are far more likely to fail than cleats on the
big boat. Hard dinghies should have a thru-bolted eye or similar attachment point, preferably down the stem toward the waterline
so the bow rides high under tow. Inflatables
typically have a pair of structural D-rings
installed port and starboard, aft of the bow,
and near the waterline. The best technique is
to affix a bridle to these two points, then join
the painter to that bridle with a bowline or
carabiner; this way, as the dinghy yaws, the
strain remains fairly even on both attachment
points. Discount chandleries stock premade
bridles that float.
Check your painter for UV degradation and chafe, especially at the knots and
termination points. Keep the motor and
other items out of the dinghy when towing;
together with preventing swamping, this will
mitigate excessive loads. A secondary painter
is cheap insurance.
WE COULD SWAMP THE DINGHY
The best way to keep water out of the dinghy
is to prevent it from yawing from side to side
excessively, and to manage its pitch orienta-
tion underway. The bridle described above
is a good start. Beware of attachment points
that are too high on the hull (near the gun-
wales), which can cause the boat to tow bow-
down. In open water and at cruising speed,
experiment to find the ideal towing distance.
Most folks like to put the dinghy two wave
crests back, with the dinghy on the downhill
side of the second wave for minimal strain.
For more on towing distance, see sidebar.
Inflatable dinghies with a single towing
eye at the bow can be towed using the much
stronger attachment points in the transom.
Domenico Fossati, whose company distrib-
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LONG TOW OR SHORT?
SEARCH THE INTERNET on dinghy towing and you’ll find endless debate about the correct length for the towline because there’s no single answer. The right length depends on conditions, boat speed, and whether you’re sailing or motoring.
When towing behind a sailboat or trawler at speeds of 8 knots or less in calm condi-
tions with waves of less than two feet, keeping the dinghy two waves back is a good
rule of thumb. That should put it in the smooth part of the wake behind the turbulence
from the prop for a trawler, and keep it centered behind the sailboat even if it is heel-
ing. Start with the dinghy there and watch its performance. If waves are slewing it from
one side to the other, you may need to shorten the painter to pull it into the flat part of
the wake. If it is in the turbulence of the prop, you may need to lengthen it. At the right
length, the dinghy will not yaw from side to side but will track straight behind the boat.
Faster powerboats tow at much higher speeds, which requires much longer tow
lines to dampen down the changes in acceleration and to keep the dinghy from col-
liding with the boat when you stop. But towing at 20 knots with the dinghy 100 to 150
feet behind the boat means that it will be exposed to the full force of the waves instead
of riding nicely in the wake, and the strain on fittings, lines, and attachment points will
be much higher. The risk of swamping or capsizing also increases greatly. Based on the
claims we see in our insurance files, we do not recommend towing at high speed.