Towing question

I have search the an answer but could not find one. On Sunday, my wife and I went out for a one hour paddle. We went up a wide river and found this nice quite tributary. When we reached its end, this took about 30 minutes from start, we turned around and started heading back. When we came out to the main river, I noticed that the wind had picked up. I thought my wife was right behind me until I turned around and saw that she was about 100 yards behind me and having a hard time. There was a small cove just ahead of us so I convinced her to go there, not too hard to do at this point, and she eventually made it. She couldn’t go any farther.

I had no rope with me so I left her in the cove and headed for the truck about a mile distance. Got a 6 foot lenght of rope, paddled back to her, tied the rope to the handle in front of her boat and the handle on the rear of mine and slowly towed her to the truck.

Now my question, is the way I did it the proper way to tow? I have seen the type of tow line you wear on your waist but where does it attach to the boat you are towing? Thanks. By the way, I really don’t want to pay $60 for a tow line since I had to buy a rudder for my wife this week. This is an expensive hobby.

short answer: yes but not safely
you had no way to remove yourself or her from that situation…

the tow systems out there now are designed to be released quickly by the tow-er…you need to be able to NOT be tied up at some times…

the tow systems out there have quick clips on the end to be able to attach to her boat quickly…

i would recommend trying to hook up with paddlers in the area or shops/schools for a little class on towing…

then picking up a tow belt…maybe someone’s old spare one that has life left in it…

or pickup a weird one like the Extrasport NF2.0 tow system that is on clearance at REIoutlet…it works…i have one…just a bit weird…

sometimes anythig helps when needed most…


seemed to work for your purposes
but toss 1) swell, 2) wind waves, and 3) a rock here or there into the mix–the kind of conditions a sea kayaker can face–and you might want something longer, that you could pop off in an instant if you got in trouble (capsized, etc.). I think that’s the thinking behind the kind of quick-release tow lines that have come to dominate the market. For safety’s sake.

With those, you run the carabiner under the deck lines of the boat you are towing and clip it onto the bow toggle

Yes - safety concern
While you did get your wife home, the fact that you didn’t have a way to quickly release is a big safety issue. In conditions, or if either of you had become incapacitated or capsized, being hooked up like that would have made it much harder to solve the problem. The 6 ft length is also a question mark depending on conditions - in light waves or heavier wind a longer length may be preferred.

The easiest way to assure a quick release arrangement is to install cleat hardware on your boat’s deck (older WW boats had this) that allows for quick release or to have a line running from a quick release belt around yourself, hence the $60 tow rig. If you can figure out the quick release belt or hardware yourself, the tow line and clip are easy enough to work out using some decent marine rope and hardware. Shock absorber in the line is nice but probably not critical for an occassional use like you describe.

I understand the issue of buying up gear for a new activity, but safety needs to be well up on the list.

Not to be taken lightly
IMO towing is serious business - someone really could get hurt if things go wrong.

As others have said, a quick release is a very good idea. So is a hook or knife to cut a tangled line. Generally the quick release is on the towing kayaker or boat and the other end does not have one because there isn’t any practical way to have a quick release near the bow of the towed boat (out of reach). The best place to attach the tow to the boat is to the perimeter deck line at the bow (you do have perimeter lines, right?-)

It is possible to get the tow line hung up on your stern - particularly as you make turns. Practice is useful.

If you can’t afford a custom tow belt, you can make one out of 1 1/2 or 2" webbing with a plastic quick release buckle. You will probably want a ring or carabiner to go between the belt and your tow rope and a carabiner clip for the other end. Some people carry a short tow like the white-water paddlers use and a length of rope to make a longer line.

You may have figured out that it is better to start the tow before the towee is totally burned out. Just helping them maintain course may be all that is needed and they can help paddle.

Good luck.

I made a simple tow line
to tow my kids’ kayaks in calm water only. It’s made of poly rope (1/4" I think), a short bungee, and two carabiners. Length is 15’, and I attach from front handle of towed boat to a U-shaped stainless metal ring thing that I mounted on my deck just behind my seat. Although I’m a total amateur at this, I use it frequently, it’s easy to unclip behind me if necessary, and it seems to work well. Total cost was around $20.

various solutions
Anniepoos is a good one. Don’t know the kind of boats you have but if they’re regular rec. boats you might consider putting a 15’ painter on the bow of both, daisy chained then tied off near where you can reach it from the cockpit. Most of the time it’s not used or available as a bow tie down on the car. If needed for a tow connect around the cockpit rim or install d-ring behind cockpit with appropriate quick release knot. Not exactly something you can do on the water as it’s tied off at the bow but if you need a quick on the water tow in moving/rough water then you are into a whole other set of skills and should be looking at specialized gear/training.