Moderated Discussion Areas
  ContinuousWave: The Whaler GAM or General Area
  Towing larger vessels

Post New Topic  Post Reply
search | FAQ | profile | register | author help

Author Topic:   Towing larger vessels
Arch Autenreith posted 02-05-2002 08:44 PM ET (US)   Profile for Arch Autenreith   Send Email to Arch Autenreith  
I towed a 38-foot sailboat to the dock last summer after they ran out of fuel. I used a Y-harness off the Montauk rear lifting eyes. The problem I had was when the bow of the sailboat didnít Ďfollowí me correctly I couldnít remain in front. That caused my stern to start following in the reverse and became a real mess. I gave up finally and just used fenders on the stern and pushed (as it was calm water).

Is this just the wrong way of towing a much larger boat? Or did I not use enough line? In this instance does the person steering need to know what to do also? Whatís a better way for my future reference? Anyone know what Iím talking about?


jimp posted 02-05-2002 09:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimp  Send Email to jimp     
Arch -

You did fine. Blow-boaters out of gas? Where did all the real sailors go? Anyway, anybody being towed should steer on the boat in front of them, makes it a lot easier. If you turn, they should follow in your wake, always steering for your stern. Gee, at night, maybe that's what a stern light can be used for!

Obviously, if they don't steer on you and shear off, they'll pull you along with them. Another possibility is that if you slowed down, their momentum would keep them going longer than you (38-ft sailboats can take a while to stop). Instead of running you over, the other skipper might have steered away, causing the "tripping" situation.

Good communications is essential. Let them know ahead of time that you need them to steer on you. Also let them know when you make speed adjustments, particularly slowing.

Towing a boat with a jammed rudder is tough.

For good basic information look in Chapman's book on seamanship. That's where all Coasties start.

FYI, years ago while still in the USCG we towed an 86-ft, 100-ton fishing boat with a 21-ft Outrage with twin 70s. Lucky it was a calm day.


captreils posted 02-05-2002 09:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for captreils  Send Email to captreils     
towing sailboats can be difficult as you already know.unless the person in the sailboat knows exactly what you are doing it is best that they leave the rudder amidships.sailboats glide much farther than a powerboat,so you have to slow down gradually.when in tight quarters make sure that the person on the sailboat knows your intentions so they can possibly help, and just go slow.unless you install a tow bit using a bridle from your transom eyes is the next best thing.when towing sailboats in open water(bays,lakes)I would let out about 30'-40'of tow rougher water or ocean towing you would let out more(I had to tow a sailboat in 10' seas and had to let out almost 200' of line)and in tight quarters I tighten the line to about 15'-20'.
hope this helps
Dick posted 02-05-2002 09:44 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dick  Send Email to Dick     
Call a tow boat. I would never tow a boat larger than mine. Towing is a liability situation and should be taken on as such. In a dire situation sure I would stick my neck out and assist as much as possible, if not I will stand by untill a tow arives.
JohnAz posted 02-05-2002 10:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for JohnAz  Send Email to JohnAz     
Gee,,,Dick, glad you dont live in my neck of the water,,,I have towed several larger, everything is bigger than my 13', Tow services are verry $$ unless you have contract, and take time to get out to where the folks are,,some day it will be my turn to get pulled in,,
I have been on the water 52 years of boating
Tom Byrum posted 02-05-2002 10:58 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tom Byrum  Send Email to Tom Byrum     
Last year my son and I came upon a nice 19' Outrage with two guys aboard waving like crazy. No radio,anchor or gas in 6'-8' building swells 7 miles out. They were very lucky we saw them as there was only about a 100' visibility due to the fog. We had quit fishing early and were running for home trying to beat the building seas. I told them I would tow them in but it might get kinda hairy crossing the north bar. (commonly called the potatoe patch just outside the Golden Gate) I told them I didnt want to tow them the extra 5 - 7 miles to go around it. They said no prob lets go. Well to make a long story short the fog hid the waves till we had gone beyond the point of no return. What a ride. 15' to 20' waves on both sides of us. My props were coming out of the air and the the waves were breaking all around us. They really had a ride. I was too busy to look but my son did and he said they were surfing down the waves sideways sometimes. We were both lucky we made it. Next time I will call Sea Tow and stand by. I told them about this site but I havnt heard from them yet.
LarrySherman posted 02-05-2002 11:37 PM ET (US)     Profile for LarrySherman  Send Email to LarrySherman     
I worked a Yankee Harbor Marine in the early 80's, and we had a 13' whaler with an Evinrude 40 on it that we used to tow with. The midships thwart was made of 2x12 pine, to which was bolted a welded bollard (sampson post?), about 8" in diameter, 2' tall, with a 2" diameter "horns" welded to it.

With a boat made up to the post, the whaler was free to choose its course without the forces involved being applied to the stern. worked great!

newboater posted 02-06-2002 12:48 PM ET (US)     Profile for newboater  Send Email to newboater     
The best way to tow a sail boat in calm weather is to tie off amidship of the sailboat. Lots of fenders, bow, stern and spring lines. Let the sail boat do all the steering. We docked our 45 foot sailboat this way with a 10' zodiac and a 2hp Johnson when the prop shaft came off the transmission.

I don't have any expereince towing in open water, but it seems a really long line and have the sail boat steer to follow the towing boat would be the way to go.

Dave S.

Arch Autenreith posted 02-06-2002 03:02 PM ET (US)     Profile for Arch Autenreith  Send Email to Arch Autenreith     
Hmmm. After reading your replies it would seem that if the towline was *exceedingly* long the "Y" off the tow hooks might work. I'll have to try it again this spring.

I would imagine that the determining factor is where you have it tied (fore/aft) relative to the propeller. The farther forward of the propeller the end on the towboat is (what would you call that end of the tow rope?) the easier it is to steer and not be "tripped".

A sailboat, with its keel-rudder configuration doesnít lend itself to allowing the bow to follow as easily as a motorboat without being steered, all things being the same. (Even when I did talk to the helmsman to steer towards me he always turned a little too soon and I was always tripping.)

Large powerboats wouldn't necessarily 'follow' a 1600-pound towboat very easily either. I guess displacement would be an important factor.

I remember reading in Chapmans that the way to go was to tie up alongside. Iíll do that in relatively calm waters but I agree thatís not the way to do it in a chop.

Tsuriki BW posted 02-06-2002 04:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tsuriki BW  Send Email to Tsuriki BW     

Hey, I can understand where Dick is coming from.

Let's say you play nice guy to a Bayliner that is "out of gas. Capt. asks for a tow. You oblige and in the process, say you slow down, the boat is still coming at you, the tow rope goes into your prop and blows the lower unit. Or he is making a play for the babe on board, doesn't see what is happening and rams you. You think the Capt. is going to pay for your repair and be thankfull for your effort?

Towing, boat or car/truck is not as easy as most think. It requires close communication and coordination between both boats. Can you trust every other boater to know what to do (tower and towee)?

You must always thing about the safety of your own vessel and help only if it does not put yourself, your crew/passengers and your vessel in danger.



bigz posted 02-06-2002 04:20 PM ET (US)     Profile for bigz    
Dick's point is correct. Gene sums it up well.

If necessary assist to get a proper tow boat out to help a larger vessel. In case of injuries do as much as you can in the way of first aid if feasible. Your primary concern is not to put you or your boat any danger.

Frankly most including the vast majority on this forum have not set up on their boats properly with towing equipment or have the knowledge to safely do so.

The liability aspect is REAL, the good Samaritan laws generally do not apply to non life threatening situations.

You throw a line being the good guy -- tug the disabled vessel in or at least attempt it -- if any injure occurs or the boat is damaged watch out fellows for a law suit. Now if you or your boat is damaged, probably tough luck since you initiated the good deed.

In many areas there are plenty of CG Auxiliary or Power Boat Squadron patrols, particularity on weekends which can/will respond to these situations. Otherwise leave it to the professionals --- even the CG will refer you to a tow firm if the boat isn't sinking or there are no injuries on board.

Now Arch you were close to the proper way to handling under those conditions with a bridle, though due the considerable difference in both size and hull design a better method when you have something that large would have been exactly the method "newboater" explained with a Zodiac. That is with fenders rafted to the distressed craft port amidships. The sail with rudder straight, then (like a tug) you would have had more control of moving and keeping it on a true course. A large power vessel can also be handled this way. In fact for close quarter maneuvering it is the only way to handle a disabled vessel.

Still all in all better to stand by until a tug or tow boat could be brought to the situation. In this way you could keep the larger vessel if in a position where it might flounder out of harms way acting more or less as a powered anchor if necessary.


bigz posted 02-06-2002 04:22 PM ET (US)     Profile for bigz    
Sorry I meant Greg -- said it well Z
Drisney posted 02-06-2002 05:03 PM ET (US)     Profile for Drisney  Send Email to Drisney     
One more thought on this subject....while I know we all keep our ropes and lines in perfect condition.....If the tow rope has any stretch to it and it have a serious life hazard headed in one or both directions.
captreils posted 02-06-2002 07:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for captreils  Send Email to captreils     
towing sailboats in side tow "on the hip"is fine so long as the sailboat does all the steering and there is enough room for the both of you to get through tight places.But to tow a powerboat on the hip you should really have twin engines,it makes it a lot easier.Also you must tie up so that your transom is behind theirs,to increase your steerage.
7 years towing for Sea Tow and now going on my third year towing for Towboat US
where2 posted 02-06-2002 08:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for where2  Send Email to where2     
When I go by all of you who apparently give Sea Tow or Towboat_US $100 each year for towing "insurance", Remind me to wave if you appear to need a tow. Hope your radio works, I'll wave mine back at you... I'd loan you a 6 gal. gas can of gas, but it might foul your plugs on that Optimax you just bought, voiding your warranty, and sending your lawyer to my door. Wow, those people must really enjoy boating, everyone in the boat is waving at us...

To those of you who can remember the "good old days" when a fellow boater would give you a tow for free without the worry that a Lawyer will knock on his door tomorrow, those days are apparently gone. The Yuppie boating public has arrived with their lawyers to help them get rich off the innocent good samaritan who used to give you a tow for free.
Arch Autenreith posted 02-06-2002 10:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for Arch Autenreith  Send Email to Arch Autenreith     

I donít believe they are. I donít think many of us when faced with similar circumstances would not help. The case in point for me was a sailboat, after sailing along oh-so-slowly with almost no wind up the West River, couldnít maneuver the last few hundred yards between the moorings to make it to the dock. We were at our mooring with the Whaler tied off when they came drifting by and asked if we had any diesel to give them to get theirs going. (It was 6:30 Sunday evening and the fuel docks were closed.) All I could think of was what a pain it would be to try to siphon a couple gallons from ours and then possibly be stuck helping to bleed the lines, etc. to get it going, if indeed that was the reason it stopped running. (Possibly not.) It was simpler and easier for everyone to just tow them to their slip. It wasnít a big deal and I suspect in that instance it wouldnít be for most of us here either.

I can think of many circumstances where I would not render assistance and would stand-by just in case. If itís going to put me in obvious or potential harm just to save a boat, forget it. If it involved other peopleís lives perhaps I would as long as I feel capable of helping. If I had my kids with me that lessens the chance of me helping also.

This wasnít a commercial mega-boat out in a storm that needed the assistance of a true professional, like CAPTRIELS. It was simply some Joe that ran out of fuel and needed a little assistance.


SuburbanBoy posted 02-07-2002 12:16 AM ET (US)     Profile for SuburbanBoy  Send Email to SuburbanBoy     
I guess I was quite lucky. I have towed in number of people without regret. I have also been on the receiving end three times. When I was 16 and flipped my hydro, when I was 22 and my Hobie turned turtle with one hull filled with water, (we towed slowly into shore, tipping the boat upright as the mast gently dragged through the sandy bottom! Too bad Hobie did not foam fill his hulls) and once again, when my Black Max siezed.

It is always better to give more than you get,


Tsuriki BW posted 02-07-2002 04:15 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tsuriki BW  Send Email to Tsuriki BW     
I think the bottom line is that all of us would LIKE to help another boater out. We might even be willing to go above and beyone the call of duty. I think there might be 3 factors that weigh on our mind before we make the decision to "hook up" to the other boat.

1. If we don't, with there be possible injury or loss of life to the other boat?

2. If we do, can we do it and maintain the safety to our own boat crew/passengers?

3. (And this is sometimes the toughest and the most influential in your decision) Is the poor guy that had an unfortunate problem, or the total jerk that screwed up but wants you to save his ass, going to help you help him and really appreciate it (including taking some responsibility for whatever happens) and be willing to do the same in a similar situation?

Unfortunately, factor three has started to weigh a bit more on my mind than it used to..

These are my thoughts.


Whalerdan posted 02-07-2002 07:49 AM ET (US)     Profile for Whalerdan  Send Email to Whalerdan     
Just do it. It will be good for your Karma.
Chap posted 02-07-2002 09:43 AM ET (US)     Profile for Chap  Send Email to Chap     
Music to my ears when my family vacationed on a friend's Sedge island in the middle of Barnegat Bay, NJ surrounded by flats. They would miss the channel, around dusk mostly, and wind up high and dry. Bennies trying to beat the sun, tough channel that Oyster Creek at the time. I was 10 or 12 with my friend picking crabs on the porch waiting for that sound, Cha-Ching$. We would materialize out of the dark in my friend's father's late 60's Classic 13 and a bridle our fathers made to save the day. Paid for new fishing tackle.
I have been helping folks, when appropriate, ever since.
What comes around goes around.

Post New Topic  Post Reply
Hop to:

Contact Us | RETURN to ContinuousWave Top Page

Powered by: Ultimate Bulletin Board, Freeware Version 2000
Purchase our Licensed Version- which adds many more features!
© Infopop Corporation (formerly Madrona Park, Inc.), 1998 - 2000.