Tow-manship and safety for skiers, wakeboarders
by: Craig Lamb
You are enjoying a laid-back day of boating away from the stress, drama and trauma of the rat race back on the streets of the big city. Ahead is a boat adrift. Hands wave, and it’s obvious the other boat needs help. You can look the other way or go help.
What to do? The right thing to do is be a Good Samaritan. Be a smart boater first. You’ll end the day on a feel-good note while enjoying your favorite leisure activity.
Boats might float and drift with ease, but they are still heavy. Adding to the weight is the wind and waves that create opposing forces. Summed up towing a boat can be a chore unless you practice common sense.
Practice these common sense-safe towing guidelines:.
A common rule of thumb is a towline should be from eight to 10 boat lengths. A towline is specifically designed for towing. Using a towline and not a dock line or ski rope is a wise choice.
Three-strand nylon—like what is used for a ski rope—should never be used. Multi-braided nylon stretches excessively and breaks unexpectedly.
Double-braided nylon is a better choice. The best of all is anchor line, which should already be aboard. Anchor line is strong and likely has at least the minimum length suggested for towing.
Steering is of utmost importance. You are in command of your boat and the disabled vessel. That means double the work. The best way to maintain control is rigging a towing bridle to spread the load to both sides of the boat. The bridle should be at least twice your beam width. Keep it positioned as low to the water as possible for better boat control. Adjust the tow-line length, so your boat and the tow are in sync with the waves, if applicable.
Towing a skier or wakeboarder comes with similar responsibilities. Like the tow, you are in command of the safety and direction of someone else.
Watersports typically mean a (legal) boatload of passengers getting in on the fun. To have that and be safe requires at least three people. Those are the driver, the spotter, and the skier. The spotter and skier should know the basic hand signals used universally in watersports.
Those are thumbs up for go faster and thumbs down for slow down. The classic ok gesture of the thumb and forefinger mean speed is just right. When the skier goes down both arms raised, and hands clasped mean all ok. The cutting motion of a hand across the neck means stop the engine. In some States the spotter is require to have a flag, check the laws for your state.
Always use a tow-rope designed for skiing or wakeboarding. As for length, beginners start at 15 feet, but you can go longer. Keep the speed just fast enough, so the skier is able to stay up and in control.
Keep the engine off until the skier is well away from the transom. A verbal exchange of “Clear?” and return affirmation are a must. Start the engine and idle away until the rope is tight. Another exchange of start commands gives you the go ahead to gently push the throttle forward. When the skier is on plane, gently throttle back to the desired speed.
When the fun is over the term used to safely end the set is “dropping a skier.” Signal the skier out to the driver’s side of the boat. Make a gentle left turn to pull the skier wide. Cut back to the right and reduce throttle to idle. If done smoothly and gently the skier will sink next to the boat.
Common sense. Put that ahead of trying to be a hero and getting in a hurry when towing a boat. Use the same logic when towing another person on skies or wakeboard. Remember, their lives are in your capable hands.
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Original Source; Sportsmans Lifestyle.com