In our never-ending pursuit of good fishing and fun, we continually add elements to our operation that make things more interesting and offer new opportunities. Towing a skiff behind your sport-fisherman offers a great deal of variety and good times - especially when you have guests to entertain.
Setting up for sage and proper towing takes a bit of preparation and requires equipment that can withstand a great deal of pressure. We set up our 36-foot Yellowfin center console to tow behind Brier Patch, and had a great time doing things that we could never have done on the big boat. The little-boat option really makes a trip, since you can adjust your fishing style to fit the weather and keep your guests engaged - even if you have a cast of thousands on board.
The key to towing is picking a boat that can realistically accomplish what you would like it to do, be it fishing, shuttling guests around, diving or something else. The boat has to be a size that your big boat can tow without strain, and built well enough to withstand the rigors of towing. A lot of boats don't have the overbuilt construction required to withstand the different stresses and forces at work on a boat under tow. Any boat under tow must be able to take a beating for long periods of time when the weather turns rough.
As far as the boat doing the towing, it's obviously important to know what kind of load it can pull. If you tow a 12,000-pound, 30-foot-plus skiff, you need to know that your cleats can handle the strain and that your engines can withstand the additional load. Make sure that your boat can control the tow at all times, and that the tail (the boat being towed) does not wag the dog (the big boat doing the towing).
You don't want the tow boat working so hard that you diminish your range with the additional fuel burn or, even worse, make the engines work harder than they should, breaking down lubricants and wearing internal engine parts. Understanding the relationship between the tow boat and the boat being towed will go a long way toward making it all work properly.
One thing that you absolutely need to have is a good towing eye on the boat being towed. There's no getting around this one - you simply cannot tow a boat from its cleats over long distances; the angle is all wrong for clean and effortless towing. Pulling from the cleats puts downward pressure on the bow and causes the boat to bow steer and plow, making for an unwieldy tow. Few boats come with cleat installations that can handle the pressure over time. Towing from the trailer eye is also not an option, since few come with backing plates installed and the eye will rip out. And again, most trailer eyes are typically installed too high off the water to provide a good tow angle.
Installing a properly made towing eye at, or slightly above, the water line offers the best pulling angle and helps keep the force of the tow line from pulling the bow down and creating more drag. There are no generic towing eyes; you must have one fabricated to fit the shape of your particular boat.