One of the most important skills you’ll have to learn when it comes to kayaking is towing. In the best case scenario, you won’t need kayak towing, but because of the fact that kayaking is done on the water and there is a possibility of something going south, it is good to know what to do and how to perform towing a kayak, just in case you need it.
This article will lead you through the process itself, but you’ll also learn how to recognize when it is needed to tow someone, types of towing, what is a so called “tow belt” and its features, and lastly how to properly use it.
Types Of Towing
Speaking about kayak towing systems, there are a few different ones.
- Deck-mounted towline means exactly what it says – there is a towline mounted on the deck of the kayak. This approach is great when towing someone on a long distance, or when a person has to drag their kayak through the water or to drag it out to the surface from the shoreline or the pvc floating docks.
- PFD-mounted towline means your personal flotation device or a life vest has a towline included in it.
- Tow belt is a belt worn around the waist, and this is probably the best option because it is easy to access, easy to use, it allows the line to be positioned optimally, and the fact that it is centred on your waist provides stability during towing. This will be the towing type we’ll be writing about.
How To Recognize Towing Situation
It is good to learn the reasons in theory, before you find yourself in a situation to react.
- Due to fatigue. Sometimes you’ll run into a kayaking beginner, someone who’s not feeling well and doesn’t have the strength to get to the shore, or simply overestimated their abilities. Anyway, whether it is fatigue or sickness, towing will get them to the safety
- If the water is rough and you see someone struggling to overcome it
- If a kayaker is unable to continue due to an injury
- If the kayak paddle is lost or broken, and they don’t have a spare one within a hand reach
- If a person in a kayak is unconscious
The Tow Belt
If this is going to be the first tow belt you’ll be buying, don’t be surprised because it looks a lot like a fanny pack, and you’ll be wearing it under your PFD. A tow belt should include some additional add-ons:
- A quick-release button, if you have to disconnect the tow rope as soon as possible in case of an emergency
- Quick access opening on the pack
- Towing rope with one end previously attached to the pack
- A carabiner you can use to clip it to the other boat
- A float to prevent sinking of the carabiner (optional)
- A bungee section
Once you buy it, feel free to open it and inspect it. You should learn how it works, because the design could differ from the one you’ve maybe used before, and also make sure the rope is in a good shape.
Step By Step Guide Through A Successful Kayak Towing
Once you’ve spotted someone and you see towing a kayak will help, start by paddling to them. Then do the following:
- Talk to them and explain the procedure, leading them through the process. This is useful for multiple reasons. First, you’ll make sure they know and understand what they have to do. Then, secondly, you’ll know what kind of towing you’ll have to perform. And lastly, you’ll know what is going on. If the problem is the lack of stamina, you could count on some help with paddling, but make sure they match the direction. If there is a skeg, it is recommended to deploy it, and they can help also by using their rudder, if there is one and they know how to use it. If they can paddle, it is good, but make sure to stop them if they start to catch up with you. And if the other kayaker can’t paddle, make them sit upright in their kayak seat and just balance the vessel.
- Take the carabiner end of the rope out of the pack and clip it to the static deck line at the front side of their kayak. If there is no such a thing, feel free to be creative. Avoid stuff like bungee line.
- When secured, start by paddling forward until you feel the tension in the rope. Once you achieve that, paddle at a steady pace. If you change a pace or if you go to fast, the vessel that is being towed may capsize.
- If possible, use the whole length of the rope. It is way simpler and it allows more control, while reducing the pressure.
- Find the nearest exit. Once you reach a desired place, slow down, and slowly pull the other boat to you. Then, when the other person is safe, unhook everything and place it back.
Practice And Learn
The key is to practice. When the conditions allow, go and try it out with your friend. It will be quite a fun experience; you’ll try it out and see how it works in controlled environment, without the rush to do it properly at all the cost. Once you’ve learned how to do it in calm waters, turn to rough water to see how it will look like when the conditions are not so perfect.
This way you’ll be more prepared for the real action, and you’ll have the chance to see how the kayak reacts and behaves when towed, so you’ll be able to see what stroke power will work best for you.
Don’t Overestimate Yourself
When you have to tow someone, it most of the time means that person is in some kind of trouble. To avoid becoming one, when you’re not sure you can pull it off, ask someone to help you do it, don’t try to be the hero. And if you’re not sure how it all works, contact someone with the experience and ask for advice. Then practice until you learn it.
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Towing a kayak is not complicated, but it should be practiced. By learning it, you’ll help yourself feel more secure, and also the other kayakers if they need a hand. It won’t take much of your time and effort, and the final result is most definitely worth it.