towing-waist belt vs deck mounted

Opinion time again. tow belt vs. a deck mounted system that inlcludes a jam cleat (quick release) and a guide loop

Waist belt
- It works no matter what boat I’m in, since no special outfitting is required.

  • I can lend/share it with other paddlers if necessary.

  • I can deploy, stow and release it with one hand and without having to look/reach behind my back.

  • Stowing is fast and easy.

  • It can be used as a throw bag, if necessary.

  • My rig has both long and short (3’ contact tow) lines, so it works in any towing situation.

it depends on your situation
if you will be towing over long distances, or for long periods of time, a deck mount will probably be easier.

if everyone else in your groups always carries towlines then a deck mount system will work well because you won’t need to worry about passing the tow belt to someone else

if you don’t plan on switching kayaks then you can do with a deck mount system

otherwise, I would start with a tow belt and augment it with a deck mount system later if you find yourself meeting the above 3 criteria

I will also say that with practice you will be able to deploy, stow, and release most systems with one hand and without having to look behind you. Obviously you will need to reach behind at some point for a deck mount system. WITHOUT practice you won’t be able to do any of that with any tow system.

No matter which you choose practice often in a variety of conditions.

For most instances…
Waist mounted works fine.

But there are scenarios where a deck-mounted may be preferable - what kind of paddling do you do?

I’m a fan of waist belts too. One other reason - they’re higher above the rear deck, so less likely to get tangled on anything. I don’t keep anything on the rear deck (spare paddle in front) but this could include a rudder or even the up-turned end of a British boat.

I like those reasons
Good rationale. I also like the one below suggesting because of the lower mount, that a deck line could get fouled more easily.

Rudders & Pointy Sterns
Both are occupational hazards when I’m towing, as I’m 5’4" with a short torso. That’s one of the many reasons I try to avoid boats with rudders.

Why Choose

– Last Updated: May-15-08 8:45 PM EST –

here are two tow systems in one...or maybe three.

one picture is that of a tow belt used as a deck still can be handed to someone else and function as a belt tow....the loop on the one end has just been made to work with the jam clete..

the other is of a throw bag a deck tow so that if you are paddling near caves and might not want to go in to get a rope to someone.(or other dangerous to access places)You can also use it as a throw bag as it was made with one. so you can tow or remove it and throw.

Best wishes

Thanks for the good input
I appreciate the sound reasoning here.

Dual use is good, but…

– Last Updated: May-15-08 8:31 AM EST –

...the problems I see with both of those rigs and most deck tow setups are:

- The bag is mounted well behind the paddler, making it more difficult to reach.

- If the bag falls through the single bungee holding it (toward the bottom of the photo), which is quite possible in rough water, you'll have loads of fun getting it back in place.

- The actual towing point (fairlead) is also well behind the paddler, which causes the boat to yaw somewhat if the towed boat is off to the side of the towing boat, a common situation in crosswinds. That compromises the towing paddler's steering and turning ability.

If I were to set up a deck tow system, I'd place the tow point fairlead as close to the coaming as possible, with the bag between it and the cleat. That would minimize yawing and make everything easier to access. I've also seen tow systems with a short cord that runs across the deck, just behind the coaming, with one end securely anchored and the other in a clam cleat. The tow rig is clipped to this rope. That allows it to slide left or right of center if the towed boat is off to one side.

Tow belts
One other point, not mentioned, in favor of a waist belt is the ability to provide a back tow to stabilize a rescue. I find that I use my tow belt more in that way than I do in any other way.

Why not carry both?

cow tail rescue belt off pfd
a bit higher than the waist belt again, less stern hanging up issues. comfortable when high tension is put on towline, as belt is around pfd, not your bare waist. no bladder pressure which is uncomfortable to painful if launching someone off a beach or a big yank. always on your pfd. biner is very easy to find, doesn’t rotate out of position. i’ve had to tow someone for 3 miles with little downsides. i also have a waist mount and have used that. each one can be uncomfortable after a while, and all tow systems have their inherent challenges with use, restow, etc.

towed plenty with this set up…no such problems and the bag has never been blown off either…Hypathetical is cool…but thru my practical experiance all the things you mention are just hypathetical. If you have the skill to tow in the first place…You have the skill to reach behind You.

the bag can not be between the fairlead and the clete for ovious reasons…in order for the release to work, the bag has to be after the fairlead . Set one up and try it…You’ll find it works just fine.

Best wishes for all


OK - - Now I understand what all that
deck mounted hardware is in my sealion!!! Always wondered, and the post with the picture explains that. (now I know what I need to create - I think)

Your comment regarding the loop/feral being farther back would make sense. Having it closer to the cockpit would have less affect about the centerline of the paddler.

Just went out and looked at mine. The pull loop is about 3 to 4 inches behind the coaming on centerline, with the ratchet set on the right side near the rudder set cable. I also wondered why there was two big patches of Velcro right behind the loop, and in front of the rear hatch - - throw bag storage!!!

Can someone point me in the right direction as to how to put together a good throw bag / tow setup for a deck mounted tow as seen in the picture??

I imagine BNystrom has
"set one up and tried it"

But a towing set up
Valley makes a nice one I bought mine local. If you cannot get one from your valley dealer you can get them from the UK


They have them in many colors.

The cam cleat and fairlead can be purchased from most sailing supply shops, mounting is easy.

I have hardware mounted on all my boats and just move the bag as needed. works great. Hope this helps. G

assumptions vs real world
While there are pro’s and con’s to either system, I would observe that many stated con’s of the deck mount come only from hypotheses.

Backing up- arguably better with the deck mount. Often used in an emergency situation (backing up tow), the biggest issue I find is the very sudden jolt when under full power. Deck tow- no jolt to the body. The line? it goes past your waist, with little or no annoyance. Disagree? Then you haven’t tried it. Worry about the pressure of the line past your waist? And what do you call a waist tow?

Snagging. A deck tow seems, to me, to have been less of a problem. It lies low, and stays on one side of the stern. Waist tows, starting from a higher point, frequently slide from one side of the stern to the other. Fairly minor, in either case; that is more of an issue of what kind of junk you have on your rear deck.

Yaw. A fairlead that is mounted ahead of the rear hatch does not increase yaw. It does, in a minor fashion, anchor the stern a bit like a partially deployed skeg. A waist tow allow a bit more response to stern rudders, a deck tow a bit less.

No real big issue with either, just an awareness issue.

Ability to hand off a tow belt to someone else is often mentioned. In all my years, I have not done that, and question reasons why. If another person doesn’t have a tow belt, that is an issue of safety if they haven’t had training in using it. Handing a tow belt to a person who is unfamiliar with the use, and potential hazards, especially in a real situation, is asking for big trouble. Think about it…

Handing a waist tow to someone in benign conditions, for training purposes, that is a a valid and useful situation.

Stowing/redeploying. Hands down,a well designed waist tow is far superior. In bumpy seas, repackaging a deck tow can be near impossible without rafting up.

Snagging. Not mentioned is the the danger to a person under tow, when the tower has to eject. The person under tow now has a sea anchor (the bag), and this can become an issue around rock, kelp, etc. The deck tow leaves a clean end. Much safer.

Ejecting. Using a waist tow, understanding the importance of a correct emergency disconnect is rarely addressed- and it has been a culprit in real world incidents. It is not enough to simply pull the rip cord. You must grab the bag, and toss it as far as you can -and to the side of the stern that it is already lying alongside!! I can count numerous times, in tide races, that I have seen the bag snag the stern toggle. This is no joke. The deck tow, remember, has a clean end. Nothing to snag.

The deck tow, BTW, I find easier to release than a waist tow.

are a few that Harken makes

sometimes it’s just easier to order than spending the gas going to look

I too have all my boats set up with tow cletes and fairleads…and can just use a system for deck tow with any of them if I please.

Best Wishes


Sort of

I don’t like the “hypathetical is cool” comment.

It iz speled “hypo”.

More importantly,hypothetical is not simply cool. Hypothetical needs to lead to real testing to provide proof.

I thought I had read all the posts before I responded,later. I was wrong. Roy, I think you put more succintly what I wrote later.

Do we know each other? Are you Roy, living in Spokane?

Anyway, I remember argueing 4 years ago (with other coaches) in favor of the waist tow. There was a comment made- “what is your experience?”. I vigorously experimented with the deck tow,in as many real situations as possible. While I now prefer it, I don’t think it is the best method. Neither do I think the waist tow is the best method.

Overall, I prefer the deck tow.

One thing I have been pushing, a bit, with success. Petite paddlers. Of the petite paddlers I have worked with, who tried both, they nearly all prefer the deck tow.

Sorta like technique, wether kayaking, rock climbing, whatever. Excessive strength sometimes obscures efficiency.