Towing a fishing boat behind cruiser....

Discussion in 'Boats, Motors, Trailers and Towing Rigs Forum' started by Andrew P, Dec 3, 2019.

  1. Andrew P

    Andrew P Well-Known Member

    Hey Folks,

    We just added a 1983 Island Gypsy 32 displacement (15000lb) trawler to the family fleet and I'm hoping that it can tow my fishing boat (Dawn Patrol, 18.5' Liquid Metal hard top, 3800lb loaded) along on the adventures. It cruiser at a very relaxed 7kn with a 120hp ford lehman diesel. The plan would be to work our way up the inside waters from Victoria to the Broughtons and back over the spring/summer in stages and have the Dawn Patrol to rip to and from the cruiser and Vic. Leg one would be Vic to Pender Harbour at Easter where the boat can live on my folks dock until we hit the next leg up the coast.

    Any advise on towing rigs, safety...feasability, etc would be appreciated. Doable? Crazy?

    Thanks in Advance,


    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
    Stizzla, trophywife, Oly1 and 2 others like this.
  2. Rain City

    Rain City Crew Member

    Awesome! Can't wait to follow the trip :). You kind of have to post it now.
    Wild Bill likes this.
  3. ab1752

    ab1752 Well-Known Member

    Sweet rigs! So in my experience towing pretty much sucks unless its a sportyack. If we were out in the Straits, sure fine, but even on approach to Secret Cove, for example, someone would hop off and run the small boat into the harbor. You are pretty much down to sailboat rules for narrows as well, even more so if you're dragging 3,800 lbs. I think you will be fine but there will be times when the tow boat will be cut loose and run into port, even if you lash it hard to the main rig docking is going to be an epic adventure.
    G-Auto likes this.
  4. tyeeking

    tyeeking Active Member

    First off, you're going to have a blast. It's been a dream of mine to do something similar. I hope that you will give us regular reports on your adventure.

    I saw a couple doing something similar at Roche Harbor and they had a pretty clever setup. When in open water with modest current/wind they would long line the fishing boat off the stern adjusting the length of the towline for optimal ride based on condition. They used a floating line. When conditions got tighter such as in a harbor they had a hard tow point/hitch off the stern that connected to a bracket on the fishing boat essentially locking the two boats together as one unit. Think of how big RV's tow their small run around car on the highway. It was in impressive set up.
    ericl likes this.
  5. bryce

    bryce Active Member

    Do some training trips close to home with a couple extra experienced hands on deck
    Watch your reverse and how quick you slam on the brakes
    How far up the coast are you planning on coming
  6. Andrew P

    Andrew P Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the tips so far guys!

    @tyeeking I've been reading about the floating line combined with a good harness with two connections for the boat being towed. Sounds like they had it dialed!
    @bryce that's the plan to dial in the set up close to home before heading off at Easter. We hope to make it as far as Echo Bay, a family favorite, but perhaps my folks will join in and help go further up. In that case the smaller boat wouldn't be towed the whole time and would be a means to get home to work and back to play (drive up island and launch). When we are playing, the house is rented on

    bryce, ab1752 and Rain City like this.
  7. mayday

    mayday Active Member

    Something not mentioned - doublecheck the cleats on the tow vessel - ALOT of manufactures were pretty chintzy with using proper backing plates to cleats - and shock loading with that size of "dingy" in even a moderate sea state can be massive! Same goes with the size of the tow rope - we cruise the coast extensively during the summers, and you'd be surprised how often we hear calls to the CG of "uhhm, our tender has gone missing".
    G-Auto and Dogbreath like this.
  8. casper5280

    casper5280 Well-Known Member

    Some good tips in this video
  9. Fixit

    Fixit Well-Known Member

    towed my 20 ft wellcraft behinds my dads 65 ft symbol this summer in desolation. i think it was 3/4" yellow/red trace poly floating line we used. towed it from 6-11kn no problem. id hop in when it was time to drop anchor in a bay then tie up beside
  10. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    Good topic, Andrew. I've towed alot of boats over alot of years over alot of different water/weather conditions.

    As others mentioned - your tow bits/bridles are very important. The standard cleat might be enough - if it is appropriated bolted and reinforced. Otherwise - you may need to find another strong point - on both boats. You will need to make-up a bridle for the tow boat - at least - and maybe the towed boat as well - dependent upon where you tow from. The lug on the bow that you hook the trailer winch strap is a good one to tow from - if it is strong enough. The boat tows well from that point. Maybe a short detachable bridle off that point might make your life easier. Towing off the top of the bow can sometimes push your bow down onto the waves and cause the towed boat to wander around - esp. in rough water.

    The reason - as I am sure you already know - for the bridle @ the tow boat end - is so you can tow strait and at speed and maneuver easily. It doesn't have to be anything particularly "special" wrt the bridle and tow rope. However whatever knots you tie on the bridle and tow rope connections will be under considerable pressure for some time. So use the appropriate knots - if you ever wish to untie the ropes again.

    Floating ropes are easier since sinking ropes and bridles can get caught on your props if you aren't careful when pulling in and putting out the tow - but poly is tougher to deal with verses other materials. I think you will find 1/2" way too small for a tow rope. 3/4" or maybe 5/8" might work. I like about 50' of tow rope - which will be helpful if you are towing in the surge of offshore swell - it's like a shock absorber.

    If there are logs and debris around - lift the legs on your towed boat. Helps with speed and drag, as well. You should be able to tow @ 12knots, minimum. maybe 20 if you are lucky.

    nice set-up you have w the 2 boats!
    wishiniwasfishin1 likes this.
  11. Cuba Libre

    Cuba Libre Well-Known Member

    My neighbour has a 40ft trawler type boat-- 9knts max. he tows a Alumaweld Stryker 17ft and never has any problem... Just pay attention to the other tips listed above.
  12. Andrew;
    I have been towing a small boat up and down the inside passage for the past 5 years. First few years with a 19.5 aluminum boat and now with a 15 foot Arima.

    I use a 100' length of Amsteel line for the main tow line as it will float and is very strong. Only problem with it is it has no stretch at all. So I use some 3 strand nylon at both ends of the line to absorb shock. Both the nylon and the Amsteel can be spliced so no knots needed. I come off from both sides of the big boat with about 10 feet of nylon, then both are attached to the Amsteel. Then back to the small boat where there is about 6' of nylon line attached to the eye that is used for pulling the boat onto a trailer. My biggest concern has always been a large following sea. The small boat can turn sideways then jerked back abruptly. That could break the tow eye. Also, be aware the nylon line does not float. I tow with the engine tilted up, prop out of the water.

    Plan on tying it up along side of you when going into port and while anchored out. I leave mooring lines, which are set to the correct length, attached to the small boat all the time so I don't need the screw with them. It looks like your boat is a single engine so not sure how that is going to effect your maneuvering. Mine is a twin engine so I don't notice it's even there.

    It's great having the small boat for not only fishing, crabbing, shrimping, but also I can stay anchored up in a small bay and run to "town" for supplies, empty garbage, or do the laundry.
  13. Andrew P

    Andrew P Well-Known Member

    Again thanks for all the great tips guys! I went and did some tinkering on the new-to-us boat. There is a fresh section of floating tow rope but only 50’ long, but I’m sure I can work it into the setup. I guess I’ve never actually looked at the thickness rating on ropes...this stuff says 1/2” on label but it’s clearly 3/4” thick. Is the thickness rating for when stretched? I’m going to chat with the guys at Trotac and make sure whatever I set up is strong enough. The last thing we need is losing the “dinghy” that’s worth close to double the main boat! 0EDDAE0B-074C-44A9-AB9E-F29695F399B9.jpeg
  14. Goathorns

    Goathorns Active Member

    You could go to Silva Bay, in early May for a test run. You'll have narrow entrance and exits to navigate, practice anchoring, you might drag? traps for Prawns and salmon have started migrating past.
    Then go to Port McNeill in mid June. If you go to early, it is still like winter up there. Try Flower Island for Halibut.
    When traveling past Cambell River, will you go via Johnstone Straight or the back way, Blind Channel ,etc.?
  15. Rain City

    Rain City Crew Member

    I towed a 28 bayliner with my 24 bayliner around lasqueti and then across to French Creek. Docked, spent the night then around the marina onto a trailer. Trolled plugs off the 28 the whole way as well doing about 8 knotts. No bites. That boat didn't run obviously so considering yours does this seems like a fairly reasonable endeavour as long as you're able to cut her loose and drive in and out of port independently. From the sounds of it though I'm guessing you're more so looking for rope type and length as well as speed recommendations. Wouldn't know the "right" way for either.
  16. CIVANO

    CIVANO Well-Known Member

  17. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    all of the ropes have a SWL (safe working load) as specs of the size and construction of that rope. It is a good idea to nearly match the weight of your towed boat to that SWL. If you can lift it using the rope - it shouldn't part when towing - or worse - pulling your towed boat off the beach sometime (or someone else's boat). You can tow for some time with undersized/underrated ropes - but it will catch up on you - most likely when you least expect or want it to (i.e. bad weather).

    Don't be confused between posted "tensile strength" verses SWL. SWL (sometimes stated as the Normal Working Load or NWL) is the maximum safe force you should use for a piece of lifting equipment or ropes and it is the "tensile strength" divided by a safety factor - often "10" - sometimes as little as "5".

    In other words - the recommended SWL is ~1/10th the tensile strength.

    The reason they do this is to create a "cushion" between what you should safely lift and what the equipment can lift before breaking - when it is in good condition. If it is new - you might be just fine w a 1:5 ratio - or lifting double the weight.

    Over time - the wear and tear on lifting equipment - and sun on ropes - causes things to break much earlier. So - you can get away with more using newer equipment before things break. That's why one replaces slings every so often.

    If that picture is 1/2" Double Braid MFP Braid Floating Safety Rope - the tensile strength is rated as 6,000 pounds - the SWL is 600lbs. You can see why I generally recommend something heavier than 1/2". The 5/8" (same construction) has tensile strength rated @9,500 pounds.

    Also when setting-up bridles - make sure there isn't any rubbing/chaffing going on. Over time - it will part your rope - again - most likely when you least expect or want it to (i.e. bad weather).
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2019
  18. kelly

    kelly Well-Known Member

    Lots of good advice and love the new rig. I towed my 17.5 aluminum behind a 40 ft tollycraft for two months up the coast. A good bridal setup is a must and an integrated bungee is nice to reduce shock load on your cleats.

    Make the connection on the Dawn Patrol with a shackle to the lower bow cleat. It allows the bow to ride high and pull slightly up while being towed. If you connect it to the upper cleats on the bow it can really bury the nose and potentially submarine. Get a thimble eye spliced into your rope to avoid rubbing through.

    When coming into a marina we always pulled the towed boat and rafted it beside the big boat with lots of fenders. Allowed for way more control and if it’s tight just get someone to drive the towed rig separately.

    It sounds obvious but avoid bad weather. We towed through sayward on 30 knot thermals stacked against the tide and at night around cape caution in 3 m swell on an ebb. It was not fun with a smaller boat in tow.
  19. Rockfish

    Rockfish Well-Known Member


    I loved this photo and kept it that someone posted on the forum a while back. Now that is towing on a bad day.
  20. cracked_ribs

    cracked_ribs Well-Known Member

    I'm glad you posted that because I was looking for that photo a couple of weeks back. I thought I had saved it but I couldn't find it anywhere.

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