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Thread: Towing runabout behind the houseboat

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  1. #1
    Senior Member GoVols's Avatar
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    Towing runabout behind the houseboat

    I've been limping by on this issue for a while now and trying different methods to move our runabout along with our houseboat so no one is left out of the fun houseboat cruise while leaving the dock. Each different method has its advantages and its drawbacks as well. For example, tying it to the back of the houseboat with a long tow line clipped into the bow eye is great for towing and not damaging the boat, until you need to stop the boats or maneuver around the dock or anchor point - you can't. I've had my brother-n-law or dock mate hop into the runabout at the beginning of the no wake zone and dock it individually, but this only works if they're around. My wife refuses to try to dock the Regal by herself. :roll:

    So far this season, I have gotten by pretty well with tying the Regal to my port side and hauling it out along the side of the HB, but this has its drawbacks as well. 1 = I've seen a friend's attempt to do this end with him swamping his runabout and nearly sinking it when the bow line came undone and the runabout swung around and got pulled backwards from the stern line. 2 = To tie the Regal to the side, I must 1st back the HB 1/2 way out of the slip. Next, I need to retrieve the Regal and take it to the HB to tie it up. All this is done in reverse order when returning to the dock. Quite a PITA! 3 = Last time we were out, a 40' Sea Ray blew by me on the side of the HB that the Regal was tied to, which made the poor boat bounce against the HB like a ping pong ball. Thankfully, I have huge fenders there and we had no damage. After that last experience, I told the wife we're not doing that anymore.

    I'm finally to the point where I need to spend some more money to get this to where it's maneuverable, cost effective, manageable and safe. So far, I've identified 3 options:
    1. The Boat Hitch (www.theboathitch.com) Im pretty confident this thing would work well, however I got a quote for $850 + S&H. At that price, this thing is practically cost prohibitive. Additionally, I will have to modify the mounting area of the HB to accommodate the mounting bracket. Thatll add more cost to this equation.
    2. The Towdster (www.towdster.com) A relatively simple looking idea here and cost is around $400. I need to install 2 cleats on the swim platform, which should be easy enough. I think Id need 2 of these poles to form a V going from the stern of the HB to the bow eye of the Regal. Similar to The Boat Hitch setup, Id attach long ropes going from the corners of the HB to the stern cleats on the Regal. Im hopeful this would prevent side-to-side movement, making the HB maneuverable. I have a call and an e-mail into this company to confirm this.
    3. The Dock Shock (www.dockcalm.com/products.htm) Similar to the Towdster, but more useful. This is actually meant to be used for mooring the boat, instead of using mooring whips. Id use these in the same fashion as the Towdsters as I described above, except I could also use these to tie the Regal to the side of our houseboat while anchored as well. This would hold the Regal off the side of the HB when the inevitable skier or gawker flies by to take a look at the big houseboat. I called the guy that invented these and he says it should be able to function as a towing device as well, but after looking at it more closely, I have my doubts for towing. I think the ends will break under the strain while towing. At minimum, I think Ill buy one of these to solve my anchoring issue. Im very tired of dropping my activities to run down and push the runabout off the side of the HB when some jerk wakes us.

    Are there any other products you guys have used or seen that I could consider for towing?
    Formerly owned a 16X69' Sailabration

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  2. #2
    Senior Member Endurance's Avatar
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    At the risk of making a bad pun, I'm in the same boat. I have been using a 60' polypropylene rope to tow my MasterCraft behind my houseboat for several years. I have a wishful eye on theboathitch. I am about over my sticker shock and ready to get one. The Dock Shock looks to be okay, but my side towing seems to put a lot of force on things. I have to sometimes tow through boat wakes and storm waves and wouldn't trust the Dock Shock in the open water. The towdster looks to be weak when it comes to backing up. It's one thing to have a jet ski turning sideways when you back, but that could concern me with my 21' boat. Using the towdster with lines going from the stern corners of the ski boat to the stern corners of the houseboat seems like a good idea until I consider the logistics of getting in and out of the ski boat to attach the lines. I am thinking that this is one of those times that paying the price stings once and buying a less-useful product would sting every time I used it.

  3. #3
    Senior Member GoVols's Avatar
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    Well stern lines are necessary for the Boat Hitch to work as well, so don't let that be a deterrent to the Towdster.

    I talked to both company owners about their products. Towdster should allow us to back the boat as well with stern lines in use. Also, instead of forming a V with 2 of them going to the bow eye on my Regal, I would run 1 to each bow cleat. This should help stabilize the runabout when going in reverse or turning.

    The Boathitch company just moved and say they won't produce parts again until Spring. For my setup, it would cost $750 delivered.

    Lots to think about......
    Formerly owned a 16X69' Sailabration

    Bet On Another Thousand

  4. #4
    Senior Member Endurance's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GoVols View Post
    Well stern lines are necessary for the Boat Hitch to work as well, so don't let that be a deterrent to the Towdster.
    I probably didn't explain well my issue with the stern lines. You're exactly right that the stern lines would be helpful or even necessary with either the Boathitch or the Towdster. It would be easy to attach those stern lines with the Boathitch because the bow of your Regal would be right up against the stern of your houseboat. You'd step from one boat to the other to put the lines in place. With the Towdster, your Regal would be back far enough that you couldn't step from boat to boat. My tightrope walking skills wouldn't let me walk down the Towdster lines. Even if I had the ability to jump ten feet from boat to boat, I wouldn't want to be landing on gelcoat after a ten foot jump from houseboat to Regal. You would probably end up trying to place both lines of the Towster and both stern lines in place before you let the Regal go back all the way. Given that both of the Towdster lines look to be about ten feet long and are stiff, handling all four lines could get to be a challenge in all but the calmest of winds.
    Last edited by Endurance; 09-10-2014 at 09:02 AM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Stmbtwle's Avatar
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    I tow my dinghy on a "short" leash from the port stern cleat. The painter is short enough that it can't get in my prop, and has floats on it as well. Generally when maneuvering it flops over on the port side or lays against the stern platform. I can even bow-in to a slip without worrying about the dinghy till after I get the houseboat tied up.

    That's fine for a dinghy... a heavier runabout creates other problems. I ran aground once and my 17' fishing boat punched a hole in the houseboat's transom.
    She's a tired old barge but she's paid for!

  6. #6
    Senior Member easttnboater's Avatar
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    It is an age old problem. I use a 80 ft tow line on my runabout. I tie it on either side or the middle depending on what I want the runabout to do around the dock. Backing down with the Towdster will most likely break it - look at the physics involved. The Boathitch should be OK, but I still don't trust it and at $750 for what is basically about $200 in parts, it is expensive.

    I will just continue to deal with the tow rope.

  7. #7
    Senior Member GoVols's Avatar
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    EastTN - I agree. Looking at the pictures of the BoatHitch, it gives me heartburn to think we're paying $750 for that. If one of you crafty fellers on this forum could make one of those, I'd be willing to pay for it.
    Formerly owned a 16X69' Sailabration

    Bet On Another Thousand

  8. #8
    Senior Member easttnboater's Avatar
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    Welding is the one thing that I really wish I had learned somewhere along the way.

  9. #9
    Senior Member GoVols's Avatar
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    E.TN, if you're interested in getting a BoatHitch, you'll have to wait "until next Spring," according to the company owner. They moved locations and hasn't produced any this year even.

    A friend of mine agreed to fabricate something like this from aluminum for my boat. I don't want to wait until next year to install this. I want to start using it at the start of the season. I'm going to take a bunch of measurements for him this weekend and we'll see how this goes. We haven't talked price yet, but he did say it will cost less than the $750 quote I got from BoatHitch. Really, the most difficult part about this is fabricating the aluminum. The rest of the components can literally be bought from Wal-Mart and bolted on.

    When he's done making mine, I'll see if he'd be interested in producing more for other people.
    Formerly owned a 16X69' Sailabration

    Bet On Another Thousand

  10. #10
    Senior Member easttnboater's Avatar
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    I saw a houseboat up on Cumberland several years ago that actually had a runabout garage. The last 20' or so of it was a drive in garage for your runabout with hydraulics to raise it out of the water.

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