Towing

Things can go badly wrong in a tow – sometimes worse than the original problem that caused the tow to be necessary in the first place. Before you accept a tow, make sure the towing boat and crew really know what they are doing. Likewise, before you offer another boat a tow, be certain you can handle it and that the other boat knows how to be towed.


  1. Before accepting a tow, or offering one, understand the risks, costs, and liability. If you are towed, will the tower claim salvage?
  2. Do not rush. Thinks things through before engaging in a tow.
  3. Maintain control of your vessel. Do not let anyone else make decisions for you.
  4. Have a knife handy at all times ready to cut a towing line in an emergency.
  5. Never stand near a towline where you could get hit by it, or its end, if it parted or was cut.
  6. For towing in restricted waters where tight manoeuvring is required, the towing boat should be tightly lashed (forward, aft, and both springs) to the quarter of the boat being towed with fenders placed between them. The stern of the towing boat should be aft of the stern of the boat being towed to permit clear passage of water over the towing (pushing) boat's rudder. The boat being towed can also assist by making rudder changes as needed.
  7. Practice the tugboat hitch ahead of time, and use it for your towline (except as in step 6 above). It can safely be cast off if need be.
  8. Use a bridle to distribute the load across as many points as possible e.g. cleats, winches, u-bolts
  9. The tow rope should preferably be nylon (for stretch) and as long as practical (e.g. 100m).

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This page was last modified on: January 31, 2013

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