Why Boats Get Towed and How to Prevent It

boat getting towed

Nobody likes the idea of having to get their boat towed. It’s inconvenient, because you might be stuck on the water temporarily, until a towing vessel can come and get you. It’s expensive, since you’ll typically have to pay for this service. And it’s downright embarrassing—especially considering that most towing incidents could have been prevented with a bit of proactive maintenance. 

So, what are the most common reasons why boats get towed, and what are the best ways to prevent this situation? 

Why Boats Get Towed

These are some of the most common reasons why boats get towed:

  1. A mechanical failure. More than half of all boat towing incidents are the result of a mechanical breakdown. Something on the boat, such as the engine, the transmission, or a drive, has broken or failed. Engine failures tend to be the most common, but there are a variety of other mechanical issues that could be at play. This is understandable, since most boats rely on a complex system of interconnected moving parts to operate—and it’s only a matter of time before these parts decay.

  2. The vessel running aground. If your vessel runs aground, it may be impossible to get yourself unstuck on your own. You’ll need to call a towing vessel to remove you from this situation, which is especially embarrassing.

  3. A fuel shortage. Just like in a car, if your boat runs out of fuel, it won’t be able to move any further. Except in a car, the solution is usually to simply walk to a gas station, top off the tank, and keep moving. If you’re on a boat, you won’t be able to get to a gas station.

    Running out of fuel is often due to direct human error; people avoid filling up, overconfidently estimating that they have plenty of fuel, and they end up running out anyway. But it might also be due to a problem with your fuel-sending units, or a fuel gauge not displaying your current amount of fuel accurately. 

    Preventative maintenance can help you ensure your fuel systems are working as intended. But it’s also important to pay attention to the amount of fuel you have; always err on the side of caution and leave plenty of fuel in reserve.

  4. A dead battery. Batteries don’t last forever. Sooner or later, your boat’s battery will begin to fade, making it more difficult and unreliable to start the engine. Then, one day, the battery will die. It may also die if you use it irresponsibly, such as by leaving the radios and other electronic equipment on for too long.

    Many boaters who end up towed due to a dead battery had a suspicion this was coming; they noticed the battery was dying but procrastinated getting it replaced. Accordingly, one of the easiest ways to prevent this situation is to replace your battery proactively. Consistently monitor your battery’s levels and swap it out before it’s too late.

  5. Overheating. Not all engine problems are related to a mechanical failure or breakdown. Sometimes, a vessel needs towed simply because the engine overheated. This is usually attributable to a failure within the water pump; rubber impellers should be replaced regularly (at least every two years), and if they’re not, they may fail. However, many other issues can cause an overheated engine, such as corroded exhaust manifolds or failing belts.

    Fortunately, you may be able to solve an overheated engine on your own. If you can identify the source of the problem and issue a temporary fix, you may be able to get back home safely. Otherwise, the best solution here is to have your boat regularly maintained and tuned up; this way, your engine never overheats in the first place.

What to Do in an Emergency

Boat towing can often be prevented with the help of proactive maintenance and common sense. But not all emergencies are avoidable. If you’re on a boat and you feel like you’re stuck, there are a few important steps you’ll need to take. First, remain calm. Try to assess the situation and see if you can resolve it on your own. If not, you may need to call for a towboat to help you out. If your communication systems are unavailable, you may need to send up a signal flare for help. 

Are you ready to upgrade your current vessel to a better, more reliable model? Or are you interested in seeing what other types of boats there are for sale? Check out our selection of new and used boats for sale, and you’ll almost certainly find something you’re looking for.


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