How To Tow A Dinghy Behind A Sailboat


Towing a dinghy is not a straightforward task, especially if you are new to sailing. This isn’t as easy as towing a kayak. It involves steps that differ depending on the size and type of both the sailboat and the dinghy. The environmental conditions, including the tide and the wind, are also crucial factors to consider.

Not all dinghies will tow well at sea, whether it has an engine or none. It is prone to flipping, especially if it is lightweight. The secret is to follow the right steps to prevent any serious problem that damages the dinghy.

If you want to learn the fundamentals of how to tow a dinghy, read on and we’ll let you know. We’ll list down the basic things you need to do, as well as the gears you will need to complete this task.

Things Can Go Wrong

Before we start, allow us to point out that a lot of things can go wrong when you tow your dinghy in a sailboat, especially if you are doing it for the first time. Foul lines and hardware damages are common problems. The weather may also fail to cooperate, making it harder and riskier to tow. For your peace of mind, be familiar with the things you need to know about boating safety.

To avoid problems, be familiar with the sailing tips for beginners. Using the sailboat the right way has a huge influence on towing the dinghy properly. Situational awareness is also crucial, making sure that the environmental conditions are suitable for towing.

Step-By-Step Guide on Towing a Dinghy

Now, let us look at the specific steps you need to follow on how to tow a dinghy, making it easy to transport your inflatable boat safely.

  1. Rig a bridle for safely towing the dinghy. On either side of the bow, you will find stainless steel D-rings on your dinghy. Insert the line in both and connect them until you can form a triangle. Choose a towing rope that is strong enough to support the weight of the dinghy on the water, especially if it is made of a hard shell instead of an inflatable body. You can also use boat anchor ropes as long as they are durable to support the weight of the dinghy.
  2. Attach the towline to the bridle. The length of the towline is fixed, which is roughly two to three times the length of the bridle. Use a bowline knot for making the connection to the triangular shape of the bridle.
  3. Now that you are finished with the set-up, another important consideration when towing a dinghy is to ensure the tension of the rope. Knowledge about the common camping knots and hammock knots can be applied even when you are towing a small boat. Follow the proper steps on how to complete the bowline knot. At one end of the rope, you will need to make a fixed loop.
  4. When completing the setup, do not forget to attach a float to the rope, which prevents it from tangling and getting caught up in the propeller. For the best outcomes, it is also recommended that you use polypropylene rope, which has a natural ability to float on water.
  5. Before towing a dinghy, it is also a good practice to remove the outboard engine beforehand, especially if you are unsure of the water conditions. Otherwise, the waves may topple the boat, which can cause significant and costly damage to its engine. Aside from the outboard, make sure to remove other loose items that might be damaged when towing the dinghy.
  6. Now, you are all set and it is time to tow the boat. Nonetheless, it is not as easy as setting sail and hoping that everything goes according to plan. The dinghy needs to be two waves behind your sailboat. The average speed of the boat should be 8 knots. The higher your speed becomes, the farther the dinghy should be away from your boat. Towing at high speed should be avoided. Check your boat speedometer to properly monitor your speed when towing a dinghy.

Tips and Tricks when Towing a Dinghy


To do this properly, take note of the tips we’ll briefly list below:

  • Always bring an additional rope. It is an assurance that you will have a spare rope when things go wrong or when conditions get rough and you need reinforcement for the current set-up.
  • If you have an inflatable dinghy, chaffing is one problem that you might experience. You can use patches from your repair kit to prevent the material from damages. Put the patches just in front of the D-rings, which will minimize the effect of friction on the surface.
  • If you want to tow the dinghy further, do not forget to adjust the length of the painter. This improves recovery from the waves, minimizing the likelihood that it capsizes.
  • If in case the dinghy capsizes while towing, you also need to know the proper steps for its recovery. The first thing you need to do is to slow down the sailboat. Pull the painter forward to the leeward side of the speed boat. Hoist the dinghy once it is accessible and get rid of any water that is trapped. Flip it over and start towing.

An Alternative to Towing

While towing a dinghy is a promising option to get your boat from one point to another, there are situations wherein the water is too rough, and towing is not recommended. If this is the case, an alternative is to just lash the dinghy upside-down. This is the safest way to transport a dinghy. However, the problem is that it requires a lot of effort and can be dangerous.

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In sum, towing a dinghy is a great way to transport your small boat in the water. Provided that the sailboat is large enough and the water conditions are acceptable, no need to be afraid. Just follow the steps and tips mentioned on how to tow a dinghy and you are sure to be able to do it without any serious problem.

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  1. Dinghy Basics,
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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!