Here’s a neat little idea I learn’t about from Gordon Brown via the preview copy of the soon to be released ‘Sea Kayak With Gordon Brown 2‘ DVD. I’ve been playing with building it and using it during rescue practice over the last few weeks.

This set up is for contact tows – situations where you are alongside another sea kayak and need a quick way of towing whilst your boats remain in contact (as opposed to using waist or deck mounted towing systems that place the towed kayak anywhere from a couple to 15 metres behind you depending on the length of the towline used).

This set up cost somewhere in the region of £12 to make. Parts required include:

  1. Stainless Karabiners x2 (must NOT have ‘teeth’ where the gate closes as this can snag rope)
  2. Thin cord – a little over 3x the width between the deck lines on your cockpit
  3. Whipping cord and needle

I’ve gone through 3 iterations of as I discovered mistakes – initially using Karabiners that had teeth where the gate closes (a snag hazard) and then using knots to attach the cord which could not slide through the gap between deck and deck line when required. I’ve also lowered the diameter of the cord on each version. I also tweaked the length of the cord to get a better fit – not too tight or loose.

I basically measure 3 times the distance between the the deck lines directly in front of the cockpit and then added a small amount for the whipped end of the cord.

I then passed the end of the cord through the Karabiner and stitched the ends together before whipping the ends together. This was my first attempt at whipping so it’s a tad messy but neat enough for me!

Photo of Stitching Cord

Stitching Cord

Photo of Completed Whipping

Completed Whipping

Photo of Finished Crossover Contact Tow

Finished Contact Tow





In use

  1. The two ends of the contact tow are passed under the deck lines on either side of the cockpit.
  2. The ends are then brought up to the mid point of the deck and one twisted together by one turn.
  3. The ends are then taken back to the deck lines and clipped onto the deck line.

When needed the one of the karabiners can be unclipped and either:

  1. Clipped directly to the front-most deck line of the towee’s boat OR
  2. The twist taken out of the system and then clipped to the towee’s deck line.
Photo Of Crossover Contact Tow

Crossover Contact Tow

Photo of Close Contact Set-Up

Close Contact Set-Up

Photo of Extended Contact Set-up

Extended Contact Set-up






Using the first ‘mode’ keeps the bow of the towee’s boat right next to you – the downside being the boat may rise and fall in rougher conditions under your armpit knocking you about.

In the second ‘mode’ the cord pulls through placing the towee’s boat further back which avoids the boat knocking you about as much in rougher water but does place them and the Karabiner a further back.

In both modes, the towee should be able to hold the stern of your kayak or stern deck line to keep the boats close together.

It’s also important that the Karabiner is clipped from ‘underneath’ the deck line. Clipping downwards leaves the Karabiner in a position where it can unclip itself.


  1. Cheap to put together
  2. Easy to set up
  3. Relatively Lightweight and certainly small to carry


  1. Unsure how quick is it to release

I’ve only just started to experiment with this system however there is some fantastic footage of Gordon Brown explaining not only this system but some other ideas for contact tows on the new DVD along with excellent demonstrations of all the systems in use. I will keep folk posted as to the publication date for the DVD which is highly recommended viewing!

Useful Links:
Sea Kayak With Gordon Brown – Website for information and ordering DVD 1 or 2.