Got a tender behind?

Towing an inflatable dinghy is best accomplished with a towing bridle that attaches to the dinghy at two points on either side of the bow. This helps to ensure the dinghy is pulled in a straight line and doesn’t yaw about crazily.

Some inflatable dinghies have towing rings on either side of the bow and, if not, you can buy glue-on rings. If you have any doubts about the integrity of your towing rings, you can run the towing lines from eye-bolts in the transom, along each side, through the bow rings and then connect them to the towing bridle. This puts most of the load on the transom, using the glued-on rings only as guides.

The towline must float or Sod’s law will dictate that it’ll get wrapped round the rudder, propeller or both. So the towing bridle needs to be polypropylene line or it should be buoyed with one or more floats.

In fresh conditions very light inflatable dinghies can become airborne. It’s true that leaving the outboard motor on the dinghy provides useful weight to counteract this tendency, but a better alternative is to partially fill the dinghy with water and keep the outboard safely stored on its pulpit bracket.

I like to use quite a long towline if there’s a following sea, adjusting the length to keep the dinghy one wave behind – I find this minimises jerking on the line and also prevents the dinghy colliding with the stern of the boat. An alternative favoured by some is to pull the dinghy right up to the stern – how successful this is depends to a large extent on the shape of the transom. Another technique, if you have a suitably shaped rear end, is to tow the dinghy backwards by the transom, but the transom must be held up clear of the water or it will try to plough the ocean, unsuccessfully.

In rough conditions there’s no really satisfactory alternative to stowing the dinghy aboard – davits are great if the mothership is big enough to accommodate them, or lashed to the deck, or deflated and stowed in a locker.

In the anchorage the dinghy is prone to nudging the boat annoyingly and is, sad to say, vulnerable to theft. Fastening the dinghy tight to the quarter with bow and stern lines keeps it under control – just make sure you fender it well. As a defence against theft, though, you really need to get the dinghy aboard – or at least hang it, horizontally, clear of the water on a halyard.

Dinghies are an absolutely essential adjunct to the cruising life but they can be a real nuisance – having the right handling system and accessories such as a towing bridle and webbing lifting slings help hugely.