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Towing a large tender
Tom C
Posted: Thursday, March 31, 2011 3:32 PM
Joined: 01/03/2011
Posts: 19

Dear All, I run a 30m motor yacht, this year the man at the top has decided he wants a 9/10 metre chase boat. However he doesn't want to pay for a crew member to act as a chase boat driver!! Therefore the only option left is to tow the boat around during our charter season this summer. The boat we're to buy is a Goldfish 29, which is a fantastic boat but it is a single engine inboard. Therefore my initial worries are burning the gear box if it is left in neutral whilst towing. But i have also been told that the z drive doesn't like being left in gear, any advice? Also i am concerned about towing in heavy seas, i know American yachts often tow there large sport fishing tenders, and even know of a few who cross the pond towing their chase boat?! The GF29 is being built with a dedicated 3 point tow in the bow, but im at a loss as to what kind of line should be used between the mothership and the tender. Initial thoughts are to have at least 40m of multibraid to allow a good stretch in the tow-rope? Lastly i want to know what most yacht captains do for their towing lights?? Or do you not bother with a black diamond during the day etc....??? Any advice greatly apprieciated.
Posted: Thursday, March 31, 2011 4:34 PM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026

Fit the tender with a tricolour... anchor, strobe, light.. the Agua signal model 40 is often used. Put it on a mast two and a half meters tall for good visibility , include a radar reflector. Go to the home improvement a cheap two function garage door opener ,remote control. Wire the tender accordingly with One function for towed function for strobe light. The Strobe light is critical for heavy weather , operation in areas with substantial shoreline light pollution or lost tender identification, retrieval. Dont tow a boat in neutral...Freewheeling props create drag, waste energy , wear the gearbox and cutlass and pull the prop shaft out of the boat. A marine transmission and its coupling likes to be loaded and rotated in thrust. A simple prop lock is a wooden dowel thru the shaft coupling or rigged as the engineer sees best. If a deckhand jumps into the tender, forgets to unlock the shaft and hits forward , the wooden dowel breaks...not your prop lock mechanism. Towed tenders must have self bailing cockpits...if necessary cut and install a minimum of 6 diameter inches of thru transom cockpit drain. Obviously well speced auto bilge pumps. Obviously a spray hood. Obviously sufficient battery power. Rubberize...fenderize... one side of the tender so it may be brought alongside at sea. A permanent tender length stern line...hung from a stern cleat and led to the bow of the tender that when hauling the tender in...a boathook can grab the stern line , control the stern and nestle the tender alongside Generous use of Solas reflector tape on the tenders sheer line, 360 degree perspective., for spotlight identification. A Solas tape waterline...boottop stripe... is usefull to identify when a towed tender is taking on water.
Capt. George
Posted: Thursday, March 31, 2011 11:07 PM
Joined: 31/01/2009
Posts: 2

I have towed severai different tenders whilst crossing we used PLASMA line. george
Posted: Friday, April 1, 2011 8:40 AM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026

For a tow line you must decide between a floating line or a sinker. A high visibility floater is nice . Once again, SOLAS tape is usefull on a tow line . The typical scenario will have you towing the tender and then for safety or whatever reason you must cast the tender free, circle around and board. The floater is easy to fish out with a boat hook but may get caught in your running gear. A sinker is hard to pick up but is clear of your running gear. Typically a towline is a "made up" line. A long tow line spliced to a ss or "fabric " ring, then a short several meter long floating painter spliced to the ring and fastened to the towed tender. When you retrieve a tender at sea you transfer the tow line onto a stern winch and haul the tender to the stern of the yacht while the yacht is under bare steerage speed . As soon as the SS ring to painter splice is at the transom of the yacht , a second line is shackled to the SS ring, then led to the yachts amidships so that you may winch the tender alongside for boarding. You cant board a towed tender from its bow...Tenders must come along side for boarding. Call New England ropes and they can advise and fabricate.
Posted: Friday, April 1, 2011 8:58 AM
Joined: 22/04/2010
Posts: 45


The comments about different tow lines sound interesting but I would put this to the owner.

What is the tender worth? What is the cost of having some drive it for the summer or even just deliver it for you?

I delivered a few tenders over the years and drove a few more for other boats during the summer. The last one I delivered was the tender to "my little violet beautiful" 9-10m american style brand new engines etc. It was loaded on the ship in Genova and what happened it? It sank a few weeks later while being towed. Last I heard it was on the dock with a load of repair work being done to it again so, what is it worth to the owner to have someone drive it for you? I assure you it isn't worth much sitting on the dock or at the bottom ocean which I know a few are.

Best of luck !

Posted: Friday, April 1, 2011 12:29 PM
Joined: 30/06/2008
Posts: 85

The MCA recommendation is to use a composite tow; veer a small amount of chain from the vessel to be towed, not to exceed the minimum depth of water, then attach a nylon (for strecthability) towline to the anchor crown of the tow and then keep it in step at least 2 wave crests behind you.

When I used to tow a 12m heavy tender (could carry 25 adults with full dive kit), the old captain had always used a floating orange (high vis) poly propelene line which seemed the best. We did 48 weeks charter per year as a big live aboard dive operation so did a lot of towing albeit in fairly sheltered waters of the Bahamas.

Posted: Friday, April 1, 2011 2:58 PM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026

A goldfish 29 is a 150,000 euro 70 knot Rib. Pretty goofy tender. I feel sorry for captains and crew who must deal with owners who buy these things. Good Luck. Hopefully youre just doing the gin palace run from Cannes to St tropez. The shape and layout of that tender makes it very difficult to tow ,handle and board in a seaman like manner.
Posted: Friday, April 1, 2011 8:51 PM
Joined: 17/07/2008
Posts: 26

Tom, I towed a 27' Jupiter behind a 112' Westport for 2 years. I bought a spectra-fiber tow line with nylon from a fabric loop to the aft cleats of the westport. I believe they made it 250'. The company you order it from should want all the peticulars on the tow. What speed and weight of tow. With that they can make it for the best tow. Think about led lights on the tender, they won't were down the battery as fast. This worked for me towing it from Fl to Bahamas many trips and return trip Fl to St. Marteen.
Posted: Friday, April 1, 2011 10:02 PM
Joined: 24/11/2010
Posts: 3

Be sure to contact the company insuring the yacht and tender. Most companies will require a tow bridle be made by a professional rigging shop and they may have limitations on when the vessel may be towed. You may want to tell the boss one of the most common insurance claims is sunk tenders whilst under tow. Call me if I can help....561 262 1605 Spencer Lloyd
Posted: Saturday, April 2, 2011 10:12 AM
Joined: 09/10/2008
Posts: 134

You can get solar powered ARW lights which would be better if you are towing for several days. I towed a 32' Cuddy Intrepid for a couple of years from FLA to the Caribbean. I had several breakages using ropes without enough give and stainless shackles. The tow rig we ended up with was a dbl braid main line in 2 parts, one 150', one 250', we used s/s eyes and 2 x 1" gal test shackles in the middle (we could then use either length or both together depending on the conditions, traffic etc) and the weight would keep the rope in the water as you will see on commercial towing ops to keep the shockloads to a minimum; obviously these lengths will vary depending on the wavelength of your sternwaves; from the stern of the yacht (35m Benetti Classic) we had 2 50' dbl braid lines for a bridle; on the tender we had 2 eyes on the boat, we shackled (gal test shackles again) smaller (3/4"?) nylon lines to each such that they were maybe an inch different lengths (that way one took the initial load until it stretched enough to start loading the second one). To make hooking up easier we ran a line from the head of the leader to the side of the tender so you do not have to lean over the bow to detach the shackles. Clear as mud!! Anyway, we never once parted this tow. Also: floating line (spectra was our first trial) does not float with large shackles on the end of it! You can use a proximity alert like is used with kids at amusement parks to trigger an alarm if the line parts or a tender monitoring system on your chart plotter. And leave the keys in the boat while you are towing it - one less thing to remember in a crisis!
john gaunt
Posted: Saturday, April 2, 2011 1:21 PM
Joined: 05/01/2011
Posts: 3

I wouldn't tow a Goldfish 29 any further than from one bay to the next, providing the weather was good enough to begin with! - It's just not designed for that type of use! Try get your boss to look at an's the only large tender worth towing!

Posted: Saturday, April 2, 2011 4:03 PM
Joined: 02/04/2011
Posts: 4

You will loose this tender in bad weather as it's simply not designed to be towed. Towing vessels fuel consumption will increase and range decrease - on my last trans pond towing experience this was close to 7% for a 5 ton tender. Check your towing bits for strength - get a naval arc to work it out. Fit automatic bilge pumps. Get a specific OK from insurers in writing. Good luck - you will need it.
Tom C
Posted: Monday, April 4, 2011 3:06 PM
Joined: 01/03/2011
Posts: 19

Having spoken directly with the Goldfish shipyard they endure me that they have approx 15 Goldfish 29´s being towed by large yachts. They also ensure me that the towing points are strengthened and come under the warranty of the whole build, therefore should that point fail at least i have some come back with the shipyard. In regards to everyone´s help on rope types and strengths and weaknesses i want to say thankyou for your time. I am still pushing the owner to hire a tender driver, which would eliminate all of my concerns! Well not all of them but some... In regards to the correct towing lights/strobe lighting etc. I will get these retro fitted under the guidance of my MCA surveyor. Thanks to all, and the wishes of ´good luck´i think we all need good luck when this time of year comes around, happy season to all. KR
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