The club I used to paddle with required that we carry a towrope.
Before purchasing a towrope I obviously looked at what others were using.
It appeared that just about all the systems that I could find were the type that mounted on the kayak's deck and the tow ropes that attach to the body seem more popular for shorter tows (whitewater).
Here in Queensland a tow most times will be required when a fellow paddler's gear malfunctions (rudder failure), the kayaker is seasick (in heavy swell) or injured and occasionally too tired to keep up/continue to destination.
I did not like the look of the tow rope attached to the body: while jerking around the waist of the tower, in my opinion, it tires the paddler too much (and is dangerous in heavy seas).
I looked at what towing system was common with expedition paddlers in Great Britain and I often saw a towrope stashed away in a bag, secured on the deck of the kayak, usually behind the cockpit.
The commercially available (to me) towropes at the time were usually of poor quality and too bulky and there was not much thought given to those systems.
I believed that I could improve on those designs and come up with a better system myself: my first towrope system mimicked the British set up.
I found however that the deployment and retrieval of the towrope behhind my back was cumbersome to me (I am not very "bendy").
I thought that the same towrope could be attached in front of the cockpit where I could easily reach it without having to contort myself.
towrope system securely attached to the front deck of SeaBird Northsea.
The front of the bag has a little loop of Velcro® to keep the bag in place when deploying the tow line.
Velcro® that loops around a bungee cord, securing the bag
The remaining problems were:
1) quick release in case of trouble and
2) the towrope staying clear of paddling radius.
I solved the first with a different approach than the usual cam cleat and I use a quick release shackle.
quick release shackle attached to front deck lines
2) to maintain clearance off the towrope when deployed, the line is routed through a loop next to the cockpit and prevents the towrope interfering with my paddling (and getting tangled).
Dyneema® loop next to my cockpit
The towline bag: custom sewn heavy duty nylon (Cordura®) with reflective stripe.
The cover flap is looped around a second bungee when on deck and Velcroed down to itself to keep it secure.I used a towline that would float, be strong but still compact: 2mm Ø Dyneema® is the perfect line. At a braking strength of more than 650 Kg I think there is more than sufficient strength (I have used lighter lines too and they seem to work as well).
I packs down way smaller than the typical polyester water-skiing tow-rope and it's easier for tying knots around the karabiners.
15 meters of 2mm Dyneema® core lineThe towing karabiner is a stainless steel one that has a little float attached to keep it from sinking if dropped in the water.
karabiner with float. Tow line is chained for easy deployment without entanglement.
I find nothing worse than passing the clip-on karabiner to somebody to see it drop and then have to pull-in all the line again to pick it up.
The Dyneema® line is bright orange for visibility.
The anchor point is not my deck’s bungee since I have seen some fail but my perimeter line deck fitting (in front of the cockpit).
The quick release shackle has a little toggle for emergency release, in case the towed kayak is putting myself in danger I can quickly just pull the toggle to release the line, even under load.
safety quick release in yellow
The towline has been tested in many towing situations and so far has worked great.
A couple of highly qualified sea kayak instructors have endorsed the system and asked me if I could manufacture the system for them.
For a commercially available product the closest one is the towrope from Valley (just a bit thicker line without the quick release shackle).
Needless to say that a rudderless boat works so much better for towing since there is no danger of the line catching on the rudder behind you.
I know that are countless arguments and counterarguments for towlines that are attached to the kayak versus the ones to the body.
This system of mine is working great for my paddling environment (quick rescues from turbulent waters around cliffs don’t apply) but I would not mind hearing from my readers if they see faults in this design.