- —John Tiger

It’s a scene many boaters have encountere­d: You’re enjoying a day on the water when you come upon a boater in distress who signals they need a tow. Can and should you tow them in? What about the safety of both boats? Is there potential liability involved? Should you be compensate­d for the tow? Take a look at the do’s and don’ts of on-water towing.

1. You’re out for the day on your 16-foot centercons­ole powered with a 75 hp outboard. Late in the afternoon, a boater in distress flags you down and asks for a tow in. The nearest marina is about 3 miles away. His boat is a 30-foot cruiser. While you have a decent set of dock lines and a watersport­s towline, you’re not really equipped. What’s your move?

A. Stay with him and radio a tow service. As a concerned boater, wait with him until it arrives.

B. Tie your dock lines and watersport­s towline together and tow him in. C. Tow him in but charge $100 for each hour it takes.

D. None of the above

2. It seems you’re frequently asked to tow a stranded boater in—three times in the past season alone. Being a courteous boater, you’re thinking of investing in a “real” towline to be better equipped the next time you’re asked. What else should you be checking on or buying?

A. A bridle to better distribute the load of the towed vessel and enable it to track better behind your boat.

B. Check the transom eyes for rust and degradatio­n, and the area of the transom where they’re mounted; you might even consider beefing up these areas.

C. Purchase extra safety items such as flares and other signaling devices. D. Ensure that your insurance policy will cover you should you tow another craft.

E. All of the above

3. You’re checking on buying a bridle and towline to aid in towing should the need arise. What are some things to consider?

A. The bridle should be about four times the beam of your boat, or twice the beam on each side of the centerline.

B. The amount of towline between the two boats should be between 8 to 10 boatlength­s; typically, you’ll need about 200 feet. C. The line should weigh as little as possible, so buy the thinnest you can find. D. A and B

E. None of the above

4. You and a boating buddy are discussing the practicali­ty of towing another vessel in versus radioing for help from a commercial service such as TowBoatUS or Sea Tow. Your buddy advocates for the latter, citing your inexperien­ce in these matters. The good Samaritan in you will always try to tow in a vessel in distress. Who’s right? A. It’s super easy to tow in another boat, and nothing extreme ever really happens. Tow them in.

B. Tow them in, but only if they buy you drinks at the bar afterward.

C. While it’s tempting to provide a tow, if you’re not versed in vessel towing and there’s a profession­al tow service available, your buddy’s right. Leave it to the pros, but do everything you can to help until they arrive. D. None of the above

5. You’re concerned about potential liability if asked to provide a tow. What might you consider?

A. If you are found to have acted as any prudent person would have, the potential for liability is low. If you don’t act recklessly, you’ll likely be shielded from liability. B. If lives are at risk, you are obligated to make a rescue effort.

C. If the boat in distress is in danger of damage, but you’ve made sure the human lives are safe, you likely won’t be held liable.

D. All of the above are true. E. None of the above are true.

6. You’re towing a boat that ran out of fuel. You’ve been towing for a mile or so, but there’s still a long way back to shore. Your boat has ample power to tow the distressed vessel on plane. Should you throttle up or just suck it up and keep a steady pace?

A. Make sure all the passengers are transferre­d to your boat, then hammer down.

B. It’s never a good idea to tow a boat on plane; just keep a steady pull at a high idle speed, but off plane.

C. If the water gets rough, hit the gas to avoid getting passengers seasick. D. None of the above

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