How we attached a towing bridle.

We hope you never have to be in this situation but if you are, we hope that the pointers below may be of use.


This is what we did to rig a bridle:-

  • Used our strongest mooring lines.
  • Took the first line and tied a bowline in one end.
  • Looped this over the largest of the stern winches.

    Diagram to show how we rigged the lines to make a bridle.
  • Took the line back to the stern cleat and passed it round the back of the cleat anticlockwise.
  • Took the line to the mid ships cleat and looped it round anticlockwise
  • Continued forward and looped it round the bow cleat. Whether you wrap clockwise or anticlockwise here will depend on the position of your cleats, stanchions, toe rail, etc.   (The reason for using all the cleats is that the line can still slip a little and the forces from the tow will be more evenly distributed across all points of the yacht.)
  • Tied a bowline loop in the end of the line.
  • Took the line forwards from the cleat and out under the guard rail.
  • Made sure that the line was clear of the stanchions and clear of the anchor. (If possible it may be better to stow the anchor away so that it doesn’t foul the tow line or the bridle.  Also remove the bow sprit too.)
  • Made the bridle as wide as we could at the bow.
  • Tried to create an inverted ‘V’ shape.
Diagram showing how we tried to make as wide a ‘V’ in the bridle as possible.
  • Rigged another line in the same way down the other side of the yacht.
  • Used a further strong mooring line.  We tied a bowline through the loop on the starboard side of the yacht.
  • Ensured we had a tidy coil that we could easily pass around the front of the bow and then through the loop of the towing line from the tug.
  • Checked that the line would be clear when released and would pass forwards of the bow.
  • Tied a bowline to the port side of the bridle set-up and threw the third line free so that the tug could take up the slack.
  • We had about 30 to 35m towing distance which worked ok in the wind and waves we had. (Bf 2-5 wind and 60cm swell)
  • We had a rope cutting knife handy so that the rope could be cut in an emergency.
  • The tug had a loop in the end of their massive towing line so they wanted us to throw our ‘central’ line to them.  They wanted to tie off this line but we had to explain that we wanted them to loop our line through and return it to us. This took some explaining!
  • With a smaller, more manageable sized towing line it may have been possible for them to throw a leading line so we could pull in the loop and pass our own line through it and back to the port side bridle.

Additional Comments

  • Don’t assume that the tug boat crew knows what to do.
  • Be prepared to be forceful.
  • With long mooring lines, only two may be needed.
  • The weight of the tow ropes we used meant that there was no snatching which made for a smoother tow.
  • In heavier seas than those we experienced (60cm swell) there may need to be a greater distance between the vessels.
  • Be aware that you must still steer otherwise you wander off track and are not directly behind the towing vessel which means that the stresses  on your bridle are not equal.
  • Should you ever need to be the boat doing the towing, then you could set up a towing bridle in the same way but from bow to stern.
  • We had to display day shapes – two balls one above the other.
  • We had agreed with the tug boat captain on a radio channel that we would both keep open.

Hope this is helpful.

Here you can see the bridle line running down the starboard deck and round the mid ships cleat.