The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Dinghy Tow Rope Q and A


A few years ago I wrapped the dinghy’s painter round the prop while manoeuvring to anchor in a very crowded anchorage. I don’t like towing a dinghy at sea but we had only come round the corner from a lunch spot and I forget to shorten up the line. 

My question is: would we be better off with a floating painter ?

Member, Mark


I didn’t have a good answer, but AAC member Rob did.

And that got me interested in options in North America. Turns out that New England ropes makes a line specific for this use, with a polypropylene core to make it float and nylon sheath for easy handling.

I’m no fan of towing a dinghy, but sometimes it makes sense, so I will try this rope out.

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Arne Mogstad

I use a similar rope (but can’t remember the brand).

I sometimes tow my dinghy for short distances in calm weather.

This kind of rope will make it slightly harder to get it in the prop, but it can still, and will still, get in the prop! I did exactly that a couple months ago. The propeller will quite easily suck the rope under water. To me it was slightly bad timing in a narrow area. Luckily I have a rope cutter, and it went fine, but I would have had to do an emergency anchor drop to avoid hitting anything if the prop hade been disabled (feathering prop).

So my thinking from the incident is:

I keep the painter really short, so even if I forget/don’t have time, the chances of it fouling is small.

Have a rope cutter, and a rope that is so thin/weak, that if (when) it fouls, it will just be cut, and you loose the dinghy (just pick it up later, better than grounding the yacht). Luckily these floating lines are somewhat weak, so they will cut and rip easier than other lines.

I will still continue to tow my dinghy from time to time… But I don’t trust the floating line too much.


Bruce Bayne

We use the very same line you show a picture of as our dinghy tow rope. It’s bright and easy to see Plus it stays on the surface and never sinks down to propeller depth.

Brian Guck

I have used New England floating dinghy painters for years. It worked well towing dinghy at slow sailboat speeds (6kts) and never got wound up in my prop when backing even when I forgot to shorten the painter when coming in to anchor.

This summer however I would my dinghy painter nicely around the prop of our 32′ motor boat when backing down on a mooring in ME. I forgot to shorten the painter and the massive torque of our four blade propellor sucked that floating line under water faster than I could stop the engine.

The floating line is superior to a sinking line even with floats attached.

You still have to shorten up that painter when coming in to anchor, picking up a mooring or tieing to a dock!!!