Safe Boating: 10 Tips to Safely Tow Water-skiers Behind a Boat
For many families, nothing beats spending the day on the boat – actually, behind the boat. Skimming across the water on skis, tube or kneeboard can be a wet and wild blast. But it’s important to enjoy the fun safely, particularly when you’re at the controls and someone is tethered behind your boat.
If you tow water-skiers, boarders or tubers, review these boating safety tips – and practice. (We’ll use the term “skier” for simplicity, but the same basic rules apply no matter who you’re towing.)
1. Always have a spotter
Designate someone to watch the skier at all times and notify the driver if the skier falls or otherwise gets separated from the towline. By law, you must have a spotter of legal age, which varies from state to state (usually 12-14 years old).
2. Be sure the skier wears a life jacket
Anyone being pulled behind a boat must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket, regardless of age or ability. The jacket (or vest) needs to fits snugly and be in good condition.
3. Inspect the towing equipment
Look for frays, nicks or cuts on the ski towline, as well as damage to the handle. Check the skis, board or tube for any damage and make sure ski boots are shipshape and fit the skier securely. Also, safe boating requires you know your equipment’s load or weight restrictions – and follow them.
4. Secure the ski towline
Make sure the rope is attached securely to a proper ring at the stern (back) or center boom of the boat. Never attach a ski rope to a railing.
5. Keep the ski towline clear of the propeller
Once the line is secure, make sure the skier is well clear of the propeller before starting the boat. Once clear, slowly motor away from the skier to pull the line taut.
6. Point straight ahead
Before getting underway, make sure the ski towline and steering wheel are both pointed straight ahead. If not, the skier will have a harder time getting up. Once you’re pointed straight ahead, accelerate slowly to take up any slack in the line.
7. Prepare to throttle up
A quick takeoff helps the skier pop up to proper skiing position. With the line taut, wait for the skier to call “Hit it!” before accelerating rapidly. After the skier is up, settle into cruising speed.
8. Steer clear of obstructions
Avoid other vessels and objects in the water and keep plenty of room around your craft and your skier. With someone tethered behind your boat, you can’t quickly maneuver around obstructions.
9. Maneuver slowly when picking the skier up
Approach a downed skier slowly and cautiously. Take note of the wind and waves, and adjust your approach so you drift closer and toward the person, not away. Don’t drive in reverse toward the skier because your view can be blocked.
10. Once near the downed skier, turn off the engine
A killed engine prevents the skier from being injured by a churning propeller.
Find more boating safety tips
After you’ve studied and practiced these maneuvers for towing water-skiers, find more boating safety tips.