Help! Towing On A RIB – Part 1

There’s nothing guaranteed to ruin a great weekend onboard your RIB more than a mechanical breakdown whilst on the water. Thankfully, with modern outboards, this happens less and less, but you still see the odd RIB / sportsboat requiring assistance of some sort during the season.

So, assuming you’ve come across a fellow RIBster in need of a tow back to the marina, what should you do? Well, I guess this depends on whether or not you’re equipped to tow using your RIB. As part of my MCA coding equipment, I carried a towline – made of polypropylene because it floats and will usually stay out of your prop if you have to manoeuvre astern. It is however subject to degradation from UV so make sure it is kept under cover when not being used. Nylon lines are stronger and also more elastic, but this is not necessarily a good thing if the line should break and rebound.

I had around 30m of line for towing, spliced with an eye at one end (around 15cm in diameter) and a bridle made up at the other end for fixing to the U bolts on my Ballistic RIB transom with heavy duty clips. I would have felt comfortable towing a boat of around 40ft / 5 tonnes with my towing hawser in good and flat conditions, less so in inclement weather.

Pass the towline to the other vessel – if possible, come alongside to do this; if the wind or seat state precludes this or a current is causing problems, you may have to be more creative or have a good throw! If the weather is really poor and you elect to try to pass that line anyway, you may want to tie it to lifebuoy and let it float down to them.

Once you’ve managed to get the line to the boat being towed, you must ensure her crew has looped the eye over their foredeck cleats or, in the case of a RIB, over their bow cleat and secured (either to a stanchion post) or to a robust internal fitting such as one inside the anchor or bow locker).

Ensuring their fittings are secure is crucial –  if there is any doubt in your mind about the robustness of the towed boats deck hardware, have their crew loop the tow line through itself to make a running loop, and lead that loop around two foredeck fittings if at all possible.

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