During the summer school holidays, rivers and beaches around Australia are crowded with kids enjoying a thrill-seeking ride on a sea biscuit, tube or water ski. They love the excitement and are unlikely to give safety a second thought, so it’s up to you as the skipper to take the necessary precautions to keep everyone safe.
Appoint a Spotter
As the skipper, there’s a lot you need to make yourself aware of. You will be driving at speed so you need to know what is in front of you at all times plus you need to know what is happening with the kids in the water and any other passengers on the boat. It is important to have another adult on board acting as the spotter. Your spotter should stand next to you but face the back of the boat watching riders and looking out for other boats approaching from the rear and ready to give you hand signals. A spotter can use the following signals to communicate to you without the need to yell over the noise of the motor or for you to take your eyes off the water:
- Faster - thumb up
- Slower - thumb down
- Turn around - circular helicopter motion above your head with an arm or hand
Tell the riders to use the same signals to communicate with the spotter about speed and when they want to finish riding.
Know your surrounds
Make sure you are allowed to tow in the area. Some waterways are restricted due to high noise levels when towing. Watch your wake so that it doesn’t disturb other people on the shoreline or damage river banks.
If there are other boats and swimmers in the area, know where they are. Try to move to a part of the water that is not as busy and don’t take your eyes off what’s in front.
Remember when the sun is low in the sky early morning and late afternoon, it is more difficult to see people in the water. If visibility is a problem, either stop and wait for it to improve or pack up for the day.
Wear life jackets
It doesn’t matter how strong a swimmer or rider may be. If they are knocked unconscious, their swimming skills won’t help them; they need a life jacket. When you are towing more than one, there is the potential for multiple injured or unconscious riders in the water, so the life jackets will be needed for their survival. Also with multiple riders, it is ideal that they wear a helmet in case they clash heads.
If you have two kids needing the same size life jacket and you only have one, don’t be tempted to put one child in a jacket that doesn’t fit so they can ride together. Kids can’t wear adult-sized life jackets as they can sit too high when in the water. <link to Choosing a Properly Fitting a Life Jacket>
Don’t Overload the Boat
If you have a big group of kids wanting to ride, it’s easy to overload the boat. Kids love watching others riding while they wait their turn but the more kids you have on the water, the greater the risk of something going wrong.
It is safer to bring the boat in close to shore and have passengers come on and off throughout the day. It will be a longer day for you, but it’s the safest option.
Only use specially designed ski tube towing rope or ski ropes. Keep your gear in good condition by rinsing, winding and packing away at the end of the day. Check your ropes regularly for fraying and replace if damaged.
If you have any questions about towing safely, don’t hesitate to call the experienced team at Boat Accessories Australia on 1300 308 161 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.