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Old 21-10-2011, 03:31   #1
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Towing Dinghy

Other than chafe, what are the main reasons for not towing while underway? Thinking mostly while in the Caribbean day sailing among the islands.
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Old 21-10-2011, 06:15   #2
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Re: Towing Dinghy

The greatest disappointment I've had with towing a dinghy offshore was many years ago when I looked back in the big wind and saw my inflatable spinning in the air on it's painter like a whirling pinwheel and slinging out it's floorboards; however, with known conditions and a days island hop, it can be a good choice.
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Old 21-10-2011, 07:30   #3
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Re: Towing Dinghy

G'Day all,

It depends greatly on the specific dinghy. We've towed various inflatables far too many miles, and can offer the following advice:

Bigger and heavier dinks do better in terms of doing the flying in the air trick. Ours have all been in the 3.5+metre size, and have never launched themselves whilst towing or at anchor. This has included both RIBs and soft-bottom models, and the RIBs tow better in our experience.

Obviously, removing the motor and fuel tank plus other loose items is a good idea.

Having a backup painter, completely separate (including the attachment point) on the dink, will save it someday.

Primary painter should be pretty stout. For our current 3.5 M RIB we use 10 mm three strand polypro (floating), and replace it every couple of years due to sun damage.

The biggest hazard in towing is downwind, when the dinghy will surf much sooner than the yacht. When this happens, it comes rushing up, may strike your transom, and creates a lot of slack in the painter. Before the slack is taken out, the dink will often slew sideways... then the slack comes out and it gets a hell of a jerk, often coming close to flipping it over. After worrying about this for a few miles, we built a small series drogue for the dink. With some experimentation, we found that two cones of the standard Jordan size was perfect. Deployed off the stern of the dink with a 5 metre line and a metre of 10 mm chain on the end it provides just the right amount of drag to avoid surfing. It does add a small amount of drag and this slows progress somewhat, but there ain't no free lunches in sailing!

All in all, I must admit that towing the dink isn't good seamanship, but with careful management one can minimize the risks.

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 21-10-2011, 08:00   #4
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Re: Towing Dinghy

We never tow our dinghy further than we can swim or in conditions that we could not swim in...Especially between the islands where conditions change dramatically once you get out of the lee of the island.

We meet at least 2 boats per year that have lost their dinghy while towing it!
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Old 21-10-2011, 08:04   #5
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Re: Towing Dinghy

Our friend's dinghy flipped over when a careless power boat caused a huge wake.
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Old 21-10-2011, 08:17   #6
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Re: Towing Dinghy

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Originally Posted by s/v Moondancer View Post
We meet at least 2 boats per year that have lost their dinghy while towing it!

That pretty much says it all. I have seen several boats lose their dinghy just cruising across the bay... Sometimes they were found.

TOP TEN; Ways to lose a dinghy while towing:

1. A Wave can poop it, suddenly increasing tow weight.
2. The little eyelet you tied the painter to can become can suddenly become unglued, (happened to my Zodiac...3 times).
3. Painter knots slip.
4. Painter breaks under a sudden shock load.
5. A passing power boat cuts line with prop.
6. Debris in water with sharp edge either cuts painter, or holes dinghy.
7. A passing jetski jumping your wake lands in it.
8. ??? what the? The &*%$@! was back there just a second ago!
9. High winds can turn it into a kite throwing floorboards and contents across the seven seas.
10. $@#%! Pirates!
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Old 21-10-2011, 08:19   #7
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Re: Towing Dinghy

We've towed our RIB all through the islands for years. It's empty, of course. We finally got tired of the long floating tow line, and figured maybe that was a hold over from the days of hard dinghies.

We use two stout lines from the bow eye of the RIB (the one in the fiberglass stem). They're each about 4 feet long. One goes to a cleat on the port side of the stern, one to the starboard. The RIB rides comfortably about 2 feet behind the big boat. In a following sea, we sometimes get a gentle nudge from the RIB, but she's soft, and can build up much momentum on the short tether. Our current RIB is on the heavy side, but we started doing this with a much lighter one. It works equally well for both.

It eliminates the problem of the tow line fouling your prop if you forget to shorten up when you're anchoring, and the dink is less prone to getting flipped by a gust. Not sure why that is, but it happened occassionally with a long line, and has never happered in the 6 years we've been using the new arrangement. If it does flip, you can right it with a boat hook from the big boat wihout trying to bring it alongside.

If we're expecting heavy weather, we wait. That's the beauty of sailing in the Caribbean -- it's mostly day trips. For longer passages or iffy weather, the RIB goes on deck.
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Old 21-10-2011, 09:41   #8
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Re: Towing Dinghy

I run straps to the transom. Through the eyes and back.Only contact is with the eye bolts I have in place works pretty good.
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Old 21-10-2011, 09:43   #9
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Re: Towing Dinghy

I should add I never tow my dingy except for short hops around the pond.
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Old 21-10-2011, 09:49   #10
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Re: Towing Dinghy

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Originally Posted by Play Actor View Post
The RIB rides comfortably about 2 feet behind the big boat.
I've wondered why more people don't pull their dinghies up closer. Wouldn't do it with a RIB, like you have, but any reason not to pull a fully-inflatable right up so that its bow is up out of the water against the boat's transom? I would think this would work especially well with a reverse transom.

Does anyone tow their inflatable dinghy this way?
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Old 21-10-2011, 09:51   #11
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Re: Towing Dinghy

It is also important that you lift and lock the dinghy at night, we also meet 2-3 people a year who have had their dinghy's stolen.

Except when we were in Cartagena where we met 2-3 people who had not had their dingy's stolen! We met a German who had 2 stolen in a month!
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Old 21-10-2011, 10:04   #12
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Re: Towing Dinghy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Play Actor View Post
We use two stout lines from the bow eye of the RIB (the one in the fiberglass stem). They're each about 4 feet long. One goes to a cleat on the port side of the stern, one to the starboard. The RIB rides comfortably about 2 feet behind the big boat. In a following sea, we sometimes get a gentle nudge from the RIB, but she's soft, and can build up much momentum on the short tether. Our current RIB is on the heavy side, but we started doing this with a much lighter one. It works equally well for both.

It eliminates the problem of the tow line fouling your prop if you forget to shorten up when you're anchoring, and the dink is less prone to getting flipped by a gust. Not sure why that is, but it happened occassionally with a long line, and has never happered in the 6 years we've been using the new arrangement. If it does flip, you can right it with a boat hook from the big boat wihout trying to bring it alongside.

If we're expecting heavy weather, we wait. That's the beauty of sailing in the Caribbean -- it's mostly day trips. For longer passages or iffy weather, the RIB goes on deck.
I've done the same, but with lines short and tight so that the bow of the dinghy is actually up out of the water and almost tight against the stern. Then the only part of the dinghy touching the water is the aft end of the tubes. That seems to work well for up to 3-5 foot seas and the dinghy can't easily flip when the bow is tied that close to the cleat.

I've only done it once, on an overnight sail, so I can't give it a unqualified recommendation. But it worked well enough that I'll try it again.
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Old 21-10-2011, 10:23   #13
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Re: Towing Dinghy

Thanks for your opinions and recommendations. Like the drogue idea as a way to help keep the dinghy in check.
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Old 21-10-2011, 13:00   #14
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Re: Towing Dinghy

Towed a dinghy for thousands of miles.... then one night sailing from NY to Cape May the NE winds that were supposed to diminish started increasing due to a low forming near Hatteras. Flipped the 11 foot dink and I could not right it due to the seas. Pulled it up as close to the transom as I could and tried to puncture it. Couldn't do that either and nearly lost my fingers when the boat went up and the dink went down. I cut it adrift as it was jerking so badly I thought the cleat would be pulled out. Next trip put davits on the boat. For the next couple of years I still looked back every so often to check on the dink like I used to do when towing. Now I don't tow the dink even on very short trips. It's no bother to haul it up, lash it with ratchet straps and forget about it. Have to remember to take the plug out, that's all.
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Old 21-10-2011, 13:22   #15
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Re: Towing Dinghy

I almost always lift it up onto the foredeck. It takes two minutes.

There are ample safety reasons for this but to be honest, the biggest reason for me is that the constant splashing of the dinghy being dragged through the water ruins the quiet serenity of drifting along in the wind.
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