TOW systems recommendations?

Plastic boat, no tow cleats.

I’m thinking a waist belt system with immediate release buckle.

Anyone have recommendations from experience? I hear salamander makes a good product. A waist line sytem that doubles as a throw bag sounds good, if such a thing exists. Thanks.

waist belt

– Last Updated: Aug-09-07 11:55 PM EST –

(response is sea kayaking related - may not hold true for white water or canoe situations)
Everything I have heard, having it attached to the person (not boat) with a quick release is important, in case you need to get out. So waist belt is good.

I picked up an NRS Guardian throw bag on close out (similar to 50' of rope in a throw bag, which is stored on a waist belt. It is larger than most tow-only (non-throw) systems. And truthfully, I don't think I could throw it far while seated in a kayak (I haven't tried - maybe this message will prompt me to do so this weekend). So for sea kayaking, something like may be better.

Salamander tow belt
I have one and wear it below my pfd on pretty much every trip when I’m whitewater canoeing. For kayaking the Salamander interferes with pfd and spray skirt and backband. I have a NRS 50’ spectra throw rope fastened to the deck right behind me and I wear a swift water rescue vest with tow tether.

Some things I’ve discovered about the Salamander throw rope and tow rope system.

  1. Practice every chance you get, you may only have a split second to make the throw successfully. It takes several minutes to re-load, so make your first throw a good one.
  2. Familiarzie yourself with the tow tether versus throw line and don’t get them confused, it happens, so practice towing occasionally, too.
  3. To throw the bag farther dip it in water first to weight it.
  4. Carry a knife on your pfd in the event the rope gets tangled.
  5. Be aware that the belt will rotate on your torso if your towed object gets ahead of you and you may not be able to reach the release buckle.
  6. The Salamander works best as a companion to a swift water rescue pfd with tow tether.
  7. Swift water rescue training is a good idea.
  8. The 50’ line is better than the 5’ line for towing long kayaks in swells.
  9. Don’t use the carabineers that come with the belt. They have a notched gate which hangs up when you try to release them and they aren’t locking so they tend to come loose. Replace them with good quality, smooth gate, locking carabineers.

    Hope this helps

I don’t use my Salamander KeelHauler
Pro. It is almost impossible to restuff the line in the bag after use, so you have to just stuff it into your pfd.

The biner is good though and it does not have a notch.

Currently I use an Expedition Essentials tow set-up that I have added a bungie to.

I also like the Northwater set-ups, but again, it too will need some modifications.

For those who say the belt interferes with their back band, try wearing the bag in front or on your side. Mine is always in the front until it’s used and then I rotate it to the side.

I second the EE and NW systems
I’ve been using the Expedition Essentials system for about a month and a half and I really like it. The system is very lightweight, deploys quickly, is very easy to clip in with, and drains and dries fast. I have had some wear on the DWR finish (durable water repellency) of the EE bag which makes it look faded…this happened almost immediately, and only in the areas that rub up against my PFD while paddling. It’s purely cosmetic…the ripstop nylon bag is still solid. I did add a rope end ball to the quick release mechanism…just a personal preference.

Prior to that I used the Northwater Sea Tec. It has a lot of the same virtues (a big, easy to stuff bag), but with a heavy steel carabiner, large float, and shock cord, weighs a lot more and has a lot more to snag up during rescues.

The NW system definitely looks and feels beefier, but the EE system is lighter and simpler.

As an aside, there are two camps forming with regards to tow systems: the “float and bungee camp” and the “no float, no bungee” camp. Both have their reasons…it’s up to you to decide the merits of both arguments.

On my end, having switched from the Northwater to the EE, I have not experienced any discomfort from not having a section of bungee on my tow belt…but I have enjoyed having a much less bulky system to stow.


taco wrap bag…
is what i prefer (ndk, northwater) to a system where you have to feed the line in through the end (salamander) as it just takes a relatively long time to get the line back into the salamander bags.

as to the float and bungee…yeah, there are arguments either way. i don’t use a float at all and my thinking is simply this…if i am doing a tow where i need to tow 2 boats, the victim and the boat helping the victim, the way to rig the tow is have your towline go under the deck line of the boat assisting the victim and then attach the 'biner to the deck line of the victim. that way, the assistant, if they want/need to, can let go of the victim, paddle up the line towards me towing them both as my towline isn’t physically attached to the assistant, it’s attached to the victim, and then once he reaches the 'biner, he can release it from the victim and either let the line now clear out from under his deck line or have the victim clear it from under his deck line…the assistant can then latch the tow line back onto the victim and away you go with the victim under tow and the assist is out of the line.

if i had a float in that scenario, the float will often get caught up in the deck line of the assist and not clear…so i took it off the line.

when you as a tow-er release the belt from around your waist it’s attached to a boat…so it isn’t going to sink out of sight, is it? you go back, collect it up and then release it from the victim’s boat.

It’s easy to add a bungee if you like
like them.

I paddle on the west coast where we get longer period swells than the east does. This means our tows need to be longer (at least 2 wave lengths), and the bungee really helps ease the jerking on your back.

Just get 2 - 3 feet of bungee cord clip one end onto your line with a plastic tie-wrap, coil the rope around the bungee and then clip the other end to the rope with another tie-wrap.

Then rather than daisy chaining my line to make a shorter tow - I marked a spot on the rope with a permanent magic marker at 15 feet. Then I put a slip knot there and clip the second biner from the EE’s bag to it and I have a short tow. To lengthen the tow, just uh-hook the biner and the slip knot pulls out by itself.

Northwater Sea Tec

Northwater Sea Link…
I have the older version of the PFD QUICK RELEASE SEA LINK. Easy to use and out of the way and always with my PFD but you have to have a PFD with a towing belt/strap already on it.

thanks folks. big help.
I love this board

I like the idea…

– Last Updated: Aug-04-07 1:05 PM EST –

...of using a quick draw on the 'biner (I'll try it on my own rig), but I don't agree at all with the elimination of the float or the bungee. Sure the rig is more compact, but having to haul up a bunch of sunken rope if you happen to drop the 'biner is a liability in an emergency situation. I could probably reduce the size of the float on mine, since it use an aluminum 'biner, as on the EE rig, but I wouldn't even consider eliminating it.

I've found a BIG difference in comfort with a bungee vs. without and one could reasonably argue that it's as much an issue of safety of the towing paddler as one of comfort.

Rick has a point about the float…
…but you can just as easily eliminate the problem by positioning the float a few feet up the line. That way, you have the best of both worlds, so to speak.

Floating line…
For what it’s worth, the Expedition Essentials rig uses floating line, and even near the biner the line doesn’t sink much below the surface. For me that’s a big plus, as there’s no float to get hung on deck lines, or get hung up/tangled coming out of the bag.

I can see where not having floating line or a float would be less than ideal, though.

Northwater big mouth tow is pretty good
We bought ours after using them in QWS school. One benefit of the qr waist tow is being able to switch it between paddlers if necessary. The 50 foot length has come in handy for tethering our boats out when making beach stops on beaches too small to hold all our boats. I went on a tour once with deck tows and found them really easy to hang up on the stern of the boat especially if you use a rudder like on the boat I rented. Sometimes the 50 foot is too long so we shorten it by “daisy chaining” the line to 25 feet.

North Water Coaming Tow Line
I ended up getting a pair of North Water Coaming Tow Lines for our boats. All we really needed was something to meet the Canadian Coast Guard’s requirement for a buoyant throw line, but ended up buying these because should we ever need to tow someone the option is there.

Without having actually used them to tow another boat, I’m pretty satisfied with the purchase. I liked the idea of being able to secure the line to the boat’s coaming rather than the paddler’s body – especially for towing long distances.

What I wasn’t impressed with was the piece of green garden hose North Water decided to use for adjusting the size of the loop which fits around your cockpit. I can appreciate the usefulness and simplicity, but it just seems like it was an afterthought to cut costs – yet for a $60 price tag I would have expected something a little more specialized.

I would also be curious to find out what material the quick release handle is made out of.