Learning how to attach a tow rope to a boat safely and securely is a skill all ski and wakeboard boat owners must develop and master. Tying a tow rope in the wrong spot increases the risk of boat damage and jacks up the threat to skiers and wakeboarders if it comes undone.
Do not worry if you are clueless about attaching tow rope to boat units because we will guide you every step of the way. Let us start.
Table of Contents
- Step-by-step to Attach a Tow Rope to a Boat
- Tips to Choose the Right Tow Rope
Step-by-step to Attach a Tow Rope to a Boat
Things to prepare
- Marine towing ropes – aim for a six-person floating tow rope with a minimum tow rope length of 50ft (or 15.24m) for optimum tube passenger safety.
- Tow cord connector to connect tube to boat
- Rope harness for added safety by keeping the rope above the water during towing.
Step 1. Choose the most appropriate spot for attaching a tow rope.
Wakeboarding, water skiing, and tube towing are fun aqua sports. However, these activities are also fraught with danger. Falling off balance from the tube, wakeboard, or skis at high speed is like slamming the body against a concrete surface. There is also the risk of propeller-related injuries.
Analyze your boat and look for sturdy sections to hold the tow cord. The spot should be secure and with ample space for tow rope movement.
Some boats are designed with ski eyelets to attach ski rope to boat units. You can thread or insert the tow cord to ski eye (or eyelets) and secure it. Please note this vessel fixture is not ideal for attaching a tow rope for tubing because it is too high.
Alternatively, tying down the tow ropes from their ski eyelet attachments can help make the setup safer. This “modified” boat tow rope attachment distributes pressure evenly behind the tow vessel.
Another possible approach is to install a designated tow bar for optimum safety and security.
Step 2. Select a method for connecting the rope to the tube and the line to the boat.
Instead of relying on old-fashioned knots to secure an inner tube to a boat, many boaters now use “wraps.”
Their reason is understandable. Making a knot to tie the rope to tube units can be challenging to undo (especially for folks unfamiliar with knots) and can increase the risk of tow cord damage.
Although most tubing enthusiasts use wraps to tie a tube to the boat, a slip knot is handy. It is ideal in vessels with single or few attachment points. The best part is a slip knot only gets stronger with pressure.
Executing the slip knot includes the following steps.
- Grab the cord and make a loop, ensuring the short end is nearly parallel to the long strand.
- Move the free end over the doubled (the two parallel) lines and slip it through the resulting loop.
- Turn the free end over the doubled lines twice more, passing through the loop each time.
- Pull the free end to tighten.
You can also choose a bowline, sliding hitch, or two-half hitches knot, as shown below.
Step 3. Attach the tow rope to the tubing.
Get your tow cord connector, tow rope, and tubing. Examine each component for any signs of defect, ensuring none exists.
- Hold the tube’s webbing and insert the loop.
- Grab the quick connect tow cord connector mechanism and insert it through the loop or eye.
- Pull the rope to tighten the tubing knot and secure the setup.
- Connect the tow cord to the connector mechanism, ensuring a secure fit.
Use any of the knots we mentioned in Step 2 if you do not have the connector mechanism.
For the bowline:
- Extend the tow cord and form a loop several inches from the free end.
- Grab the free end and insert it through the hole from the bottom.
- Wrap the free end around the back of the long line and insert it back into the loop.
- Pull the free end to tighten.
For the two-half hitches knot:
- Wrap the tow cord’s free end around the tube webbing.
- Pull the free end over the cord to create a loop and insert the free end through the eye.
- Repeat Step 2 to form the two-half hitches knot.
Step 4. Secure the tow cord to the boat.
One of the most effective ways to secure a tow cord to the boat is to connect it to tow ring at the vessel’s transom. Vessels without tow rings can secure the tow cord at the watercraft’s tow bar. If your boat doesn’t have one, the side cleats will suffice as substitutes.
This method only works if you can guarantee the tube weight will not cause any harm to transom or any other boat section. Check the transom weight capacity and make sure it’s larger than the tub’s total heft.
Another common practice among seasoned tubers is towing tube from transom eye. This method is popular because it is effortless to execute.
Small boats often utilize a tow harness to add booster balls to the cord. These accessories are buoyant, allowing the rope to stay above water or prevent it from submerging. It is a safety mechanism that negates the vessel’s insufficient height for safe towing.
Securing the tow cord to the boat is similar to the actions described in Step 3. You can connect the tow rope using your preferred knot.
Tips to Choose the Right Tow Rope
Choosing the right tow rope is crucial whether you intend to use a pontoon boat, a wakeboarding vessel, or a ski boat in towing. Here are some tips when picking the most appropriate cord to tow.
1. For water skiing and wakeboarding
- You do not need a tow rope with a high breaking point and tensile strength because you will only “pull” one person (i.e., the water skier or the wakeboarder).
- Choose a 55- to 75-foot-long rope to connect to your boat tow rope mount. You can opt for a longer line. However, know that cord pressure and tension increase with every foot increase in the line length.
- Pick Spectra if you are already an advanced water skier or professional wakeboarder. This material is incredibly strong.
An excellent alternative to Spectra is Dyneema. It is ideal for advanced beginner wakeboarders and water skiers in saltwater environments.
For beginners, Poly E will do, as it’s pretty strong yet affordable.
2. For tubing
- The Water Sports Industry Association recommends a 50- to 65-foot-long tow rope for tubing outboard motor activities. Hence, always check the tow cord’s length before buying.
- The ideal rope tensile strength is 1,000 pounds for every healthy grownup in the tube. Hence, if you have five passengers in the tube, the tow cord must have a tensile strength of at least 5,000 pounds.
- Always check the tow rope for signs of sun damage. It should also be free of knots and fraying.
- Tubing ropes should be made of nylon, although polypropylene is ideal as well.
How to pull a tube without a tow bar?
You can hook a tube to your boat’s stern cleat if you do not have a designated tow bar. Alternatively, you can attach AirHead tow harness to boat through the transom’s rear tow eyes.
How to prevent rope drag and water spray when tubing?
Three things can help you prevent water spray and rope drag when tubing.
First, you can hook up a tow rope, as long as it’s the proper one. The Water Sports Industry Association recommends a 50- to 65-foot-long tow cord, no more, no less. The minimum breaking strength should be 2,000 pounds. The rope must also have a high strand count, preferably 16 strands or more.
Second, you can raise the tow point to tow a tube with an outboard motor.
Third, add booster balls to the tow rope’s middle section if you have an inboard motor.
Learning how to attach a tow rope to a boat is as easy as 123 (and 4).
The first two steps are understandable, requiring you to identify the best spot in the boat to tow and choose a connecting mechanism. The succeeding two steps link the three elements in the tubing set-up – the tube, the rope, and the vessel.
Unquestionably, the success of this activity rests on your choice of a tow rope and your ability to follow the guidelines set by the Water Sports Industry Association.
Ten years of enjoying countless trips on boats never made me love them any less! So I am here to put all those experiences into good use for other boaters who want to have a safe and fun trip with their friends and families.