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From an article by:
August 2001

By: Michael A. Smith
Photos: Gary John Norman
      Megayachts are great for lots of things, but fishing ain't one of them. Have you ever tried a tag and release over the side of a 150 footer or followed the line with a yacht almost as long as a liner? It's like trying to corral a squirrel while riding on an elephant. That's why many yacht owners who are also fishaholics never leave home without a boat suitable for serious fishing- even if that means towing one behind their "real" yacht.

Editor's Note:
All of the Towing
Equipment Pictured
in this Article
Manufactured by
Rope, inc.
     Towing a sportfisherman behind a mothership isn't as far-fetched an idea as it might seem to us mortals: In fact, for more than a decade it's been a popular way for high rollers to enjoy both the comforts of a plush cruising yacht and the no-nonsense function of a dedicated fishing machine. When the trend started in the late 1980's, the towed boats were mostly stripped down 30-some-footers, sometimes with outboard power- simple and rugged dayboats that were just a smidgen to big to hoist onboard. today that fishboat in the far end of the hawser is likely to be a bona fide yacht in her own right, a head turner in marinas from Chub Cay to the Kona coast.

     Capt. Rhett Infinger skippers Orion, a 125 foot Feadship whose owner spends about one week per month onboard, fishing "about 99.9 percent" of the time. For the past couple of years, this Feadship towed a 43 Viking for the boss's piscatorial pursuits, but this year she's been replaced by a fish-at-any-cost Buddy davis Express (Orion's Little Dipper), specially modified for life at the end of a hawser. Seven crew members share duties between the two boats, although the Davis has her own skipper, Capt. Rick Myers. For fishing, Myers borrows the mate from the Feadship, apparently a double-threat guy as comfortable wiring a marlin as polishing chrome.

     Towing a 50-footer isn't as straightforward as dragging a RIB or Whaler and requires plenty of up-front engineering, crew skill, and practice. It all starts with the towing gear. While the Viking was modified for towing after construction, the Davis was built from the keel up for that purpose.

     “We reviewed the stresses with [naval architect] Don Blount and put in reinforcement well in excess of [what he recommended],” says Buddy Davis, president of the yard that bears his name. “You take what you think you need and make it twice as strong,” adds Infinger.

Capt. Rick Myers and Capt. Rhett Infinger

Capt. Rick Myers and Capt. Rhett Infinger (in hatch) with towing bridle.
     Since a boat will tow best with the hawser attached low on the stem, rather than on the foredeck, a special towing fitment was built into the Davis 50's chain locker. In the hull around the fitment, Davis craftsmen replaced the coring with double-thick laminate. A Divinycell-cored bulkhead more than three inches thick was glassed-in for even more support. The fitment, a stainless steel fabrication weighing more than 300 pounds, was bolted to this bulkhead. Only the towing ring protrudes from the hull, not all that far above the waterline. It's like the bow eye on a Boston Whaler, but on steroids.

     After consulting several commercial towing companies, Infinger devised a towing rig comprised of two parts for decent weather and three or four parts for indecent. A bridle, made from a doubled- up 300-foot length of 21/2-inchdiameter, 12-strand plaited line, makes fast to the Feadship's port and starboard stern bitts; a heavy-duty shackle is seized midway in the bridle. The plait is made from a polypropylene hybrid and will stretch under strain; "you need some shock absorbing," Infinger explains.

     The towline, which is secured between the bridle and the Davis's bow eye, incidentally, won't stretch at all: It's one-inch-diameter Kevlar and stronger than steel cable. Moreover, because the bow eye is impossible to reach from the deck, the towline lives with one end always shackled to the eye. The standard towing arrangement uses a single 300-foot length of Kevlar towline, but if he's expecting heavy weather, Infinger shackles in a second 300-foot length or even a third.

     All the books on seamanship tell you to vary the length of a towline to match the sea state, to put the tow a couple of wave crests back. This technique is okay for a lightweight RIB, but when you have a 40,000-pound sportfisherman "on the string," you don't want to be playing around with hawser length—you want to get it right the first time, or at least err on the side of too much towline. The Feadship carries no special line-handling gear aft—no VW Beetle-size windlass, no massive bitts, nothing that would clutter the aft deck and ruin aesthetics—so everything has to be done by the seven-person crew. Everyone, even the Feadship's stewardess, pitches in.  More here...


See our page on Mighty Tow, for more information.

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