Water skiing is an excellent way to have fun while out with your family boating. But you must understand that it is not an activity that you can participate in without preparation.
You must have specific skiing skills and knowledge about hand signals and other safety precautions. As a captain of the boat, the safety of the skiers is your responsibility. You must know some basic rules of waterskiing safety and courtesy.
If you are taking a boating test, you may be asked the question –
A boat is towing two skiers at the same time. How long should the tow lines be?
Your answer to this question should be –
The tow lines should be the exact same length when a boat is towing two skiers at the same time. The towline length should be the same no matter how many skiers you pull. If the tow lines are of different lengths, there is a high risk of a skier being cloth-lined by another skier on a longer line.
The towline should be sufficiently long to allow the skier to maneuver with ease. The recommended length is 75 feet or 23 meters. The length can vary depending on the type of water skiing and the skill level of the skier.
What to do before towing a skier?
Water skiing and other water sports like wakeboarding and being towed on a tube are popular activities. Hitting the water and trying new tricks skiing while you enjoy the good weather can be great fun. However, the possibility of injury can ruin your fun completely.
Here are a few essential water skiing safety tips that you must follow if you own a boat–
- Have a second person on board at the back of the boat to act as an observer.
- If you are new to skiing, make sure you learn the hand signals used between the skier and the boat operator.
- Even if you have been skiing for many years, you must refresh your knowledge of the hand signals before you get into the water.
- Ensure all water skiers wear a personal floatation device (PFD) approved by the US Coast Guard and is specifically designed for water skiing. We recommend a PFD with a high-impact rating. Ski belts are not USCG-approved.
- Be aware of the area that you are skiing in. Keep a sharp eye out for any hazards like shallow water, rocks, bridge pilings, and other boats.
- If towing two skiers at the same time, make sure the tow lines are the same length.
- You should never tow a skier at night. It is dangerous and illegal.
You might be also interested in:
What to do after towing a skier
Here are some more safety precautions that you must take in case the skier falls –
- As soon as the skier falls, he/she should look behind to see if there is a danger of being run over. If the situation is safe, then he/she should give a hand signal to inform the boat that there are no injuries.
- After falling, the skier should hold up a ski out of the water while waiting to be retrieved. The person can also wave his/her hands if necessary.
- The boat should circle the skier to return the tow line or pick up the skier. It is mandatory for the boats to fly a skier down flag in some US states while retrieving the skier.
- When the boat approaches the skier, you must always keep the skier in view and on the operator’s side of the boat.
- Always turn off the boat’s engine before you let the skier climb back onto the boat. This will help reduce the chance of the propeller strike injury.
- Retrieve the towline once the skiers are back on board.
What is a safe towing recommendation?
Towing safety should be a priority for every boat owner. You should be aware of the safety standards set by your local marine authority. Ignorance about these rules can put you at risk for accidents as well as penalties. While towing a skier, the skipper of the boat should follow these safety rules –
- Make sure nobody is close to the propeller of your boat when you start the engine.
- Pull away slowly until the ski rope becomes tight. You can pick up speed when the skier signals you to do so. You can use verbal or hand signals. You should have a clean line of sight in a straight line.
- You can adjust the speed further depending on what the skier signals to you once he/she can stand upright.
- Don’t tow the skiers into crowded areas.
- Respond to all the signals from the skier.
- If you are about to take a turn, signal to the skier what you are about to do.
- When towing skiers in a narrow, congested area, have safety discussions with other boaters to reduce the number of boats towing at the same time.
- In places where water skiing is popular, there may be other skiers around. It would be better if you watched out for them as well. Stay at least 100 feet away from each side of a skier. The skier may not know that your boat is there.
- Never approach a skier too close from the rear. If the skier falls, you may not have enough time to alter your course and cause the skier serious injuries.
- Never cut across the path of an oncoming boat or reverse your boat near a skier in the water.
- Check whether the area that you are planning to go to is not a no-towing zone.
- Place your boat between a fallen skier and the oncoming traffic.
- Continually monitor the traffic on the water. Maintain a high degree of safety awareness.
- Avoid using alcohol or drugs while operating the boat or water skiing, as these substances can impair your coordination and judgment.
- In areas where water skiing is a popular activity, there may already be an established traffic pattern. Pay attention to what the other skiers are doing. Don’t jeopardize the safety of your skier by pulling up in front of other boats.
- Make sure the skier never wraps the tow line around his/her body.
- Ensure that the skier should take off all jewelry and secure his/her PFD tightly as they can become lose in the wind and whip at the skier.
Hand signals to learn
When you are being towed at the end 75 feet long rope behind a motorboat, you must be able to communicate with the skipper or the observer. This is why you must know these hand signals before you begin skiing.
Thumb up – Speed up the boat
Thumb down – Slow down the boat
Slashing motion over the neck – stop (also used by the driver and the observer)
Circle motion with arms over-head and then point in the desired direction – turn the boat (also used by the driver)
Pat on the head – Return to the dock
OK signal with hand – signal understood or OK
Hands clasped over the head – skier OK after falling
When towing a skier How far should the vessel operator keep the skier from the shoreline or people in the water?
Keep the skier at a safe distance from the shoreline, docks, hazards, and other people in the water. The recommended safe distance is at least twice the length of the tow rope. It is wise not to ski within 300 feet of another vessel or 100 feet of the shore, a dock, or swim area.
You should avoid crowded areas like beaches, docks, and areas for swimming. Water skiing takes up a lot of room. Some lakes have designated areas for skiers.
At what speed should you operate your boat if you are towing a water skier?
If you are towing a beginner water skier, a speed of around 20 miles per hour is good. It is fast enough for the skier to stay upright with tension on the line and fast enough to enjoy. However, it is not so fast that it will cause nervousness and make the ride unnecessarily challenging.
If you are an experienced skier, speeds of 30 miles per hour will work fine for you. The maximum speed recommended for professional water skiers that take part in competitive events is 35 miles per hour. So, consider 35 miles per hour as the very top speed at which you should tow anyone.
Water skiing is a popular watersport that is enjoyed by thousands of people every year. The feeling of gliding over water can be both fun and exhilarating. Like many other water sports, skiing also demands total focus and adherence to safety precautions.
The boat’s skipper should follow all safety precautions before, while, and after towing the skier. The skier should also follow all recommended guidelines to remain safe while skiing.
Be prepared, stay safe, and enjoy all your skiing experiences.