Where To Attach Tow Ropes To Pontoon Boats

Where To Attach Tow Ropes To Pontoon Boats | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Jacob Collier

February 2, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • The best place to pull an inflatable is from the rear of pontoon boats.
  • Safety rules, including speed, rope, and proper equipment, should always be followed.
  • You need an engine with at least 70 - 90 HP to successfully enjoy tubing.
  • Choosing the right rope is an essential part of the tubing experience.
  • You should only attach a tow rope, be sure the weight being pulled is less than the tensile weight limits of the rope.

The kids decided that you need to take them tubing on the water for a day of fun, but you want to know the best place to tie a tow rope to a pontoon boat.

The best place to attach a tow rope is at the rear end of a pontoon boat’s transom through the towing eyelets or a tow bar specifically designed for towing. Towers, pylons, and railings should not be used due to their potential for injury to the rider or damage to the pontoon.

One of the best ways to improve the fun quotient for your family’s pontoon experience is to go tubing. However, there is more to this excellent activity than just attaching a tow rope to your boat and tying a slip knot. For any type of watersports to be done successfully, a significant amount of care and preparation must be taken to ensure everyone’s safety and to prevent potential damage to your boat. This article will examine where to attach tow ropes to pontoon boats and other factors that need to be considered.


Table of contents

What is the Best Place to Attach Tow Ropes to a Pontoon?

The best place to attach a tow rope securely is in one of two places. You can install a ski tow bar (if your pontoon doesn’t come with one) or use the towing grommets outside the rear decking.

Tubing Can Create Lots of Stress

Towing an inflatable creates significantly more drag and stress on the contact point of the rope to the pontoon. An inner tube has more weight in the water (especially when loaded down with multiple riders). Due to the increased mass and drag (a tube has more surface mass on the water than a ski, for example) and the increased weight, the strain created is significant. This increase in mass and drag means that It takes more energy and a higher speed to pull a tube than other items like a wakeboard.

Railings or Towers Should not be Used to Pull a Tube!

Railings and towers are not the best places to attach a tow rope. Many boats have fiberglass moldings underneath the cleats that can weaken under stress. If the tension of the tow rope is strong enough, the result is a spidering of the fiberglass (small minute cracking) or complete breaking.

At times, the force of the stress weakens to the point of allowing the cleats to become dislodged from the boat. When a cleat becomes unhinged from a pontoon, not only does it damage your boat severely, and it becomes a flying projectile aimed straight for an unsuspecting tuber.

A tower should never be used for towing. The bimini top can buckle from the tension of a ski rope, and the elevated height can lift the tube, making it airborne. On most boats, pylons take up valuable deck space. Many of them cannot handle more pressure than one water skier or a simple line for wakeboarding.

Many pontoons have warnings against attaching tow ropes from boat railings. If a railing is attached to the decking by screws, the strain can cause a base bracket to loosen, creating a safety issue.

Tow Bars Are Built for Tubes.

Tow bars can help reduce the amount of drag and water spray by keeping the rope lower to the water but high enough to stay above it while individuals are riding. A tow bar can ensure that a tow line is securely tied to the strongest part of your pontoon boat.

What if I don’t have a Tow Bar?

If you do not have a dedicated tow bar, you can still pull a boat from the tie-down points located on either side of the outboard motor. Pontoon owners use a y-rope harness attachment and carabiner system (ropes extending from both eyelets, which hook to a central towing rope). This method allows the weight and force to be more evenly distributed, easing the damage that excessive towing can cause.

Towing from eyelets can cause the rope to be in a lower position, which increases drag. Pontoon owners find that attaching a booster ball to the ski rope can aid in keeping things moving efficiently.

What Factors Are Necessary for Pulling a Tube?

Other than finding a good place to attach a tube rope, other factors are involved in safely and successfully using your pontoon to pull a tube.

The Size of The Engine

Not all pontoon boats are ideally suited for towing a rider on an inflatable, primarily because they do not have enough power. While tubing requires less speed than other watersports, a higher hp engine with 70 - 90 horsepower will provide enough thrust to pull tubes.

The Speed of the Boat

The maximum speed you want to run your pontoon is between 15 - 25 mph to ensure a day of family fun. Any higher speed creates dangerous conditions and too much tension that will break lines, damage grommets, or even throw riders off and into the water. (If a rider comes dislodged from the tube, the impact with the water can hurt. Not to mention that being tossed into the water makes many tubers never want to do it again).

In addition, the longer a swimmer is treading in the water, the more vulnerable they are until you can maneuver the pontoon boat back around to pick them up.  If the lake is crowded, other boats may not see them.

Not All Tow Ropes are Made the Same

A rope’s ability to handle a certain amount of pounds is rated by its tensile strength.

No. of Riders Weight Limit Tensile Strength
1 rider 170 lbs or less 1500 lbs.
2 riders 340 lbs or less 2375 lbs
3 riders 510 lbs or less 3350 lbs
4 riders 640 lbs or less 4100 lbs.

The best rope length for towing inflatable tubes is at least 50 feet but not more than 65 feet long. A rope that is shorter than this distance will mean that riders will be in the wake’s spray and probably end up getting soaked. A rope that is longer than 65 feet makes the inflatable subject to whipping, (Whipping is a condition where when the boat turns at 20 mph, the tube and rider are going faster - up to 55 mph. This can lead to difficult situations and put the rider at risk of flipping over).

Find the Right Tube

Inflatables that are durable and have latch-type contact points worth investing in. Often these tubes can seat more than one rider so that multiple family members can experience the thrill of an afternoon in the water.

There are various kinds of styles of inflatables that are made to be pulled behind a boat. Many manufacturers have created durable, safe crafts that can be quickly hooked to a tow rope and then connected to a boat. From single crafts to multiperson riders to banana boats and unique concepts, there are many different dimensions and sizes to choose from. Always be sure that you are not exceeding the manufacturer’s weight limits and that you remember that an inflatable will always take up some deck space.

Where To Attach Tow Ropes To Pontoon Boats
Jacob Collier

Jacob Collier

Born into a family of sailing enthusiasts, words like “ballast” and “jibing” were often a part of dinner conversations. These days Jacob sails a Hallberg-Rassy 44, having covered almost 6000 NM. While he’s made several voyages, his favorite one is the trip from California to Hawaii as it was his first fully independent voyage.

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