Towing Question

Last year I got in a situation where I had to tow some kids into shore about 1/2 mile. They had drifted out on 2 float toys and assistance was just too far off to be of use at the time. I got them back in to shore ok but towing them was pretty rough. So. . .

I purchased a rescue cleat from NRS for to assist with towing. I see it has a break limit of 500lbs. I thought I had read somewhere that a Kayak being towed could exert much more pressure than that. Does anyone have the facts for this? Is the cleat going to “crack under real pressure”?

practice with it and make sure you are comfy with it.

ropes and water are a bad mix if not careful and EDUcated as to use.


Thanks Flatpick
You can bet I will. I’m a practice junkie :wink: I did’nt want to bother installing the cleat if it was not going strong enough when I really needed it.

I tow off a belt
and have towed two other kayaks in steep two foot chop for 1/3 mile My worst so far. Believe me, if 400 pounds were hanging off my back I would be in trouble.

White water is another matter altogether.

I highly advise lessons on towing. As well, your towing system should have a quick release and you should have a knife (or emt shears) available instantly as a back up. This is the reason I carry a rescue knife!

“You got a line in the water, there is trouble!” (Thanks Scott C.)

I use a belt too
A Northwater rig with quick release, modified as per bnystrom. I have towed kids, paddlers, and a jetski with 3 people aboard. (See this month’s Adventure Kayak Magazine for the story) Only problem I had was towing in series with a rowing scull. His power strokes nearly cut me in half.

the only time a boat being towed will generate a bunch of drag is fully loaded or flooded, in current or surf. I doubt it would generate 500 lbs of pull.

A whitewater boat pinned in current, yes. A sea kayak or rec boat floating (not pinned) no.

A towed boat generally creates only a small amount of drag and I have been known to tow days on end. Not a pretty story but a necessity of guiding.

good luck


I have towed
a full keeled, 28’ wood ocean sailboat, fully loaded. about 600’ ouch. this hurt.

18 clients all holding the ‘pod’ together. I was clipped on to one. again ouch. publicity stunt.

a very weak client for 2.5 days on and off. this was really a PITA but gotta do what you gotta do. she kept saying, I can’t believe you’d reccommend this trip for a beginner.

I also use a waist belt and a rescue style pfd system. I’m in the process of designing a better waistbelt towing mousetrap.


What have you got in mind?
I’m always curious about ideas to make waist tows better. The two most significant comfort changes I made to mine were the addition of a bungee shock absorber and the elimination of the waist belt buckle, in favor of a long Velcro closure.

I’m not a fan of velcro. It loses grip in saltwater and ultimately fails in time. The other thing is the hook side will distroy nylon and other ‘soft’ materials.

My design has floatation at both the working end AND in the bag, small, light 'biner, bungie shock absorber, light line w/ EZ length adjusters.

Basically alot like the NDK and Northwater only tweaked a bit.

Just ‘another’ IMHO better mousetrap!


There’s Velcro and there’s VELCRO
You’re correct that regular Velcro doesn’t hold all that well in salt water. I used 1.5" “Industrial Strength” Velcro (from Home Depot) with a 10" contact area and it holds really well. I intentionally made the loop section longer than the hook, both to allow for adjustment and to make sure that the hook isn’t exposed. It works great and I no longer have a buckle that digs into me.

great idea
I’ll check it out. I have seen many kinds of velcro but I guess I missed it @ HD.



I also prefer to tow with a belt
rather than a cleat. It keeps the line free from the aft deck, and allows you to feel what’s going on behind you better. It’s also easier to release in an emergency than reaching back for a quick release on the deck behind you.

You need a PFD designed to accept a tow belt, and some instruction in how to use it.


HD sells it in rolls…
…and the price is decent, so I find that it’s worth keeping some around. It comes with an adhesive back, but it can be removed for use on a tow belt. It’s probably available without the adhesive, but I haven’t researched it. They make a broad range of products, including one that is non-snag, both sides are identical and it’s extremely strong. I’ve heard it referred to as “gorilla hook” but I don’t know the actual name for it.

how do like it? the little buckle attaching the bag to the belt seems exposed. I haven’t had a chance to use mine. I like the stuff it bag but the one time one friend used one he discovered that little buckle coming undone accidentally

. . . and in the end. . .
I don’t know how it is around the country, but in our area classes seem aimed at beginners then jump right to instructor courses. We don’t a classes dedicated just to advanced rescue techniques, towing etc. I would sure love to see it. I have started looking more at private instruction to get in to the nuances of some skills. I think I would certainly need to get private instructor time to work on towing. I will look into that.

In the end it seems to me that installing the cleat is a good idea (at least as a back-up), Then wear a tow belt as well. The redundancy can’t hurt. :slight_smile: Thanks again!

Cut it off!!
Get rid of the small quick-release buckle, it will definitely “self release”. Brian Nystrom had alerted me to the buckle problem but I hadn’t got around to slicing it off, and lost my NorthWater rescue/tow belt offshore last summer when the @#%* thing snagged and released in truly rotten conditions. My chandler suggested I let NorthWater know about it, and they were fantastic. They sent me a new bag via courier right away, and admitted there had been other similar reports. A design change is anticipated.

The smaller release seems to be more of a whitewater feature anyway. Get out the razor blade!

one thing
you can do to keep the tail of the belt under control is make a loop of bungie cord around the belt and feed the loose end under it like a belt loop on a regular ‘pants’ belt or the strap on a watch. This makes quick release a bit more difficult but keeps the unexpectedrfrom happening


Where are you located?
Perhaps someone here can recommend a club that does rescue training.

I never had a problem with losing the bag, but I happened to a couple of people I paddle with. Mine did release once and that was all I needed to convince me that it was a bad design. It’s not any harder to release the main belt, so I don’t really see any benefit to the small belt system. Rather than cutting mine off, I made an entirely new belt.


I am near Madison WI. We have classes available at Rutabaga in Madison and Trek-Trail in Bayfield. Both over classes but not this specific.