short contact tows

Does anyone have any information or preferences on short contact tow systems used for sea kayaking?

I already own/use a waist belt NRS that I’ve daisy chained to make the line shorter, but I haven’t seen any shorter close contact types out there.

Are there good systems for sale out there or is it just as easy to make one with a beaner and some good line?

There seem to be a number of short contact tows available. Usually meant to work with quick release belt on pfd.

A number of folks I know simply made their own.

I patterned mine after the one on Atlantic Kayak Tours site. It is two good carabiners and line. AKT refers to it as a paddle park that can also be used as a short contact tow and to quickly clip onto an adjoining boat during a rescue.

an alternative
. . . is to take a short piece of line (about 5’ long), tie a double “figure or eight” on one end to hold a 'biner. with the bitter end, tie a quick release knot to the perimeter line of your boat.

I was always been advised to keep my tows “quick release-able” in case things go horribly south. Lot’s of people use “store bought” solutions but a “store bought” quick release is often a very expense item.



knot impaired
What’s a “quick release knot”?


– Last Updated: Jun-21-05 4:17 PM EST –

it's similar to a daisy chain . .

Pass a bight (loop) of the line beneath the perimeter line and hold this loop up and away from the deck. Pass a bight from the "load end" through the first loop, Tighten the line by holding this second loop and pulling firmly on the "release end" of the line. Now pass a bight from the "release end" through the second loop. While holding this third loop, tighten the line by pulling firmly on the "load end".

Look at the rope, this is one type of "quick release" knot. With a load on the "load end", a quick jerk of the "release end" with cause the knot (actually a bend) to come apart.



and I thought you meant a sharp swiss army knot undoer.


I take the chance and have a double 'biner attachment, and a sharp knife.


another suggestion…
Is to buy 1 inch webbing and a 1 inch cam lock. I have a couple stainless snaphooks that I sewed onto the webbing (10 minutes both sides, plus another 5 minutes for sewing the camlock onto the webbing). If I need to undo it quickly I just lift up on the cam lock. All the stuff is available at a marine supply store. I like SS versus aluminum as the corrosion upkeep on aluminum is a pain.

Rob G

Sea Kayaker had an article a while back describing contact tow lines made with 2" webbing and 2" fastex buckles in the center for quick-release and adjustability.

would that I could . .
. . my friends don’t trust me with sharp instruments so I’m left to my own devices, so to speak.



makes sense
I just thought about improvising on the quick release belt I’m already using for my 50ft line…

I guess I can attach a stainless ring to the belt and use some line with a beaner on the end…

BUT how long should I make the line from my belt? Just 1 foot for a close contact system?

A couple of options.
I modified my Northwater rig to both a long and short tow. You can see how in my “Northwater…” album on Webshots at:

However, I’ve found that it’s quicker to have a short rope tow (3’) attached to the decklines in front of the cockpit (I use cord with tensioners rather than bungee for deck lines). I put a 'biner on each end, so I can grab it from either side. If I need a quick release and can’t unhook the 'biner, I have a rescue hook on my PFD that “releases” the rope really quickly! :wink:

Seriously, I wonder how necessary a quick release is really on a contact tow (as long as you have a means of cutting the rope handy), since it’s only going to be used in quick, “clip and go” situations where you’re trying to get someone out of a dangerous situation. Typically, you’ll paddle 20-50 yards, then take them off the tow. Also, the other boat is right next to you (under your armpit), so it’s available for support if need be.

Contact tow vs short tow
Not a big deal, but my understanding is that there are two different kinds of tows here…

  • contact tow – towee just grabs tower’s boat, typically by leaning on the tower’s foredeck; no lines involved, just contact, with the obvious advantage of simplicity, if it’s feasible

  • short tow – uses an actual line (a short tow), 3’ to 5’ or so, to do the towing

    We seem to be discussing the latter. But be aware that the term “contact tow” generally means something else.


compromise :wink:
I retied my rig last night. One carabiner now has a quick release knot. The other end I have laddered and attached to the other carabiner.

I think this will still do all the things AKT’s design does while having the safety of quick release that Jed wisely noted.

My understanding of “contact tow” is that the hulls are parallel and touching, often bow-to-cockpit. It can be done with no gear, but a short line clipped to the decklines of both boats can help maintain that position, especially if the towee is incapacitated.

combination of the two?
I use mine as Angstrom described. This allows the towee to hold onto my boat for support but they need not work to keep the boats parrallel.


Sometimes you can just clip the deck lines together with a single carabiner. Fast and simple to put on, but usually a pain to get off.