Water Skiing, Towed Devices and Wake Sports
Fast becoming one of the most popular sports in the nation, water skiing also has certain aspects of danger. "Skier mishaps" have been consistently listed in the top five types of boating accidents.
Skiing should be a team sport. The team players are the skier, the boat driver and an observer to keep a proper lookout. He/she should keep an eye on the skier and relay messages to the driver. The boat should also be equipped with a wide angle rear view mirror so the driver can see the skier.
Many states require that there be a water skier observer and often there are age restrictions. Check your state-specific information for these regulations as well as permissible hours of operation, any speed and distance requirements and PFD wearing requirements.
Be sure to follow all normal operating procedures and stay well clear of other boats, docks and obstacles. Since the tow rope should be at least 75 feet long, remember to keep the skier at least twice that distance from potentially dangerous obstacles.
The water skier should be able to communicate to the towing boat with hand signals. A clear understanding in advance of the desires of the skier will lead to a safer sport. Try not to think for the skier. Let him or her direct the actions of the boat.
When a skier falls, it is important to hold up a water ski. This makes it easier for the tow boat to see you and also notifies other boats in the area that you are in the water.
Do not water ski after dark. It is very dangerous and against the law. Many states have rules regarding when you can water ski. Check your state-specific information.
Tubes, Wake Boards and other Towed Devices
Another popular water sport is "Tubing" or being pulled behind the boat with various "towable devices." Tubes and towable devices come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. While the exhilaration of being pulled behind the boat can be great fun, the boat operator and those being towed need to be aware of many safety issues.
The following are tips to fun and safe towing:
- Check your equipment - make sure the towing cleat or transom eyes are tight and secure. You should also check the towable equipment before each use. Read your owner's manual for proper inflation and other safety issues relating to the particular piece of equipment.
- Select a safe area to tow. There should be a minimum of 100 feet of open water on each side of the boat, 3,000 feet of unobstructed waterway in front of the boat and there should be no in-the-water obstructions such as docks, pilings, rocks, speed signs, etc.
- State or local law may restrict towing areas. Check your State and local laws and ordinances prior to towing.
- Make sure the person(s) being towed are wearing their life jackets.
- Make sure there is a designated "spotter" on the towing vessel. The "spotter" should continually monitor the towing device(s) and status of the rider(s). He/she should keep the driver updated on the status.
- The driver should always be looking at the path of the boat, other boating traffic and potential obstructions.
- Choose a safe location to stop your boat and make sure that the towable device is slowing at the same rate as the boat.
Be extremely mindful of the slingshot effect. That is when the boat makes a sudden turn and the towable device continues in the same direction, crosses the wake and may be subject to hitting objects in the water.