Towing a Yacht
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A yacht, which is being towed, should have:

1. The sails lowered
2. The crew weight aft

Failure to do this will cause the boat to sheer from one side to the other behind the towing vessel. In a normal tow, the towline should always be through the bow fairlead of the towed vessel and attached to a suitable strong point. A couple of turns around the mast with a half hitch to finish is usually sufficient.

Towing Yachts.JPG (8914 bytes)

Passing a Tow

In calm weather the two boats can simply lie alongside each other whilst the towrope is passed across. If you have to tow one sailing yacht with another in strong winds, sail across the bows of the yacht to be towed on a close-hauled course from the leeward quarter; passing the towline as you go. Sheets can be eased when the towline is made fast. Then bear away onto a reach to pick up speed.

In the case of a motor boat passing a line prior to towing a sailing boat, the line should be thrown from an upwind position.

Securing a Towline

The strain of the towline must be transmitted over the whole boat and not an individual fitting, unless that fitting has been specifically designed for the purpose. In the absence of such a fitting, this usually means anchorage round the mast or a thwart.

Take a turn around the point of the towline's anchorage. This will take the strain off the end of the rope, will prevent damage and injury and will make things easier for you to secure the towline.

Take up the strain slowly to avoid damage by putting a shock load on the towline. Good communication between the two boats is vital; work out a simple set of signals.

Methods of Towing

Towing one sailing yacht with another; you will find that the difficulties come when you want to change direction, particularly if your course home is upwind. The longer the towline, the easier it is to tack without being stopped short by the snatch on the line as the towed boat changes course behind you. When towing in a tideway, do make extra allowance for the drift of the towed vessel when maneuvering around buoys or other obstructions.

Towing alongside

When towing with a powered craft, there are times when towing alongside is preferable to the conventional tow astern. This is particularly true if the boat to be towed is waterlogged, or if it is much larger than the towing vessel.

To set up a tow alongside, three lines are usually needed: a bow rope, a stern rope and a back spring led from the bow of the towing vessel to the stern of the casualty. Make sure that the towed vessel's stern is well ahead of the stern of the towboat, or maneuvering will be very difficult.

Towing dinghy’s in line

When towing dinghy’s in line, the last one should be the only one with the rudder in position. This method is not completely satisfactory because all the strain is taken on the first boat.

The alternative is the Herringbone tow, with boats secured at intervals on either side of a main towline (see diagram). Sailing clubs and AY Yachting Centers often use this method and usually have a floating towline with loops at intervals along its length. Boats wishing to take a tow simply secure to the loop with their own painters, using a round turn and two half hitches. If there are no loops, the rolling hitch is the correct one to secure a painter to the towline.

The important practical differences between this and a tow in line are that all the boats must be steered and that the painters are best led straight from the mast - not through a bow fairlead.

When splitting a herringbone tow, the towing vessel may hold station head to wind. This allows each crew to hoist their sails and leave the tow at will. If the spacing between adjacent yachts is not generous, it may be safer for the last boat in the tow to cast off first, and so on.


Towing alongside

Towing Alongside.JPG (4344 bytes)

Herringbone Tow

Towing Herringbone.JPG (5584 bytes)

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