Help! Towing On A RIB – Part 2

Call the towed boat on the VHF or communicate directly with her skipper to tell them to put the outboard or inboard engine(s) in neutral and the steering centred.  On a sports boat or RIB, the helm will have to spend the duration of the tow holding the wheel in position.  You should then instruct the towed boat’s crew to move aft, away from the towline and remain seated. Movement on the towed boat can seriously affect your progress and safety so feel free to give them a re-brief on this if need be.

Put your outboard into gear (at minimum revs) and have one of your crew watch the towline. If it is not a floating line, they will have to hold it out of the water aft to prevent fouling your outboard’s prop.As soon as the towline is under tension, your crewmember should let you know. When you hear this, increase power enough to maintain the tension, otherwise there can be a tendency to “bounce” against the line’s elasticity — and that bouncing can be damaging to your RIB and the boat that you are towing.

Once under tow, get all of your crew to move away from the tow line — no one should ever stand in line with it while it is under a strain, especially if the line is nylon which can stretch up to 25% and store a tremendous amount of energy which it releases when broken.

If there is any significant wave activity, you should try to keep the towed vessel and your RIB” in step.” This will require adjusting the length of the towline and the easiest way to do this from your RIB is to shorten up the line using either a sheepshank hitch or an alternative choice of shortening loop in the line. This knot will weaken the line, but not dangerously so unless you are attempting to tow HMS CORNWALL

Steering your RIB whilst towing is difficult. Depending on the size/number of outboards/power of your RIB and the type of boat you are towing, you may find that you cannot turn in less than a few hundred yards.  You may have to slack off the tow, haul in 10 metres of line, then at minimum speed, make your turn while carefully paying out the towline. You may have to repeat this manoeuvre several times to get going on the required heading.

Once you have the towed boat ready to go into the marina, you will probably have to shorten-up the towline for better control in close quarters. For really precise control you might have to go over to towing “on the hip”, a term used to describe putting the towed boat alongside your RIB and securing the two boats tightly together so that you can proceed closely and safely in close quarters.

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