Towing the line

I am diving into the collective pnet experience pool for individual tow rig preferences. I have encountered some southern hemisphere philosophies and practices that are different than my northern. Please respond with your rational, passionate or otherwise insightful ideas so that I may benefit from the collective wisdom.

  1. How many times have you towed another sea kayak?
  2. Distance and conditions?
  3. Belt, deck, coaming or PFD tow rig?
  4. Made, bought or modified?
  5. Pros and cons of your respective preference?
  6. Tow line’s maximum length?
  7. Tow line’s fibre, construction (braid, twist, etc) and diameter?
  8. How often do you practise towing?
  9.  Do you always carry your rig(s)?<br />
  10. Other important details?

From the peanut gallery

– Last Updated: Mar-31-05 10:51 PM EST –

1Towed about 3 imes for real 10 in training or practice.
2Longest was a double tow (I towed two kayaks) in 10-15 knot wind 2-3 foot waves. About 1/4 mile. (Since I paddle with better paddlers than me we often swap tows off so they do not get too long.
3.Belt rig
4.Northwater quick release rescue tow line, modified
5Big bag easy restuff long line needs mods like shock bungee etc. Can be swapped off to another towing paddler if needed, some stress on body sometimes in steep chop.
6. 55 feet more or less X 1/4 inch polypropylene.
7 Braided maybe 8 mm (adequate diameter)
8 Practised a few times every summer
9. Always carried on the ocean. On ponds contact tow only (if any) .
10. Northwater has incorporated some good mods (maybe because or Nystrom)into theie newer model. I look forward to seeing Flatpicks. If you incorporate your rig into your pfd, repacking becomes difficult. Just put it around your waist and paddle. Remember a line in the water is always trouble. Not too much slack, know how to release, have a quick release and a cutting implement as well (sawing is no good; one swipe or one snip cutting). Get training before you tow. Practice from time to time.

I wear a NorthWater Rescue/Tow bag at all times, used it too many times to count, (once on a jetski) and practice only if I haven’t used it in a while (rare).

the couple of times I have towed at sea

– Last Updated: Mar-30-05 9:23 AM EST –

(or great lakes) it has been in a surf to shore, or from surf to calmer area beyond breaking line. Or towing someone from a busy/dangerous channel to a less trafficked area.

The tow was a waist mount salamander variety.

Tow line is braided, but I feel a little long, even in surf. You want about about a boat length, and I think I have double even with daisy chaining.

In surf where I am watching out for other people I sometimes wear the belt, but not always, and sometimes I just leave it in the day hatch. I can usually grab it, clip it on and tow if I want.

I don't practice towing every time I go out, but I do practice it a couple times a season.

Similar to Peter in many ways…

– Last Updated: Mar-30-05 10:09 AM EST – I'll borrow some of his text.

1 - I've towed quite a few times, though mostly in training and practice. I've done short and long tows, contact tows, rafted tows, tandem tows, stabilizing tows and emergency tows of paddlers in shore breaks (including a few real rescues).

2 - I've towed over a mile on occasion, but most tows have been considerably shorter.

3 I wear a belt rig and also have a 3' contact tow on my foredeck lines at all times.

4 - Northwater quick release rescue tow rig, heavily modified. I use the original bag, rope and float, but a custom belt, shock absorber and my own carbiners. My mods can be seen at:

5 - The rolldown bag is easy to restuff. The old models require modifications, but the new ones look good.

6 - ~50' of 1/4 inch polypropylene.

7 - Braided floating line.

8 - Every spring in training. Occasional use during the rest of the season keeps me in practice.

9 - Always carried on the ocean, though on RARE occasions I don't actually wear it (calm water with skilled partners and very little chance of needing it). The contact tow is always on my deck lines, right next to my spare paddle.

10 - I really dislike the quick release buckles found on all commercial tow rigs. I wear tow rigs with the bag in the front and the buckle digs into my back and spray skirt during laybacks. I replaced the belt on my rig with one with an "Industrial Strength" Velcro closure with a 12" overlap. It's very secure and is much more comfortable than a buckle. I also use a foam ball (from a pet store) on the release end, rather than a hard plastic ball, for the same reasons that I got rid of the buckle.

Shock absorbers are important and I would not use a waist mounted rig without one. The difference in comfort is dramatic.

Towing a swimmer in breaking waves really sucks! Towing a swimmer on flat water is nearly as bad.

1. How many times have you towed another sea kayak?

Many times in rescue practice, quite a few times for exercise/fun, and 3 times for actual rescue.

2. Distance and conditions?

The longest I’ve ever towed someone (a double!) was about 3 miles in calm conditions. The roughest water I’ve towed in was probably 2 foot waves.

3. Belt, deck, coaming or PFD tow rig?

Kokatat top-opening, belt-mounted towing kit (with built-in bungee) on a Lotus Designs Straitjacket.

I also have a short-tow set-up on my boat (coming off a mid-rear deck cleat) that I’ve never needed to use in real conditions. It’s basically for recovering lost boats or carrying an empty boat across a lake.

4. Made, bought or modified?

I modified the Kokatat rig (very important if you use it with a Straitjacket) by cutting off the additional loop of webbing that would limit the loop’s movement to a finite part of the belt. Without the limiter, the loop runs off the main belt, and therefore quick-releases properly.

5. Pros and cons of your respective preference?

I like the feeling of towing from the waist.

6. Tow line’s maximum length?

I think it’s 35 feet, but I’m not sure.

7. Tow line’s fibre, construction (braid, twist, etc) and diameter?

I believe it’s floating, braided polypropylene.

8. How often do you practise towing?

I try to do it every few weeks, usually towing someone for fun.

9. Do you always carry your rig(s)?


10. Other important details?

I agree with Brian–shock cord is essential.

I don’t consider myself any sort of expert on towing, since I normally paddle alone. I hope you get some answers from guides and others who tow much more often.