Lets start with the yak being towed: do you just tie of to the grab handle? Does your answer change for the yak doing the towing?
The person towing should have a quick-release.
You never actually tie off, at least normally. You should use an easy-releasing clip.
The tow clip should go under and thru the perimeter rigging of the boat preferably, clip side down. But as Brian says, no one should be doing a tow unless they have a quick-release option like you see on a waist-mounted tow belt or the tow strap on many guide vests.
Why are you asking? Has this come up as a need?
perimeter deck line
I was out with my wife on a normally calm lake, but the wind picked up something fierce while we were out. She was having a real hard paddling back against the wind. (doesn’t help that we’re both extremely new to kayaking) I had a line tied to this little eyelet thing bolted to my aft deck. I clipped a nite ize figure 9 rope tightener to her grab handle and hooked up that way. Whe continued to paddle and the tow was for assistance. At least we were very near the shore, and if it didn’t work out we were going to get out and walk back and pull our boats by hand.
Also, if you haven’t used a figure 9 rope tightener yet, you’re gonna love them. No knot tying and you can have a secure rig in like 1.5 seconds. They come in a couple sizes and some have biner-style clips.
I wouldn’t consider it as a life saving device as they are only made for lightweight applications. The small ones are only rated for 50 lbs. They also can cause lines to tangle in a bad way.
I’m sure they’re handy for a lot of situations, but I wouldn’t use one on a tow line. First off, mine has twisted polypro line (not braided climbing rope) so I don’t know that it would work anyway) but mainly, it seems like just one more thing that could go wrong in what could already be a situation that needs all the help it can get.
Most tows aren’t a big deal, but situations can change quickly. Been there, done that - like many others here I’m sure. The $84 I paid for a Northwater tow belt a couple weeks ago (my second) might seem like a lot of money for convenience, but it isn’t if it’s every really needed (it has been).
Get a proper tow belt
and practice. The waist-mounted ones like those from Northwater have the right kind of features.
At some point the halfway measures will create a risk, and it sounds like you may be in this situation again.
100% QR and equaly important
The tow system (body or boat mounted) should be attached as close as possible to the centre of the towing kayak and as close to the end (bow or stern) of the kayak being towed.
Attaching to an end of the towed kayak allows the towing kayak to control its direction, i.e. it will follow the lead kayak more or less.
Similarly attaching a line to the stern of the kayak doing the towing will allow the kayak being towed to steer it. Maybe not a problem when heading direct in to the wind but wind from any other direction or a litle wave action and it will be pretty much impossible for the towing kayak to control their direction.
E.g. the kayak being towed tends to run of to one side (this is almost inevitable and may be caused by weather cocking, wave action, wind drift etc.) if the tow line is attached to the stern of the towing kayak it will pull on it very powerfully (lots of leverage)and steer this kayak in the opposite direction (easily more than skeg, rudder or steering strokes can steer it back).
I’ve had a few laughs watching this on training course but in real life VERY DANGEROUS.
Never heard of a “tow belt” previously. I’ll definitely be getting one of those. Thanks for all the tips. Perhaps I should find me a paddling class, even though I plan mostly on lakes an slow rivers. Conditions have a way of changing, I see.
Classes are a great idea. Even better would be a symposium and the Great Lakes is coming up in July in the UP - glsks.org
Next year over Memorial Day is a great one near Muskegon - WMCKA
Having a tow belt is one thing, but you really need to know how to properly use it to get the most benefit and be safe with it.
A few months ago, I towed a guy for
two miles in some pretty harsh conditions, and we just tied the rope to each carry handle.
The rope was about twenty feet long and I could feel the yanks after most waves, but it worked out pretty decent.
Since then I have added a caribiner to each end of the rope to make it quicker and easier to attach.
As a rescuer/tower
you never want to be attached to the tow line except by a quick release mechanism that releases easily when heavily loaded. If you are tied by the stern you will not be able to steer nor will you be able to release the tow if there is a problem.
Give me an example of a problem.
This was a major problem, and I had no problem steering at all.
I don’t go paddling with the intention of towing people or being towed, and as far as I am concerned whatever works at the time is fine.
Too many people are too concerned with the million and one safety devices that “every paddler should have”
I have seen some paddlers so loaded down with junk hanging all over them that I would think they would sink like a rock if they were in the water.
rather than having other people
think of examples for you why don't you think of examples yourself. That sounds more harsh than I intended but you get the point. People could offer up 1000 reasons why you would need it, but it seems you have already made up your mind why you don't. So... rather than having people list scenarios for you to refute, think of scenarios yourself where a tow belt would be more useful than rope tied to the toggles of the ends of two kayaks. If you really want to spend some time on it you could work through each scenario asking 'what-ifs' along the way.
If you can think of situations where it would be more useful to have a rope - you have your answer, if not you have your answer as well.
For me, I use a tow belt as a matter of convenience - but you aren't me and that is what makes the world such a fascinating place.