When I was preparing to go out to Sea Kayak Georgia a few years ago to do some training before my Instructor Development Workshop, I needed a short tow setup. So I went out and bought a good-looking one for about $40.
During the second day of training, Ronnie Kemp and I were working on rescues. I was required to quickly release my tow belt and attached short tow in surf. The brand new short tow slid off the belt and sank.
Ronnie later showed me a type of short tow that can be made for a fraction of the cost of a commercial system. The parts are available at many outdoor sporting goods stores (or online--I've placed links below). The set-up connects to the deck lines in front of the paddler, where it's easy to reach, and uses an ingenious quick-release highwayman’s hitch, which allows it to be disconnected from the boat easily and quickly (essential for any tow system).
This is one of the first pieces of gear Sharon and I have made for ourselves; we find that the more we create and repair our own gear, the better we understand it and can make it suit our needs and the conditions we paddle in.
So here is the short tow system we use and how we put it together. Make sure you have the training to use it appropriately, and let us know what you think or what modifications you make.
Approximately 5 feet of 6 mm. braided nylon line ($2)
11 cm. Petzl runner ($4)
Petzl spirit straight gate carabiner ($9)
Or Stohlquist paddle biner ($20)
Rope end stopper with 1/4" hole ($4 a pack)
First, seal the ends of the rope (if you had to cut it) using a flame:
Next tie a figure-of-eight to connect the rope to the runner:
Figure-of-eight follow-through connecting the rope to the runner. For instructions on this knot, click here .Now connect the runner to the carabiner.
The runner prevents the rope from slipping off the carabiner.
Your short tow is complete! Now it's time to attach it to your deck lines. Here is one way to use a highwayman's hitch to connect it. This is, essentially a series of slip knots, but they need to be done correctly in order to work properly.
(You can also check out this site for an excellent video on tying a highwayman's hitch .)
It's really strong. It can hold a lot of weight on the carabiner end:
And it can be released quickly and easily under tension by pulling on the ball end: