This is the perfect time for a refresher on the dos and don’ts of towing a water toy behind your boat. Trust me, seeing the smiles on your kids’ or grandkids’ faces is well worth the price of a little precaution.
Know Thy Tube
Are You Well Connected?
Driving the Tow Boat
Whoever is driving the boat is ultimately responsible for the safety of the riders. It’s wise for first-time drivers to practice pulling an empty tube around for a while to get the hang of it.
Discuss the towing route with your riders and plan your run to keep them out of high-traffic areas. Also, discussing hand signals for common communications like “ready,” “slow down” and “stop” is very important. These signals will be passed between the rider and the spotter, who then relays the message to the driver.
Before launch, ensure that the boat and tube are lined up. Next, don’t firewall the throttle right off the bat. This creates tremendous strain on the tow rope, tube and riders. Instead, move slowly through the water until the tow rope is tight and then speed up to a comfortable planing speed. Maintain a safe distance (at least 50 yards) from other boats, piers and floating platforms to prevent collisions. And use caution when making turns, since tube speed increases due to centrifugal force – and riders can be thrown off unexpectedly.
Because the driver’s attention should always be on the water ahead, your boat needs a designated “spotter” to alert the driver if anyone falls off the tube and to keep track of that person’s location in the water. The spotter should hold up a red safety flag to let other nearby boaters know that a rider is down. (You can get one of these at most marine stores.) When it’s time to retrieve a rider, go slowly and carefully, and shut the engine off when you get close to the fallen rider.
Riders should signal that they are okay when they fall off a tube, and they should keep their hands in the air to increase their visibility.
Most of today’s tubes are designed to carry more than one person, which increases the fun but also adds more arms, legs and other body parts to the mix. It’s important for riders to stay a safe distance apart and distribute their weight evenly to balance the tube and keep it more stable while under way.
Sure, that’s a lot to remember when you’re zipping across the lake pulling a tube of adrenaline-crazed kids ... or adults. But as long as you start slow, use common sense and make safety a priority, you can rest assured that the shrieking coming from behind your boat will be music to your ears.