Safe Boating Course

CHAPTER 7: Water Activities & The Marine Environment


As a boat operator, you’re responsible for the safety of your towed passengers. So, before you hit the water, take a few minutes to establish some rules with the towed passenger and other passengers in boat. You should go over communication signals between you, the observer and the towed person, and review procedures, such as picking up a fallen skier and how to properly re-board.

Here are some guidelines for safely towing someone behind your vessel.

  • The operator of the boat, towed passengers and all others on board should wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket that’s rated for high impact and designed for the activity. Inflatable PFDs aren’t approved for high impact activity and should NEVER be worn by a person being towed.

  • All operators should also have an observer onboard to watch the person being towed. The observer will signal with the towed passenger and inform the boat operator when the skier falls.
  • Before heading out, check the tow rope for signs of wear. The rope should be at least 75 feet long.
  • Never run parallel to the shore in shallow water to drop off a towed passenger on shore. Rather, keep your distance and let the towed person swing into the shore.
  • Never participate in towed water sports at night. It’s not only dangerous, but illegal. Always turn off your engine before approaching a towed person who has fallen while being towed.
  • And, approach the fallen towed passenger from the operator’s side of the boat, so you don’t lose sight of them.