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Tenders are indispensable to boaters once they get to an anchorage or mooring. But they can also be bothersome while under way if you don’t have a davit system and you tow the tender behind your boat. Not to worry! Here are our tips for safely tying off your tender.

1. First, you need the right equipment. Make sure you have a long length of braided nylon line; this is the preferred line for towing because it has some stretch and will act as a “shock absorber” between the two vessels. It’s also very helpful if your tender has a reinforced tow eye or a bow cleat to which you can secure the line.

2. Next, take any loose articles out of your tender — oars, fishing gear, life preservers, seat cushions — and remove the outboard motor. These articles can come loose during transit and end up in the drink.

3. The most common method for towing a tender is to use a bridle. A bridle is a separate piece of nylon line that’s attached to both of the rear cleats of the towing boat. Leave enough slack so that the bridle becomes a “V” shape when the tow line is attached to its center. Make sure to attach your tow line to the bridle with a loop, or use a “D” ring, so that it can shift as the towing boat changes heading.

4. The opposite end of the line should be secured to the tow eye or bow cleat(s) of your tender. Run the line so that it comes directly off the craft’s bow. The tender should be towed a short distance from your boat. If you’re inland or entering a harbor, keep the line short so it won’t obstruct traffic. On the other hand, if you’re on open water, some extra distance is preferable as it will reduce tension on the line and splashes from choppy waters.

5. Tying buoys to the tow line will prevent it from sinking into the water and possibly fouling on your props or other debris, and will also help make it more visible to other boaters. The number of buoys needed will depend on the length of the line and size of the flotation devices, so test out your rig before you tow, tow, tow your boat.

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7 Responses to Towing a Tender

  1. Greg says:

    I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so we can get out on the water again. We have a new sailboat and have to see what the insurance and registration requirements are.

  2. Vince says:

    Very good article for warmer weather.

    Any advice for towing an ice shanty ?


  3. James L Owens says:

    Polypropylene line floats without bouys and will stay on top of the water if you back down. Bad news is after a year or two of sun damage it is weak.

  4. Brian Hess says:

    I think it is best to have a rubber inflatable with a soft bottom with boards that fit inside it when inflated. An 8-9 foot Zodiac or Achilles are stable enough to stand in when properly inflated and maintained. They are lightweight and since I’m always in the Sound when sailing, I don’t tow the boat really far behind me.
    Out at sea, they can be inflated quickly on deck if you have crew on board, and can be put together quickly on approach to your anchorage. My Achilles 9′ folds up small enough to fit inside my lifeboat locker on my Nic 33. So on the longer trips, you don’t even have to have it towed behind you.

    It’s a really good idea to have a boarding ladder and the right kind of cleats on deck so when you bring the dingy alongside the vessel, you have the stability and ease of getting in and out of it. If you want a rigid style dingy, a Livingston 8-10 footer is awesome and you can stand up in them.

  5. Buck Zbuchanan says:

    Anyone have pictures of tender or dinghy attached by an elevated “stiff arm” system to keep it close to stern but not allowing to interfere with diesel IO unit?
    My vessels is a catamaran with 14 Boston Whaler Rage jet drive

  6. William Gallagher says:

    In open water it is very important to have your boat and tender in sync. For example, your boat and tender must be heading into the wave at the same time. You do not want your boat heading into a wave while the tender is surfing down a wave. Adjusting the bridle from time to time.
    You should have a lookout to prevent any problems.

  7. Jim Vineyard says:

    Nice article. Brief and to the point.

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