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Old 30-06-2015, 11:25   #1
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Procedures for towing a sailboat with a sailboat under sail

Hi. Looking for some suggestions for the procedures and setup for towing another sailboat when you don't have an engine. Lots of stuff out there about towing when the tow boat has an engine. What if you don't and need to take a boat in tow?


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Old 30-06-2015, 16:28   #2
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Re: Procedures for towing a sailboat with a sailboat under sail

Just do it. Only thing to worry about is whether the towee draws more water than the tower.
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Old 30-06-2015, 18:37   #3
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Re: Procedures for towing a sailboat with a sailboat under sail

Until you prepare to dock, you want a tow line as long as possible, especially in swells. It puts flexibility in the tow that takes away most sharp tugs on the deck fixtures (cleats, etc.). Yachts usually have little support for cleats, chalks, windlasses, etc. When I worked in boat/shipyards, I saw many repairs from towing and docking accidents. Most fiberglass hulls have a small doubler under the deck that can pull thru the deck under heavy strain. The more you can spread the strain over several fittings, the better.
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Old 30-06-2015, 18:56   #4
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Re: Procedures for towing a sailboat with a sailboat under sail

Factors I would think about is the displacements of both boats, seaway, distance, and what you are doing at the beginning and end ie anchor or marina.

Towing a 20 ton boat with a 5 ton boat in 20 knots wind at sea would rip the deck fittings out.

But a calm day in a flat bay on a reach to anchor maybe fine.

A dinghy with a 5HP outboard pushing from the hip will manoeuvre a 40 footer no trouble.
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Old 30-06-2015, 19:28   #5
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Re: Procedures for towing a sailboat with a sailboat under sail

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A dinghy with a 5HP outboard pushing from the hip will manoeuvre a 40 footer no trouble.
That depends on where you are. Inside something with no sea running it will. In the open ocean with even the smallest of sea it has no chance at all. The bow will come around despite your best efforts. Your only chance would be downwind and with the swell.
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Old 30-06-2015, 19:44   #6
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Re: Procedures for towing a sailboat with a sailboat under sail

Yes, I agree that at sea a different matter.
we need more detail from the original poster
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Old 30-06-2015, 20:54   #7
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Re: Procedures for towing a sailboat with a sailboat under sail

On a reach or run would certainly be doable, but towing a similar sized boat to weather would be very slow .

I read once of someone doing this. The captain of a power boat jokes "I've never seen a sailboat being pull started before!"
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Old 30-06-2015, 21:17   #8
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Re: Procedures for towing a sailboat with a sailboat under sail

The towed boat needs to tie on the LONG, nylon tow line on something ultra strong - ie the mast at cabin level, the anchor windlass or both cockpit sheet winches (or a combination of these things). You'll need padding and other securing lines to hold the tow line in place.

Hopefully there is a bow roller on the towed boat so you can run the tow line through it. Again. LOTS of padding and wrap / tie the line in place so it doesn't jump off the bow roller.

On the boat doing the towing, I'd use at least a pair of the sheet winches in the cockpit. You can make up a bridle to attach the tow line to the 2 (or more) sheet winches.

I had a case where a IOR 2-tonner towed a Niagara 36 500-miles up the Baja coast, tacking as they went. You need to stay in VHF radio contact with each other 24-hours a day so you can work / plan together.

Both boats need to check frequently for chafe and that the tow line is staying in place.

Once you get to a harbor you can figure out something to get it docked, or just let them anchor the boat.
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Old 30-06-2015, 21:22   #9
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Re: Procedures for towing a sailboat with a sailboat under sail

MarkJ and Guy are correct, can only be done downwind or on a beam reach with a lot of leeway and only if the towing yacht is not much smaller than the towed boat. When towing expect your boat speed less than half of your normal speed.

I have done that exercise a couple of times, once to try is out and the second time, because I was sailing without an engine (both I was in my 34 ft yacht that did the towing of a 32 ft powerboat).

I have towed (as a sea rescue skipper with 2x400 Hp as my disposal) hundreds boats and yachts, and the cleats on the smallest boat are usually the weakest point, and could be ripped out.

And as it has been said before, make the towline as long as possible and practical, firstly to introduce some stretch/elasticity (mitigating shockloads) and secondly when going downwind or/and down the waves you don't want the towed vessel too close to you or trying to overtake you. Keep at least one wave length between you and the towed vessel.
Coming into an anchorage or marina, tow rope needs be shortened and better still, disabled vessel to be lashed alongside, sailing is out of the question in confined spaces. As has been mentioned before, most yachts can be manouvred with the help of a dinghy and outboard.
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Old 30-06-2015, 22:35   #10
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Re: Procedures for towing a sailboat with a sailboat under sail

Sailboats make really poor tow vehicles. They need water moving past the keel, and unless the towed boat is much smaller than the towing boat, they can't get moving and then get blown sideways. I suppose you could tow downwind, but if you're going to do that, you might as well let the towed boat drift down wind on its own. If you want to tow, you'll need to use your engine.
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Old 01-07-2015, 05:00   #11
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Re: Procedures for towing a sailboat with a sailboat under sail

We definitely need more info from the OP. That being said, only tie it off to the mast if there is somewhere to fairlead it through to the how, other wise she's going to tow funny or possibly get you in irons (I would expect the tow to veer wildly with that kind of lead until it gets so far off to one side that it starts to list).

Nylon should be part of the towing gear but not the entire length. It's too elastic and if it fails it can easily lead to a severe injury or damage. Something with less stretch is preferred but you can make a bridal setup out of nylon or a "stretcher" to absorb any shock from towing. Try and use a line that floats, that'll keep it visible while towing, out of anyone's prop and off the bottom when it's time to break tow.
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Old 01-07-2015, 05:19   #12
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Re: Procedures for towing a sailboat with a sailboat under sail

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, MissedMyChance.
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Old 01-07-2015, 05:52   #13
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Re: Procedures for towing a sailboat with a sailboat under sail

It is difficult but has been done for thousands of years . We towed from West End GBI to Port Canaveral . The thing to remember is that the boat in front will have NO steering until water flows past its rudder , you must have forward motion . Also the helmsperson on the rear boat will have most of the control of the front boat . The rear boat can turn sharply to any direction and drag the stern of the front boats in the opposite direction . We took turns steering the caravan by allowing the rear helm to steer . We have done this twice , once from Roadtown to STT.
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Old 01-07-2015, 06:47   #14
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Re: Procedures for towing a sailboat with a sailboat under sail

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Originally Posted by Perstarebob View Post
It is difficult but has been done for thousands of years . We towed from West End GBI to Port Canaveral . The thing to remember is that the boat in front will have NO steering until water flows past its rudder , you must have forward motion . Also the helmsperson on the rear boat will have most of the control of the front boat . The rear boat can turn sharply to any direction and drag the stern of the front boats in the opposite direction . We took turns steering the caravan by allowing the rear helm to steer . We have done this twice , once from Roadtown to STT.
As a busy 13 year assistance tower this is definitely the most important piece of advice so far.

Even pulling with a high horsepower towboat with prop wash over the rudder, a sail boat yanking back and forth is a real issue so they can definitely help steer once moving.

Chafe is a big issue...more than a few hours and keep a watchful eye.

Sailboats really want to sail in more than a few knots of wind, higher currents can either help or REALLY hurt, especially if the towed boat is much heavier. They can sail right past and spin you around making you helpless. Be Real careful in congested waters.
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Old 01-07-2015, 07:02   #15
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Re: Procedures for towing a sailboat with a sailboat under sail

It would be nice to know if the tow will be manned or if it's a dead boat.
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