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Old 14-09-2015, 19:38   #1
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Towing a sailing boat with a sailing boat.

Hi Cruisers,

I've been thinking a bit about the challenges of taking another boat in tow, particularly with a sailing boat as the towing vessel, without using the engine of the towing boat.

I remember reading of one person's attempt to salvage a decent sized abandoned sailing boat by towing it to port. He had all sorts of trouble, from memory the exercise was futile and cost him in damage and fuel. In the end he cast the boat adrift I think.

But I think he might have been solo or short handed and I wonder if things would have been different if there had been someone at the wheel of the towed boat.

I can imagine steering the towing vessel would be very difficult without the engine running, but I wondered if you were to treat the towed boat in much the same way you would use a drag device to steer in the event of a rudder failure if that would overcome some of the difficulty.

So, provided you had adequate crew and the vessels were reasonably similar in size, could it be done? If so what would be the best practice with regard to tow rope length, stretchiness etc. has anyone tried this?

Matt



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Old 14-09-2015, 20:09   #2
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Re: Towing a sailing boat with a sailing boat.

Matt, this is a very interesting question.

I have not done this.

However, I have done significant commercial towing.

I would think (only a guess/opinion) you would want a very long tow.

Catenary would be a must, but not so much as to cause excessive drag.

I'm curious to hear if someone has tried this, if its even feasible to reach the balance.

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Old 14-09-2015, 20:20   #3
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Re: Towing a sailing boat with a sailing boat.

On the Chesapeake, it was a law that oysters had to be dredged under sail on some days of the week (to protect the stock after overfishing). These sailboats (called skipjacks) were purpose-built to pull the high friction dredges - they had short masts to reduce heeling moment, but huge booms to pack on sail area and push the boat and the dredge.
If towing a boat under sail is anything like pulling a dredge, you may want to hope for winds from astern so you can fly your downwind rig. Trying to get force enough upwind may mean carrying too much canvas for conditions in order to make speed.
But I am definitely an armchair sail tower, so I'm just theorizing!


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Old 14-09-2015, 21:01   #4
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Re: Towing a sailing boat with a sailing boat.

I read an article of a tow into Ireland. The towed boat, fin keel, had lost it's steering and the towing boat was a long keel sailboat. The tow was a very difficult one as the towed boat kept heading off in different directions. If the boat you are towing has lost it's rudder you would need to tow warps adding to the drag. Otherwise if you have someone at the helm of the towed boat it shouldn't be difficult at all so long as the tow line is adjusted properly.
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Old 14-09-2015, 21:03   #5
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Re: Towing a sailing boat with a sailing boat.

Discussed here....

Procedures for towing a sailboat with a sailboat under sail
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Old 14-09-2015, 21:11   #6
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Re: Towing a sailing boat with a sailing boat.

Aargh. Stupid search function on the iPhone app. I swear it does not work. Thanks for the link. I was really surprised when I got no search results.


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Old 15-09-2015, 02:23   #7
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Re: Towing a sailing boat with a sailing boat.

Matt,
It can be done. Not easily. Needs long towing line, mainly should be attempted in nowhere other than Dire Straits.

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Old 15-09-2015, 02:50   #8
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Re: Towing a sailing boat with a sailing boat.

OK, so I read up on the other thread, many good ideas generally. Then Snowpetrel posed this point which I'd like to follow up ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Snowpetrel View Post
Have some sort of quick on load release handy at both ends. Eg knife/axe etc for rope. It can be dangerous if you use chain for antichafe at both ends.
I was thinking one of the line hitches that can be reliably released under load at both ends.

Secondly, I wondered if some kind of bridle arrangement from the towing boat, with a block allowing free travel along the bridle would let the towing boat turn more easily. It would have to be a hell of a block, and maybe too many points of failure..?
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Old 15-09-2015, 08:55   #9
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Re: Towing a sailing boat with a sailing boat.

Don't. Very dangerous for both boats.

If you've ever been rescued by the US Coast Guard(and I have), you sill know that they never tow anyone. Its even dangerous for their specially designed boats. They pull up along side, and raft you to thier boat, and then use their big 200 HP engines to move you as one.

If you could raise your board, take down your sails then it might be possible for another boat to tow you like a dinghy, but even that is dangerous. Dinghys can easily overturn in rough seas as most sailors know.
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Old 15-09-2015, 08:59   #10
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Re: Towing a sailing boat with a sailing boat.

I think like the Author that having someone on the vessel under tow to steer will make a huge difference, but I have not done it.

On edit, a following sea, especially a quartering one would make it nearly impossible without someone to steer, and may not be do-able even then.
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Old 15-09-2015, 09:06   #11
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Re: Towing a sailing boat with a sailing boat.

My ASA instructor towed a power boat while under sail with his Hunter 340 from Egmont Key at the mouth of Tampa Bay to Downtown St. Petersburg with no problem. I believe they lashed the helm of the powerboat to keep the boat straight.
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Old 15-09-2015, 09:11   #12
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Re: Towing a sailing boat with a sailing boat.

The larger the towing boat in relation to the towed boat the easier it becomes. Like others have said towing a fin keel is a royal pain without someone steering.
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Old 15-09-2015, 09:11   #13
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pirate Re: Towing a sailing boat with a sailing boat.

The tying up alongside toward the stern method is all well and good in sheltered waters.. but in any seaway its going to rip out the deck cleats and play hell with the hulls..
If the winds ahead.. that's when one uses the engine.. or cast off the tow and heave to till things go favourable.. then pick up and continue..
Salvage is not as easy as folk think.. you gotta work a little and chance a lot..
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Old 15-09-2015, 09:11   #14
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Re: Towing a sailing boat with a sailing boat.

Zeds post made me think about it from a safety perspective, and he's right, there are some unique circumstances that could increase the risk vs towing under power.

You would need to maintain greater speed than the tow to prevent girding.

Imagine if your tow over took you surfing down a wave? Or slingshotted past you in a botched tack. You wouldn't want that tow pulling you over sideways. That could be bad.

I think as long as you did a quick risk hazard analysis before embarking on the tow and you were able to find adequate controls for each identified risk it could probably be done safely.

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Old 15-09-2015, 09:18   #15
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pirate Re: Towing a sailing boat with a sailing boat.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FamilyVan View Post
Zeds post made me think about it from a safety perspective, and he's right, there are some unique circumstances that could increase the risk vs towing under power.

You would need to maintain greater speed than the tow to prevent girding.

Imagine if your tow over took you surfing down a wave?
You rig her like a drogue.. at least 2 waves behind.. 3 is better..

Or slingshotted past you in a botched tack. You wouldn't want that tow pulling you over sideways. That could be bad.
Slow gybe.. even with a helmsman..

I think as long as you did a quick risk hazard analysis before embarking on the tow and you were able to find adequate controls for each identified risk it could probably be done safely.

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But then again..
I could be completely wrong.. but.. I get by..
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