Towlines are one of the most important pieces of kit when leading and coaching on the sea. I use a waist mounted line which gives me the flexibility to pass it on to other group members and keep me ‘out of the system’. As I frequently paddle different kayaks it is a system I can take from boat to boat too.
There are an increasing number of waist mounted sea kayak towlines available now, and the one I use is the Peak UK 15m line. One reason I like it is because of the large size of the bag and the opening, which makes re-packing in rough conditions so much easier. However, as with every line I’ve tried, there are a number of adaptions I make to an off-the-shelf line to make it even better for me.
The new line comes like this straight out of the packaging-Opening the bag reveals a stainless steel clip, and a float-Pulling the line out further reveals an extra clip which is used to capture a bight of line to secure a daisy chained section. The idea of this is so the length of the tow can be changed to make it shorter than the full 15m of line held in the bag.There’s also a short length of bungee on the rope where it’s tied into the bag, to provide some shock absorption. The bag itself also has a number of plastic D-rings on it, both inside the bag-…and outside-
Adapting the Towline
So now to turn an already well designed towline into an even better piece of kit! One of the first things I do is strip the line down, removing the daisy chain clip, the float and attaching the main clip to the line by stitching and whipping the line-One reason for this is to make the line as ‘clean’ as possible (ie no knots or snagging hazards). I find that having a large float near the clip, and a bulky knot can prevent the line running under decklines efficiently and gets in the way when setting up some rafted tows and releasing the tow.
The next step is to saw a cut through each of the plastic D-rings-This means that I now have attachment points to house the clip when not in use. However, when I need quick access to the clip, a sharp tug pulls it through the split D-ring without having to fiddle around and unclip it.I also have a similar split ring on the front shoulder strap of my buoyancy aid. If I’ve used the towline and think I might need it again quickly, I’ll often coil it into my hand then stuff it down the front of my buoyancy aid with the clip attached to this split D-ring. Again, a sharp tug releases the clip and the line can be quickly deployed.
With the daisy chaining removed, I need to have a way to set up a short tow quickly. To do this, I slide a metal D-ring onto the belt.This captive ring can be used to set up a tow half the length of the tow rope. To do this, I pass the clip through the decklines of the boat to be towed and clip it onto the metal D-ring.And that’s it – I now have a clean line that’s easy to manage, quick to deploy, adjustable and ready to go! Make sure you start out with a great towline that’s well made and designed and it doesn’t take long to make the adaptions needed to give even more flexibility in use.