Tow Line Reccomendation

I would like to purchase a belt towline but I am not sure which style would be the best choice. I will be useing primarily for sea kayaking on Lake Superior. I did use one that was in a wide (12’) and narrow bag and it seemed to be pretty comfortable. Some of the other style that I have seen are only 8" wide and are larger up and down. These seem like they might be uncomfortable. I would be interested in your comments or experiences with different tow line systems. Thanks.

Have you considered a coaming towline?
I recently purchased a towline which slips over the cockpit coaming. I used it in towing practice at an IDW and it worked well. It fit easily and quickly over the coaming and the release clip worked well. Here is the website link where I bought mine, if you’d like to take a look:

Good luck ! w.d.

Something to consider
I tried a Salamander Retriever (?) and found that the compact side-load bag was very difficult to re-stuff with one hand while on the water. I am now using a Current Designs (made by Northwater I believe) that is lonf and compact when stowed, but opens into a larger pouch in use. When being re-stuffed it is easy to use one hand and stuff handfulls of rope.


My tow arrangement:
I mounted a padeye on the stern deck of my rudderless kayak (SINK) and a cam cleat at my right hip. These are standard small sailboat hardware bits and pieces. On the end of my 15’ tow line I have a quick release shackle and a bungie loop. I clip the quick release shackle to the bow loop of the towed boat, then pay out the line until about a 6"+ tail remains after cleating off. To release, I just pop the 6" tail free and the line runs out of the stern padeye. Slick. This keeps the towing force at the stern and in line with the keelline.

I have not done this with one of my ruddered boats yet… but I’m thinking how…

I like the Kokatat tow system.
It’s easy to put back together after use, gives you the option of a short tow length or long, and is a bit more compact that many of them and comfortable to wear.

None of the above
I still haven’t seen a tow system I really like. Brian N. has some pics on his website of how he modified his so he likes it.

I have a Northwater Sea-tow system and although I generally like their gear, I have some problems with this. This system is designed so you can remove the bag and throw it, which is a nice idea and will keep you legal in Canada (where all boats are required to have a 50 ft throw line). But others on this board have had them come loose at the wrong time and lost them. I’m not sure I understand this completely because the end clips back to the belt so you shouldn’t have both the bag and the towing end loose.

The way they say to shorten the tow is awkward and is best done in advance, but then what do you do if you need a different length. I tried a stainless biner clip to clip into pre-tied loops but it’s not easy in practice. But my main complaint is that the rope sticks to the freakin’ velcro they use on the pouch. This makes it really hard to handle and fuzzes the rope. On the other hand the brass clip is nice enough and I like the float.

I don’t like the plastic windy thing on the Kokotat. NRS has a new system with a draw-string top bag that looks ok but I’m not sure about the plastic clip.

I want: easy to change length, ability to use as a throw line, float on the end, sure fire release if you need to, easy to re-stow in the cold with gloves, preferably working with a short tow bungie system.

Don’t ask for much, eh?

Makes at least two different sea kayak tow belts and they improve them on a regular basis based on feedback from folks like Shawna and Leon (Body, Boat & Blade). They have done away with the design that the bag comes loose from the belt (at least on the model I have which is the more expensive one). The model I use allows me to daisy chain the rig in advance and then easily release more rope if needed. It is also very easy to stow the rig after use. I have not used it in real world conditions-just practice and it is the rig Leon and Shawna used during the BCU training I did with them. The only thing I have found that is annoying (and this would be true with any tow belt) is that it interferes with my Greenland roll and brace because it prohibits me from getting as far back on the back deck of my kayak. I generally wear the bag in front of me when I am not actively using it.


re: more on the Northwater
I choose the Northwater Quick Release Rescue Tow Line (30SK-05c) after demoing it and other tow systems from Nigel Foster, Salamander, and Patagonia/Lotus. The Northwater deploys quickly and it is easy to reload the tow line. My original Northwater tow unit was not without fault. I had a partial failure of the system while performing an actual rescue last summer, so my unit has now been modified. Northwater is great to work with. I explained to them what had happened. The gate on the sewn in line shortening clip failed due to cross-loading. Nikki at Northwater asked me to send the system back. They made some revisions, which I believe are now incorporated into their latest model. I did the rest.

This included sewing the carry bag directly to the belt (I do not need a throw bag at sea). Unsewing the gate portion of the brass keeper from the belt. This now allows the keeper to pivot, but I no longer use it for line shortening. I replaced the original brass snap link with an large gated rescue biner and I daisy chained the line down to about 12-15 feet in length. I took a short piece of dowelling, cut a groove in the center, and use that as a keeper for the daisy-chained line. I have the dowelling tied to the belt by a very short tether. When I pull the “plug” the line plays up to its full 55’ length.

Brian Nystrom has some get pics of the modification he has made to his Northwater. Check out

Safe Paddling, Joe

Get the coming tow system

– Last Updated: Jul-12-04 9:36 AM EST –

It is made by North Water and is far superior to any belt system. You get all the advantages of a system connected to the boat and none of the real disadvages of belt system. Tow someone a couple of miles with any belt system and then do it with the coaming system. You will be convinced.
Last item on the page.

re: Coaming Tow System
I have no personal experience with this system, but you might want to read the discussion from last year.

I am aware of that discussion.
My experience is that the quick release system works well. It would be hard to confuse it with the spray skirt loop. I haven’t tried it in really adverse conditions and I haven’t flipped over with it on but I fail to see much difference between it and finding the quick release on a waist system when you flip. YMMV

In addition
Deploying it in adverse conditions depends on whether you set it up before you set out or try to set it up once you are under way and need it. If you think there is a good chance you will need it then you deploy it before you leave. If you are underway and conditions begin to change, deploy it then. Don’t wait for the big waves.

Flatpick to the Rescue
If you can hang on a few weeks Flatpick just might have your answer.

I’ve been taking kayak training from Flatpick, Jon Walpole and others and in doing so a NEED for a new tow system came up. It’s specifically designed for seakayaking and even more so, ocean paddling.

Flatpick has designed and built a few prototypes (in fact, I’m looking at the latest version now, it’s sitting on my desk) and he said he plans a couple more changes before the “final version” is ready.

I know Flatpick is guiding in the San Juan Islands right now and I can’t speak on his behalf about the timing, but I can’t imagine it will be more than a few weeks.

I’ve continued to use my old Salamander tow system while waiting for this new tow system. I plan on buying two (2) from him, one for me and one for my wife.

That’s my 2 cents worth…


Flatpick tow being sold to commoners?
Oi !

The tow setup sounds good already. Are there plans on offering the tow set up for sale to the uninitiated?

I really like my NDK tow line
Very simple and functional. Easier to stuff the rope back in the bag than the Salamander. Easily done with one hand.

NRS System - Plastic Hook
I have the NRS system (the only one I could find to purchase locally at the time) with the plastic hook, but I removed the hook and replaced it with a halibut leader snap (I think that’s what it’s called) as demonstrated at the Port Angeles Kayak Symposium this spring. Haven’t got to try it out yet though . . .

I didn’t like the plastic hook - it was too stiff and hard to get unhooked.



well the only round doggle

– Last Updated: Jul-17-04 12:12 AM EST –

in my rig is the quik release for my northwater belt tow, soon to be set up like Nystrom's but with a long tow only. For a short tow I'll go for a daisychained line clipped to the deck line deck line; just some good 5mm accessory cord.

flatpick towline
Yes, he will be selling it in his paddleshop, but he’s guiding a trip in San Juans at this moment. I do not know when he plans to have a final product completed.


version 2.1
still working out he bugs and then to find a manufacturer. my guess is spring '05! sorry.

steve (suntanned and tired!)

They’re a bad idea…
…and basically an accident waiting for a place to happen. Just think about what will happen if it pops off the coaming while towing. Best case, you end up with a rope around your waist, cutting you in half. Worst case, you end up tangled up in it.

A good rule of thumb is: Never to put yourself inside a loop of rope!