tow line question

We were discussing our last trip and planning another, and debating towlines. We’re assuming a group of 6, paddling the northeast shore of superior, with some island exploration. I maintain it would be nice for everyone to have a towline but others think 1 per 2 people (3 total towlines).

What do you think?

I guess it would depend
on the trip, and how important those tow ropes could actually be on said trip. I guess my thinking would be that I would hate to be the one needing a tow and one not being available.

let’s assume
+/- 6 mile crossings or between landing possibilities.

Sounds like half the people…
…don’t want to do any towing…

i wear my towbelt for you
and you wear yours for me…so if you don’t care enough to bring one, what’s that saying about how important my safety is to you?

all things being equal, 6 paddlers, 6 belts.

I’m confused
If storage is a problem then 3 should be enough. I would think that if we are paddling together we are friends. Tow belts aren’t personal and I would certainly lend you mine if I needed a tow.

my thoughts

– Last Updated: Jul-26-07 4:46 PM EST –

I tend to agree with Rick but I think you're thinking what my paddling partners are.

But in the location we're paddling, and conditions, we could get stretched out to 1/8 mile or so between us. And if I'm sitting there as the one needing a tow, with the tow line, it's a bit more difficult for me to exchange with someone who has no tow line but is closest to me. Much easier if that person has one, that way, they can just grab the carabiner off their life vest and hook me up.

Storage is a non-issue but I think cost might not be.

I’m with Rick…
If you need to tow someone in an emergency, or potential emergency, situation, passing around a tow rig will only add to the confusion and delay any benefit.

However, someone wearing a tow rig that doesn’t know how to use it (or hasn’t practiced with it) could be even worse in a true emergency.

My .02 worth.

the second part is more important than the first. In looking at the group do you already have some sense that towing is a possibility, a wide range in strengths ? If that’s the case it’s doubly important that the towers don’t put themselves in a position requiring towing, by “getting close to the edge” during any part of the trip. That way the stronger paddler is available to tow if necessary.

Having a tow rig and not knowing how to use it won’t do any good in a real situation. Best bet is of course for everyone to have one and do even a quick lesson and practice on how to use it. Maybe you could borrow one or two.

On the Great Lakes, I used to only wear mine when it looked like the conditions were going to be a little rough or when we had a long paddle. One day started out very calm so I stuck it in the day hatch as usual, but unforecasted strong winds came out of nowhere and we eventually needed to tow someone. I didn’t have a problem putting it on but it’s not easy one-handed (other on the paddle) and now I just always wear it.

at the risk of sounding stupid, just what do you need to practice with a tow rope? Is it not just a question hooking it up and paddling?

that and more
it is a question of hooking up, paddling, releasing, stowing the rope after the tow, and then hooking up to another kayak. Then you have to practice towing and releasing the tow belt - just in case. Maybe try towing and releasing after a capsize and wet exit, or towing and rolling with a tow rope. After you get that down on flat water try it in rough water.

You can get away without practicing this stuff, but do you really want to try and figure it out for the first time when you need to do it?

As for the number of tow ropes - everyone should carry one. Suppose we go with the 1 per 2 kayaks method. What happens if the group get separated and all three kayakers with tow belts end up in one group? What if 2 kayakers with tow belts separate from the 4 kayaks with only 1 belt? What if one of the belts breaks?

As for storage… you store the tow belt around your waist.

keeping track of your paddle, oriented to conditions, the person you’re rescueing and their gear and condition. I helped run an instructors course and one person lost control of their paddle while hooking up to the person they were towing just outside the surf zone. The time you need to tow someone is probably when the conditions are challenging.

Sometimes towing is just not towing…
You could practice chasing down an empty boat in wind and conditions, hooking up and return it to the paddler. It happens.

Even Just hooking up can be tricky in conditions.

Good lesson
I was going to ask for some knowledge about a tow rope but I went on line first to look at them.

I have never used a tow belt and did not understand their use. I couldn’t understand why anyone would tie a kayak or canoe to their body. I see now that you use the same kinh of quick release buckle that we use in scuba diving.

Some of you may have read my my comment to Jack earlier about using a 4-6’ rope with carabimers on each end because I normally paddle class I/II rivers and a long tow rope will let the canoe or kayak beat you to death.

Thanks for the education. This is why I like although sometimes we don’t give enough info for others to understand what those with more experience are talking about.

Who knows…maybe one day I’ll be smart enough to come up north and paddle with the big boys.

Thanks to all


In Canada
I’am pretty sure there mandatory, having

aleast a 50’ tow line. I guess not a tow rig

or belt/harness but floating tow line is.

tow a rescue party away from rocks

– Last Updated: Jul-26-07 9:42 PM EST –

as waves are pounding them into the cliff. I hooked up to his (rescuer) boat and he grabbed another biner from a second tower. We, the towers stayed out away from the cliffs. He paddled in and hooked the second biner to the swamped kayak to be pulled away from rocky cliff, then he got to the swimmer, and I towed he and the swimmer (hanging on to his bow deck lines were he could keep an eye on him) both out of the danger zone to calmer waters to perform the basic T-resue.

Later that night, I hung my tow rope around trees to hang wet gear to dry, while he ran his thru all the bow loops of the boats and around a tree so the boats would be secure even in the worst of storms. All sorts of things to practice with a tow rope.

I thought tow belts (in my case, a standard 10 yr old NDK) were standard gear and if you were going on a trip, you wouldn't leave shore without it. I even take mine day paddlin cuz you never know...So far I've pulled in 3 jetskis, 2 sailboats, and one dead body, and a lot of stuff I can't even remember.

Edit: Another reason why "Less than three on the sea there shall never be". if it was only two paddlers, one swimming and boat getting trashed against the cliff rock, the rescue would have been way more difficult. While our group was 6 total, with just the two extra rescuers, and include a swimmer that was trained to be an active member of his own rescue, it was a relatively quick and painless ordeal.

It really helps when groups are trained in the same way, or atleast on the same page for the rescues.

tow belts
I never leave home w/o it…

Although I have only used it a few times in earnest but all times I wouldn’t have wanted to wait for someone to give me theirs. Been towed a few times too - wouldn’t have wanted to pass off mine!

Camping always use it for a clothes line, sometimes to hold the boats together when the tide might just sneak up too high and once to hang dry bags from the trees to keep away from the animals.


Practice Helps
We had a practice session a couple weeks ago, I was trying a new tow belt and one of the ladies going to the Apostles with us (leaving Sat YOO-HOO) tried it. The first two times she pulled taught the biner rolled out of my bow loop. She learned how to hook up so the gate isn’t loaded. I learned I needed to put a screw gate biner on that line.



the real question is
who is most likely to be towed?

That person won’t need a tow belt.