Short Tow Line Questions

I haven’t seen a comercial short tow available, so I’ll be making my own, but want to get others oppinions first. Whats your prefered lenght? Type of rope? Attatchment hardware? Knots?



some considerations
There are many ways but some considerations are universal

  1. When daisy chained short enough to do a contact tow, hold a paddle during a recovery etc. Length for these 3-5 ft.

  2. When take out the daisy chain, long enough to tow a boat without your stern banging their bow, depending on length of your boat, 10 ft. of line.

  3. Quick releaeable always! I like to have the quick tow a part of my PFD. I have the Kokatat guide but many pfd can be retrofitted. The pfd release is right at your belly button, and the pfd is a good shock absorber from jolt of towing.

  4. Consider a paddle-biner or a smaller hook clamp but make sure it does not have a hook that could snag and catch on release moves. I like the paddle biner for the quick tow because I can stow my and the victim’s paddle quickly with it if necesary. Your choice though.

  5. Figure eight knots with a back up knot and taped are simple to employ and simple to take apart and change if you need to. Many other choices exist though.

  6. Make sure to use line that has a core and sheath so it resists cutting and stretches some to reduce jolts. It should float too! Make it thick enough to not cut your hands.

    I have become a believer in NOT using belt tows for anything more than quick tow service. Why? A boat full of water or in wind and waves and suf can weigh .5 tons! There is significant risk of kidney and back damage from trying to recover a kayaker and their boat in conditions. I and others have created ways to use a simple deck tow system that does away with the problem of acessing, releasing, and restowing a deck mounted system.

    So have have two tow systems, the pfd quick tow and the deck tow. Since we use these infrequently I enjoy the nice freedom of not having a tow belt on all the time!

Short Tows

Hers a link to something posted on my blog with an animated description. Like Evans I use a pigtail with Quick release on my pfd, but have the short on the foredeck as well.


My solution to the foredeck short or …
contact tow is to take 60 inches of 1 inch webbing and sew a ss biner on each end. Then I cut the webbing and sewed on a 1 inch cam buckle for the quick release bit. The whole affair took 30 minutes to make. It goes under a perimeter line on each side and clips back to the opposite side. Very quick to deploy and release under strain.

Augustus Dogmatycus


For a contact tow…

– Last Updated: Nov-15-05 5:09 PM EST –

...I use ~3' of cord with carabiners on each end. It's coiled and clipped to a deck line in front of the cockpit. I don't use bungees, as I find them to be pretty useless. Cords and sliders work much better.

With both 'biners clipped to the deck line, I can grab either one with either hand and clip to either side of the boat. This is used only for "quick and dirty, clip fast and go!" rescues in rough conditions. It's good enough to tow a boat and paddler off the rocks to where a rescue can be performed. It has no quick release per se, but I always have a rescue hook on my PFD to cut it with if need be.

For towing any distance, I use a 50' waist mounted tow that's daisy chained to ~20'. If the water is rough, I let the full length out in order to maintain a safe distance between the boats. When towing, you never want the two boats to be on the same wave face.

I find the waist tow to be far more versatile and easier to use than deck mounted tow rigs. I've never experienced any discomfort while using it, other than muscle fatigue that towing causes.

You can see my tow rig and deck rigging in my Webshots albums at:

I have both a deck and a waist…
mounted system. I prefer the simplicity of a waist mounted system. Mine is 35 feet daisychained to 15. I use a 15 foot painter/tow lengthener if I need more than 35 feet. I still use the deck mounted system, but less so.

My Lotus Straightjacket has the provision for a PFD mounted tow system. I once used it as such, however, I hate towing from a higher center of gravity. Additionlly, it is a pain in the a$$ to restring it onto the pfd after a release. Finally, it is really hard to capsize and have it release easily from the body.

Bryan wrote: “I find the waist tow to be far more versatile and easier to use than deck mounted tow rigs. I’ve never experienced any discomfort while using it, other than muscle fatigue that towing causes.”

Augustus Dogmatycus


4’ contact tows
I make ~4’ contact tows and daisy chain across the front deck. I usually use New England Ropes’ Sta-Set polyester double braid in 3/8" or 7/16". On one end I eye splice in a quick release bronze snap shackle (Ronstan 3/8"-1/2") and on the other end I eye splice in a paddle biner. E-mail if you want pics.


Thanks for all the great info!


PFD mounted tows
I could never see the point in the PFD mounted tows. Sure, they raise the tow rope up a bit, but they have so many disadvantages - as you outlined - that they just don’t make any sense to me. I would never use one.

PFD mounted tow systems work very well in White Water …less bunched around the waist than a belt, so they give you the same waist mobility as a deck tow sys, they are quick to deploy and work very well with a short pigtail or with the 12 foot tape style. WW tows tend to be short tows to shore not the miles you can run into on open water. A tow sys on a PFD rides along with you and you hardly even know it’s there untill you need it. I don’t wear mine when doing open water, I only wear it for WW.

Best Wishes