Quick release tow belt. Towing, not throwing.

And if you wear a towbelt, you should always have a knife handy. I have a knife on my PFD that’s designed for quick release. If you’re playing with rope, you should be able to cut it as fast as possible.

@Overstreet said:
“…towing tired paddlers on longer trips but I avoid trips with those sorts of people now…”

I understand. But if we want the sport to survive sometimes we have to encourage people to expand to improve.

Oh, I want the sport to survive and flourish. But my way, not thier way; theirs being:
-Out of shape
-Dare I say, lazy?
-Environmentally naive or careless

Mine being pretty much the opposite.

The list goes on but I’ll stop before someone accuses me of complaining. :smiley:

One thing no one mentioned except one person above was using the tow belt to secure your boat. There are 2 instances where this may matter, somewhere with tides in case you guess wrong how fast the beach will disappear. So you can take a walk with more peace of mind, like the islands in Maine. The other possible one, though for this l usually use the short tow that lives on the deck of my boats, is to tie off to a dock if that is where you have to land. I have seen lines used there to stop for lunch or to snug the boat up to make it less tenuous to get in or out on a dock if things are bouncy.

@pikabike said:

Rookie, this is a decision you need to make for your particular combination of venue/conditions, paddling companions, experience in evaluating those two, personal level of comfort regarding safety, and reasons why you love the sport.

All good points, pikabike. Still primarily a solo paddler so my immediate reaction was why bother with a tow belt? But I do see other paddlers at times on most summer days. Safety is a top priority and I try not to make stupid decisions (or repeat them). While I’d be devastated if someone needed help and I couldn’t offer it for lack of one safety layer, I’ll admit what swung me into the “buy” column is purely selfish: what if I need to be towed?

Don’t have any type of tow line so the suggestion of using one to secure a boat to something is terrific. Wasn’t sure that’s what it could be used for, so it’s good to know. Thanks, Celia and Sparky961.

Sometimes I think back to my first kayak, the horrid short fat slug, when I didn’t know what I didn’t know and all I took was a paddle and PFD. It’s been a wonderful journey and I thank the mentors here for all the help making it so.

I have a contact tow on the front deck of the kayak at all times. This is similar to the one shown in Gordon Brown’s video. I also have a NRS tow bag/rope that I carry on occasion. The rope in that is chained to shorten it again similar to what is shown in Gordon Brown’s video. In general when I carry it kayaking it is behind the seat unless I really expect to need it or am training. In a canoe I usually have a throw bag rather than the tow bag however on Grand River Expedition 2010 i was ‘sweep’ for a section and had the ‘pleasure’ of using it to tow the kayak from hell (KFH) for a few miles on an impoundment.

The kayak from hell: likely based on a '70s slalom design. The two who tried to paddle it didn’t have the technique to keep it straight on flat water. It would build up the bow wake on one side and the slam off to the other side. The first paddler was about in tears when another offered her kayak figuring that she could make it work. It didn’t. I hooked up the tow and we started off. About every 5 - 10 strokes it would go off to the side giving me (in a canoe) the jerk. Someone else took over The KFH at lunch & did better the rest of the day. We never saw the KFH again.

That towing description sounds awful. How far did the KFH have to be towed?

Leon Sommé did a video on making a contact tow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgY_1mhlFuQ
Never got around to making one but think I will as when I had to paddle four miles into 27 mph gusting headwinds yesterday, I thought about all the uses for a tow line. Would have been nice to move closer to shore to latch on to an empty mooring buoy and take a breather…and not get blown backwards.

Those conditions on Lake Michigan worsened overnight; Lake Express Ferry reported 75-80 kts at one point; there was a capsize and rescue in the Chi-Mac Race, and Windquest, the 86-ft MaxZ86 was knocked down, suffered some damage, and withdrew (as did lots of other entries). Such a mercurial lake.

I carry a contact tow of the same design. I’ve never used it for a real tow but still use it in other situations. I believe it to be a useful bit of kit.

Which carabiner did you use? The Genius carabiner Leon mentions sells for $35 each at West Marine.

I carry both a contact tow on the deck and a modified Northwater belt tow around my waist. The contact tow is for “quick and dirty” towing situations where speed is of the essence, such as towing a boat out of surf or rocks. I prefer to use larger keylock climbing carabiners that are easier to operate with gloves on, since the water up here is cold most of the year.If you do, you must rinse them in fresh water after every salt water use and lubricate the hinge periodically, so that they don’t get corroded. If you prefer something that’s almost maintenance-free, those shown in the video are the way to go, but the are heavier, much more expensive and harder to handle.

Having participated in a real rescue of an incapacitated paddler, I can tell you from firsthand experience that it’s not only the inexperienced and ill-equipped that you have to be concerned about. The paddler in question was very well trained and equipped and possesses excellent judgement; he simply got sick to the point that he could not even keep his boat upright for some inexplicable reason. The incident happened very quickly, with no warning.

Fortunately, everyone involved, including the sick paddler had practiced this scenario many times, so we had the tow set up and working in a heartbeat and successfully got him to shore.

Additionally, something could happen to you and you may need to have someone else use your equipment to rescue you.

@Rookie said:
Which carabiner did you use? The Genius carabiner Leon mentions sells for $35 each at West Marine.

I use aluminum oval climbing carabiners. There’s no specific reason for my using these other than already having them on hand, and they were large enough to easily use with gloves on.


I paddle fresh water, like you, and haven’t had any problem with these oxidizing. Though I’d probably consider getting new ones if I wanted to use them for climbing.

On my pigtail that’s attached to the tow belt I use a screw gate 'biner so I don’t have to worry about that end coming loose. There’s a non-locking one on the other end, and on one end of the longer rope with Brummel eye splices I use with the system.

@bnystrom said:

Additionally, something could happen to you and you may need to have someone else use your equipment to rescue you.

I think that’s the best reason of all.

@bnystrom said:
Additionally, something could happen to you and you may need to have someone else use your equipment to rescue you.

So, I should probably install a patch on the outside of my PFD that states “PLB INSIDE”, similar to the following:

'Cause if it comes to that, I probably need outside help anyway.

Since it’s a tow-line thread, kind of obvious what bnytstrom was referring to. While they’re both safety items, I think there’s a distinct difference in their purpose (Tow-line: I’m tired, seasick, have a sore shoulder, don’t feel well, etc., and need help getting to shore. PLB: I’m gonna die if I’m not located and plucked from the water).

I read a good article by Keith Wikle about selecting a tow line, which included a U.K. link which led to lots of other links which included some interesting stories and discussions.

Since it’s a thread on tow belts, kind of obvious what bnystrom was referring to. He made a very good point and you never know who may come to your aid if you have one and need a tow. Could be a nearby fisherman.

Although perhaps a bit facetiously, I was pointing out that the most valuable piece of gear that someone else might be able to use to help me is hidden in a pocket. A lot of the gear we use kayaking involves a certain amount of education in safe and effective use. The gear isn’t very safe or useful to anyone oblivious to potential dangers or proper use.

Relating this back to the thead topic, a tow belt is not something I want anyone without some knowledge and experience using on me, incapacitated or not. It seems like a great way to make a bad situation worse.

I suppose everyone has seen Gordon Brown’s “Contact Tow” video…


I think I’m going to make up a couple of short tow lines as Gordon uses.

Contact tow line on the foredeck and a North Water Sea Tec on me. Even though I paddle mostly solo, I come from the school of being prepared to render aid.

Decided on the North Water micro tow. Marshall (The River Connection) sent me a few photos so I could see the actual size and setup. I trust his recommendations and it arrived today. Compact and I really like the preset short tow; nice floating line and easy to get back in the bag. Very quick belt release.

Even did my first “rescue” today. There was a gigantic yellow rubber ducky float on the run. Clipped onto its handle and got it back where it belongs. :slight_smile: That was fun.

What were you doing in Toronto?

Now, that’s one ginormous yellow ducky! Must have been one of it’s runaway ducklings here.