of there, ASAP.

For towing kids, tying up some quick release knots may work great, but if you’re in conditions the “features” of a more sophisticated tow system are definitely more than just an expensive add-on.

I use
a heavy duty nylon tool belt from Lowes that cost $6, a 25’- 50’ tow line and two quick release clamps at either end.

It is much wider belt than the consumer tow kits.

Also had an extra half inch nylon strap that I looped around the back of the belt to attach the quick release clamp. If I didn’t have that I would just tie several loops of the same rope, or just loop over the quick release.

I’m not an guide, but a wider belt made more sense to me.

Good point Nate!
I’ve never needed to set up a tow in a big hurry. On flatwater you have all day to tie a knot. In white water towing is almost never done.

my own $0.02

– Last Updated: Apr-06-09 4:02 PM EST –

Buy a tow rig with quick release. Mount it to your waist. My reasoning?

Anyone can use a tow rig, there is no prerequisite knowledge of knots.

Unlike the aforementioned rigs or methods, you can use a tow rig in any conditions.

Tow rigs are easily transferable. Lines tied to bow and stern are not.

Using a proper tow rig properly will condition you for the moment you might someday have to use one in conditions.

By the time you buy all of the materials and cobble something together you will have come close to equaling your expense from just buying a decent tow rig. It's not "fancy equipment".

quick tows
In tidal races and rock gardening I’ve seen tows that need to happen very quickly to get a swimmer and boat out of the current, or away from rocks.

I think my cobbled

– Last Updated: Apr-06-09 10:18 PM EST –

tow rig is superior than a ready made one.

the belt is much wider and there are two quick release that attaches to the belt and the boat being towed.

I can also add a bungie line for almost nothing.

You should learn some basic sailing knots and have confidence to rig something this basic.