Top 10 Summer Watersport Safety Tips for Skiers, Tubers, Wake and Kneeboarders

October 14th, 2009

For many Americans, being pulled from the end of a long, slim tow line attached to a speeding motorboat is a summer rite of passage. The BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety has these top 10 summer watersport safety tips for waterskiers, wakeboarders and tubers that will guarantee everyone has a great time:

1. Float first: Ensure anyone being towed has a properly fitting life jacket that won’t ride up over a wearer’s head if they take a spill. A Type III vest is best because it has the extra buckles to provide a snug fit and is built for taking a hard fall.

2. Talk to the hand: A rider has very little control over a tube, and skiiers and boarders need control help, too. Before anyone jumps in the water, go over a few standard hand signals, such as stop (hand slashing the neck), slow (thumb down), speed up (thumb up), OK (tip of index finger and thumb together), turn (point finger upwards in a circular motion) and return to dock (pat head).

3. Engine off: Always turn off the boat’s engine when a rider is entering or exiting the water. Not only can a prop rotate while the motor is in “neutral,” the engine exhaust produces carbon monoxide. Also never back up to retrieve a fallen rider.

4. Wait for the OK: Once a skier is in the water, wait until they are far enough away from the boat and signal that it’s OK to start the engine.

5. Spotter is a must: It’s very important to have constant visual contact with anyone being towed. It’s also the law in most states.

6. Look before turning: Let’s face it. It’s the turns that really make watersports fun. But don’t leave those at the end of towline guessing when the next turn is coming. The hand signal for turning is a pointing finger upwards in a circular motion, then pointing to the direction of turn.

7. Think big: Keep in mind that with kids on the end of long towline, your boat’s safety “footprint” is now much larger. That means being extra cautious when near other boaters, docks, navigational aids, and crossing wakes.

8. Two head turns for every “drop”: As soon as someone falls off the tube or a skier or boarder drops, the boat operator should always look to both sides before turning around for a pick-up.

9. Good to go: For riders after a knock down, clasp your hands over your head so those on the towboat know you are OK and ready for retrieval. In some states a red or orange “skier down” flag may need to be displayed.

10. Tip up and be seen: A skier who has fallen in the water can seen by others much more easily if they keep the ski tips above the water.

For more information on your state’s safety requirements, go to and click on State Boating Regulations.

Vessel Safety Checks Not Affected By Inflation – They Are Still Free

June 23rd, 2009

In 1947 when the Vessel Safety Check program began, $10.00 had about the same buying power that $92.81 has today. And while the cost of everything has gone up, the US Coast Guard Auxiliary can proudly proclaim one thing definitely has not – our free Vessel Safety Checks. Although free, the value of the life that may be saved by taking advantage of a Vessel Check Safety is priceless.

With the Memorial Day weekend (the traditional start of the recreational boating season) just around the corner, now is a great time for all boaters (from kayakers and jet skiers to year-round recreational boaters) to take advantage of a free Vessel Safety Check. Now is also a great time to take advantage of one of the many boating safety courses offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary and become acquainted or even reacquainted with basic boating skills, seamanship and the most current rules and regulations that may also save a live or prevent and accident.

Vessel Safety Checks are conducted by qualified members of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary and are the best way of learning about problems that might be a violation of state or federal laws and provide the boating public with additional safety tips that could possibly mitigate or eliminate preventable danger on the water.

To find a Vessel Examiner go to and click on “I Want a VSC” to find a Vessel Examiner near you.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed civilian component of the United States Coast Guard. Created by an Act of Congress in 1939, the Auxiliary directly supports the Coast Guard in all missions, except military and direct law enforcement actions.

Falls Overboard Can Be Deadly: 11 Boarding Ladders for Small Boats

June 23rd, 2009

ALEXANDRIA, VA, April 9, 2008 – For recreational boaters, a simple fall overboard is the number one boating accident “event” that leads to the most fatalities. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that in 2006, 275 persons died in 721 boating accidents that began with or involved a fall overboard. While some of these accidents involved other factors, being able to quickly get back in the boat – without help – isn’t easy as a BoatU.S. Foundation test of 11 portable boarding ladders recently found.

“A fall into the water can turn into a life-threatening situation very quickly,” said BoatU.S. Foundation President Ruth Wood, “It doesn’t take long for exhaustion or hypothermia to drain the life out of you. Boaters and anglers need to be prepared, especially if you are alone. It can happen to you.”

While many larger boats have built-in boarding ladders, the Foundation tested portable models on a 17-foot Boston Whaler, 14-foot Jon boat, and 12-foot rigid-hull inflatable. What follows are five important tips that will help ensure a fall overboard doesn’t become tragic. To see a complete report on the tests as well as video of the ladders in action that will help you select the right one for your boat, go to

1. Wear your life jacket. All of the BoatU.S. volunteers participating in the testing program wore a life jacket – before they voluntarily went over the side. All agreed that a fully clothed adult with no buoyancy would have difficulties attempting to get back aboard using any type of ladder.

2. You don’t need to spend lots of money for a functional boarding ladder. Testers found an affordable model fashioned from four-inch wide yellow webbing proved best. Simplicity also ruled the day as the highest-ranked ladders all had fewer than three steps. The ideal ladder length, measured from the water’s surface to the bottom rung, averaged 20 inches.

3. Some ladders work better with certain types of boats. Hard sides or soft? Low or high freeboard? Depending on a boat’s construction or deck layout, most ladders performed well with one particular kind of vessel, and did poorly with others. It’s important to match the ladder to the boat.

4. Before you head out, your boarding ladder needs to be positioned so it can be reached from the water. Also, attaching the ladder to the wrong spot on a narrow, lightweight boat can increase the chance of capsizing, especially if there is wave action.

5. Practice is a must. Many ladders were difficult to use on the first try. Take the time on a warm, sunny day to fine tune any adjustments, get in the water and use the ladder. Some ladders threw testers off-balance when weight was placed on them, causing the device to swing underneath the boat. Only practice solved this problem.