Tips on Towing Tenders

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Tips on Towing Tenders

If you're like most boaters, you have several thousand dollars invested in your dinghy.

Whether your dinghy serves a vital link to shoreside services like provisioning, parts and repairs and dining out, or as a second recreational boat for exploring, scuba diving, snorkeling, beachcombing, rowing or sailing, wouldn't it be a tragedy to damage or loose such a valuable piece of boating gear as a result of an improper tow?

Towing Explanation - How to tow a tender. youtube video lesson:

"How to" tips to help you tow your tender safely and securely:

- Make sure the hardware, usually a stern cleat, is sturdy enough to support the loads, including shockloading your dinghy will exert. Be sure the cleat is through-bolted to the deck.

- Keep your boat and the dinghy in synch by adjusting the towline (or painter) at the stern cleat so that both boats are in the crests and troughs of waves simultaneously. If the seas are rough this may be nearly impossible, but at least try to prevent the situation where the dinghy is struggling up the back of one wave while the mothership is running down the front of another wave, which creates tremendous loading. Or the reverse, which causes dangerous surging and thus shockloading by the dingy.

- Tow at a moderate speed, and start off gently to produce a steady pull until you get up to speed. The goal is to minimize the stress on the towline, boats and hardware.

- When you make towline adjustments, do so without detaching the towline from the mothership. A dinghy on the loose is a dangerous thing, and retrieving it can be as difficult as retrieving crew overboard, especially if conditions are rough.

- As you slow down coming into a harbor or other narrow waterway, shorten the towline to improve handling and to prevent the line from fouling anything underwater such as a prop, a transducer or even your rudder. Make wide swings around buoys and bends in the waterway so your dinghy has room to follow and so you can adjust the length of the painter as needed.

- In tight channels or crowded areas where maneuverability is restricted, consider towing your dinghy alongside your boat. Position the dinghy on the aft quarter, port or starboard. Secure it with a line from the dinghy's bow to a forward cleat on your boat, another line from the dinghy's "inboard" stern cleat to your boat's "outboard" sterns cleat, and two springlines. Use fenders to protect both hulls at the contact points.

- If at all possible, remove the outboard from your dinghy's transom before you tow. Use davits or some other method to secure the motor on deck. In rough weather, davits are a great way to secure the entire dinghy out of the water.


- Trim the dinghy at the stern, not the bow. Keep the bow as light as possible to prevent yawing.


- The best line for towing is double braided nylon. It's stronger than three-strand twisted nylon and has less stretch, which helps prevent a dangerous flailing line if it snaps under load.

- A towing bridle will allow the most smooth and secure tow. A bridle consists of a sternline attached to both port and starboard stern cleats and looped in a V-shape through an O-ring. The O-ring is then attached to a longer line from the bow of the dinghy. A second, non-loadbearing line, with slack in it, can be run from the dinghy to the O-ring as a security backup in the even the main towline in the bridle is parted.


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How to make a towing bridle

To make a towing bridle, which is a good idea for a PWC, you need:
2 lengths of double braid nylon 9/16" or heavier, a heavy duty stainless steel O-ring large enough to pass a swivel eye snap through and 4 swivel eye snaps. Make the first length (also - line 1) of double braid about 2/3 the length of the distance between your boat's stern and the crest of its wake at maximum cruising speed.

Make the second length the same as the first or slightly longer. Secure swivel eye snaps to all four rope ends. Run line 2 from a stern cleat through the O-ring and back to the stern cleat on the other side of the boat to make a "V" with the O-ring in the middle.

Attach one end of line 1 to the bow eye of your pwc and the other to the O-ring. For added security, attach another lighter line about 1/2" in diameter to the bow eye and O-ring. It should hang slack, so make it a foot longer than the length of line 1 plus half the length of line 2.