Rescue Gear question

We have a Northwater Sea Tec towline which we carry but havent used yet while paddling. I recently returned a throw bag which was heavy (red pine) and we never took with us due to its size and weight.

My question is: Should a tow rope be part of ones safety gear for small lake paddling?

I am confused about the purpose of the throw rope as it seems like it would be for river use or big water but I really dont know. (I needed one for a river rescue myself on the susquehanna a few years back) and for that situation it was definately needed as the rescue boats couldn’t get close to me due to the fast current. I wont go near this kind of situation again so swift water isn;t in my future plans.

Just wondering if it would still be a wise purchase and worth bringing along on outings.



I don’t carry one on a small lake I can just swim to shore. I know I might get razed for saying so, but if you are a capable swimmer on a small lake you don’t need all the safety gear on the list. I see no use for a tow line on a lake you can just go to the edge and walk outta the water.

I would say though that on a river and a large lake you are right, it may come in handy. I have never needed one and havn’t always had one, but it would be good to have.

Heck NO

– Last Updated: Sep-12-08 3:07 PM EST –

You can't throw a tow line on a lake and you don't need one. Throw bags were designed for ww paddlers.

A tow rope either store bought or homemade is a good idea. 1/2 the time I don't carry one with me but I have a 25' piece of 3/8 rope always on the bow which I could use if I needed to tow someone.

I have 2 different heavy duty NRS throw bags. One was use during my instructor training and one has never been out of my house.

Paddlin' on

Most likely won’t need one
for small lake paddling.

I carry a tow rope for days like this:

I always have it in my day hatch. But I actually strap it on for days like the one pictured above.

lake towing
I’ve done a few tows on small lakes – no true emergencies, just being helpful. One was kids in a sailboat that was becalmed, and another was a couple of very young children in an inflatable that were slowly getting blown away from their mom.

I know a guy
who saw some people disturbing sea otters once

(a violation of the Marine Mammals Protection Act),

paddled up to them, clipped his tow on their boat,

and towed them away!

Practice on the small lakes for when
your future plans may include bigger lakes.


I wouldn’t bother.
just a twenty or thirty foot section of light line can be used for a multitude of things.

I stopped carrying my throw bag and line when I stopped doing big WW rivers.



all depends on conditions
I never bring a throw rope unless I’m doing whitewater. Otherwise, I normally bring a tow line, depending on the conditions.

for example, if it’s windy, and I’m with beginners, I’ve used it on several occasions, when they couldn’t paddle against the wind.

or if the water temp is COLD and you’re with beginners - maybe you’ll need to get them to shore quicker than they can swim.

it’s such a small item, I usually have it with me anyway, you never know when you could use it. I say small item, because I do mostly lake paddling, and don’t carry a long tow line.

The throw bag “you” carry…

– Last Updated: Sep-13-08 3:59 PM EST –

The throw bag that you carry would most likely be used to assist "someone" other than yourself.

If you paddle with others who "never" need help; you probably don't need to carry a throw bag.

If you have no intention of helping "anyone" who might need help; you probably don't need to carry a throw bag.

So far this year I have used my throw bag to pull a STREAM team member(male) that I didn't know out of a strainer.

I used my throw bag to assist a fellow paddler(male) in getting his canoe off the top of a boulder (where it was high centered), so that he would not have to get out of the boat in fast moving water, in the middle of a rock garden. There was questionable footing, and the possibility of undercut rocks.

I used my throw bag to assist a fellow paddler(female) to shore from the middle of a fast flowing section of a river/rock garden. Again, questioable footing, and the possiblilty of undercut rocks. She is not a good swimmer.

I always carry mine; no matter what class of river I paddle. The weight is so negligible as to be of no consequence to me. Can't use it if you don't carry it. If you don't practice with it; it will probably be of no use to you, or anybody else.

Many of the people that I've pulled from whitewater rivers was the result of their "friends" not having a throwbag, or not knowing how to use the throwbag they carried.

Throw bags are useful for setting up tag lines, snag lines, ferry lines, and cinch lines, but if you don't know what those are, or how to use them........forget about it.


P.S. Throwbags were NOT initially designed for whitewater river paddlers. They were developed by the U.S. Navy in WW II for use with lifeboats. I guess the U.S. Navy thought they might be useful for "something" on large bodies of water. But then again, what the hell do they know about large bodies of water.

Not sure you need an actual "tow rope"
I’ve only towed a few boats, and as was the case for Angstrom (above), one of those was a sailboat that became stranded when the wind went to zero. I don’t know what constitutes a “tow rope”, as I always have a length of rope tied to each end of my boat and that’s what I’ve used for towing (but those ropes get used a lot more for mooring and for leading the boat to new locations while I’m climbing through downed trees (because often the best place to climb out or back in again when crossing a fallen tree is not the best place to drag the boat through). Except for a couple of rescues in pools below whitewater, the only towing I have done is with my guide-boat, but I imagine that when towing another boat with a canoe it might be better to tie the tow rope to the thwart right behind the seat than the stern.

thanks for your input
Sounds like it really isnt needed for my kind of paddling right now (no fast rivers for rescues)and if needed my loose rope would work. I do carry the 35ft towline rope and also have with me about 25-30 ft of line for whatever - sometimes to tie boats together when beached or swimming or could be thrown if needed i guess. There is usually a group of us with various items - I had so many things, i lost my new river shorty knife so I am trying to reduce my “stuff” a little but not to compromise safety, thus the question. I will put a knife on my pfd i think now for one less item to carry to the water.

thanks again!

Just a thought…
Have noticed several have stated that they don’t carry a throw bag, but they do carry 20, 25, 30, 35 feet of line.

A benefit of the throw bag not mentioned is that the rope is stored, ready for use, but out of your way until such time as you may need it.

A long length of line, not properly stored, or properly secured to the boat, may become an entanglement/entrapment issue if you capsize.

Then again, if you are one of those who “never” capsizes…probably not an issue.


I admit I don’t always have a tow line but the last time I needed one, I sure wish I had carried it along! But hey, it was a simple local trip in what should have been sheltered flat water, so why would anyone poop out and flip when the wind came up from just the wrong direction?

I sometimes carry that abomination of a tow line from Kokatat that winds up on a little card and attaches to your pfd. It is small and out of the way and better than nothing. Like my Northwater though.

Like theBob says, it isn’t usually for you. For anything resembling swift water a throw bag is a really good idea IMO and I don’t think a tow is interchangeable with a throw.

No gear is useful unless you know how to use it and have practiced in conditions that are likely to require it.

I’ve seen a whole lot of over-geared people who have a tremendous false sense of security because they have all the “right” gear to rescue themselves or someone else. Problem is, they have no idea how to actually use it.

Reading it in books, hearing about it from others, and even “practicing” a few times in shallow water near shore, these things are no substitute for going out there and using it for real and practicing with it in the conditions in which you will likely need it.

From PFDs to rolls to tow ropes, nothing will help you if you can’t use it in the conditions in which you need it. I’ve seen PFDs that were worn open or way too lose to do anything but ride up around your head and mouth, exactly what is that going to do for you? Better off not wearing one if you’re only going to do it for show. I know many, many people who think they have a roll who have actually never rolled in anything but flat water. Now exactly how likely are you to use a roll in perfectly flat water?

If you haven’t practiced in the conditions in which you are likely to need whatever it is that you consider safety gear, then why have it on the boat? It just creates a terrible false sense of secutiry that sure isn’t going to help you or anyone else when you really need it.


oh man
that could have been me,

I am a great lakes fool who is not used to marine mammals.

I paddled up way close and one of them turned and hissed at me like an angry tomcat before slapping his tail and diving.

Chuck pointed out after the fact that I was too close.

are you talking about a throw bag/line

– Last Updated: Sep-15-08 10:41 AM EST –

or a tow line and harness--or both? chances of you needing a throw bag on a small like are almost nil--chances of you needing a tow line and harness---not quite as nil but almost---if you paddle with kids who are in a separate boat or older/weaker/inexperienced people who might need a tow then it would be useful to have one--if you paddle by yourself or with another person of your own abilities, chances are you won't need one on a small lake. I have tow harness that doubles as a throw line/bag. I've used the tow feature a few times but never had to use the throw feature. And I paddle on large lakes and the ocean

Wear a quick release

– Last Updated: Sep-15-08 5:44 PM EST –

towline system; carry a throw bag on the deck, as well as short tether tow attached to deck.

Though I kayak mostly alone, over the years have towed more than one person/persons and their boats off Cranberry Lake: a windy Adirondack lake with 55 miles of shoreline.

Regular practice with any gear, especially in the conditions that the gear is likely to be needed, should be a given.

Throw or tow?
I’ll throw in my 2 cents. I doubt a throw rope would be needed on a lake, however a tow rope might be considered a necessity. If someone is injured, sick or incapacitated you will want to be able to haul them back. I carry a length of line at all times (which I use as a bowline when the boat is on a vehicle). For longer trips I also carry a dedicated tow kit. These can be assembled inexpensively.

Can Canadian paddlers help us here?
Fondly remember my encounter with the Canadian Coast Guard on the St. Lawrence River in the Canadian Thousand Islands, who noted my throw bag on the kayak deck, smiled, and then moved their “swift” type boat on.

At this time is there a Canadian requirement to have a throw bag on all kayaks - including those of flatwater variety?