How to Tow an Inflatable Boat?

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If you own an inflatable boat, you should learn how to do it to tow it in case of emergencies. Your troll motor may stop working, and paddles may be of little use to you. What then do you do in such a situation? Towing becomes your only option. To tow an inflatable boat, you will need a bridle and, of course, the towing vessel. In this article, we want to show you how to tie an inflatable boat effectively.

We will also discuss some other vital records things you should know about towing, so should the need arise to perform such a task in the future, you will be more than ready to handle it properly.

Towing an inflatable boat

You need a bridle to tow your inflatable boat, but not just any bridle but a 3-point bridle. This kind of bridle is very effective for towing, but you can also use a 2-point bridle. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to use a bridle that works best for your boat.

Also, you should note that it is wrong to use the centrally located ring at the bow to tow the boat. This is not an effective way to tow inflatables. Rather use the rings located at the sides that are more effective, especially when towing the boat on stormy seas.

Another mistake boater makes is to tighten the knots on the bridle lines because they fear that the bridle will loosen midway through the journey. While the rationale behind tightening the bridle is not lost on us, you should know that if it is too tight, that will place a strain on the boat and may lead to wear and tear of the pads.

Extremely tight bridles may also cause your boat to capsize midway through the journey. Should this happen, it will take quite a lot of effort to restore the boat in open waters. So rigging the bridle effectively before the tow commences is very important.

How do you tow an inflatable boat the right way?

How then do you tow an inflatable boat the right way?

Here are the steps you should follow.

Step 1 – Secure the bridle

The first step is to secure the bridle to the middle cleat of the towing vessel. Do this by tying the bridle to the side D-ring of your inflatable boat, then attach the other end of the back of the towing vessel (the stern, to be precise). Another method is to create bowline knots on both rope ends then pass the rope through the D ring on the side of the inflatable boat.

Then take the other end of the rope and secure it to the towing vessel’s middle cleat. This task should not take more than 10 minutes to complete.

Step 2 – Allow some allowance

When trying the rope on both ends, make sure there is some allowance to it. What we mean by this is that both vessels should not be too far apart to make the rope stretch too much before you secure both ends. Allow some allowance by bringing both vessels together before you secure the rope. This will allow enough tension and even load distribution

Step 3 – Apply your float

With your ripe already secure and in place, the next move to make is to install your float on the line, but why so? Using a float is important, so the rope does not get entangled with the propeller. Make sure the float is on the right side. However, you may not need a float if you use a floating rope like polypropylene rope.

Step 4 – Place the inflatable boat to the side in a V-position

Lastly, make sure you don’t place the boat in a straight position but in a side V-position. Many boaters make the mistake of placing their boat in a straight position because they assume that this position will make it easy to tow it. In such a position, your bridle will be under intense pressure. Your D-rings will not be left out too.

So the best position is a side position to better speed. You also need to keep the boat about two waves behind your towing vessel. Having enough distance between both vessels is the right move to make. Also, avoid moving at high speeds as this may cause the inflatable boat to capsize. Just move slow and steady.

Before you commence the journey, you want to make sure that you remove heavy and other valuable items from the inflatable boat for two reasons. Firstly, you want to lighten the boat to make it easier to tow. Secondly, you want to avoid losing the items to the waves. Another thing you want to do is to remove the motor, so you don’t lose it to the waves in case the boat capsizes along the way.

After you have done all these, you can then start the tow to your destination.

Note: Having extra rope is crucial in case the one you are using breaks on the way. You never know when you will need it. It is like a spare tire for a car.

Things to bear in mind when towing an inflatable boat

Towing your inflatable boat should not be a difficult task, but you can make it so if you complicate the towing process by doing it the wrong way. Here are some important things to bear in mind and errors to avoid.

Failure to use a bridle

Never tow an inflatable boat without using a bridle. Attaching a rope to the boat and your towing vessel may seem like a good idea, but it isn’t. This practice may destabilize the boat and send it underwater.

Tying the bridle to the main toe line

Another mistake inexperienced or uninformed boaters make is to attach the bridle to the mainline. This act creates uneven tension during the journey as your boat will keep moving back and forth as the towing vessel drags it along. The best way to do it is to pass the bridle through the loop to allow for back and forth movement that will not place the rope under too much strain.

Leave your inflatable deck free

As we pointed out in a previous paragraph, it is advisable to remove all items from the boat before you tow as any item you leave onboard could get lost. Even the lightest of loads can cause your boat to capsize as weight shifts from one part to the next. This is why it is wise to leave the boat deck free for a balanced tow. With the weight spread evenly on all sides, this will allows for a smooth ride.

V-shape position

You want to make sure the boat is in a V shape position with the side facing the towing vessel. This position makes for a smooth and easy ride across the water and less potential for the boat to capsize.

Boat speed and distance

The boat should not be too far or too close to the towing vessel. You want an accurate distance to make the journey incident-free. So, therefore, use the size of your boat to measure the distance. Give a distance of twice the size of the boat. With such a distance, the journey will be smooth. Secondly, you want to make sure that you are not going too fast.

 Expert mariners recommend a speed of not more than 8 knots for towing inflatables. For a much faster speed, you will need to extend the towing line, but this is not advisable as too much speed will put more strain on the boat.

 But the distance should change if you are towing it into a harbor or an area with so many vessels. An extended line may cause problems for other boaters. In fact, they may not even know that the boat behind you is being towed and my drive in between both vessels. So reduce the rope length for populated areas.

How to tie a bowline?

One less discussed part of towing is trying the bowline. Unfortunately, not every boater knows how to tie a bowline. Experienced boaters will tell you that bowline fastening is an all-important aspect not to overlook.

To tie it properly, hold one section and let the other sections lie freely or hang. Then take the free section and connect it to the section you are holding to form a number 6 shape. Noe, take the free section of this new shape and place it into the loop you have created and take the line through the back to the loop. Repeat the backward movement through the loop again. All you have to do is take the loop through the back of the number 6  twice, and your bowline is ready.

Extra tips for towing an inflatable boat

Always carry an emergency knife and other tools required for the tow. Planning for emergencies is crucial. You may also need to use a VHF radio or any audio system if you are going to approach a crowded harbor and there is poor visibility. Altering other boats of your presence using an audio system will prevent collusion. And lastly, before you commence the tow, ensure that you are in the right frame of mind.

How to tow an inflatable boat FAQ

What is the essential material I need to tow my boat besides the towing vessel?

You will need a bridle. This may not be the only material you will need, though. Other factors will determine the extra tools.

Should I leave my essential items on the boat before I tow?

Leaving your items on the boat before you tow is not a wise move as you may lose them to the waves in case it capsizes. All items should be removed.

What is the maximum towing speed I should maintain?

8 knots should be the maximum towing speed. You may choose to go faster, but this will place your vessel at risk of capsizing.

Final Thoughts

If you didn’t know how to tow an inflatable boat, now you do. Just follow the steps highlighted in this article, and you should be able to do so successfully.

Last updated: 13/04/2022

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