a gentle turn that should slow the boat in
front of the skier. In a perfect world, you’d
be on the upwind side (the wind on the
opposite side of the boat from the skier), so
any breeze would move the boat to the skier,
and your boarding ladder would be on the
same side as the skier. It’s always preferable
not to require the skier to cross the transom
to board the boat. Even with the engine off, a
prop or lower unit is no fun to kick or bang
into as you swim by.
Off Means OFF: It doesn’t mean neutral.
Too many prop-strike stories start with the
phrase, “I thought it was in neutral.” An
inadvertent bump of the throttle, or just a
sticky throttle with a linkage out of adjustment, can easily result in a motor that’s
in gear at precisely the wrong moment. If
you’ve turned the motor off, there can be
After They Board: Similarly, you never
3. HOW TO RETURN THE TOW
want to start the engine until you, the cap-
tain, have visually confirmed your skier is
aboard, the ladder has been stowed, and the
ski rope is clear of the prop or outdrive. It’s
not enough to ask about these things; turn
around and see for yourself. The few seconds
it takes each time you retrieve a skier are well
worth it if it prevents you from sucking the
tow rope into the prop, or worse.
ROPE TO A DOWNED SKIER
“Wipeout! Skier down!” shouts your spotter.
Those words cause you to spin the wheel
and start looking for your downed skier, bobbing in the water, waiting for another go. But
what’s the best way to get the ski-rope handle
back in their hands?
Not As Straightforward As It Looks:
You’ve got a couple of issues to overcome.
First, you can’t just circle skiers and expect
them to swim out to the rope. For one thing,
it’s difficult to move at all with skis on in the
water, and the more effort they spend swimming, the less energy they’ll have for fun.
Secondly, you can’t turn too tightly or you’ll
run over your own rope. What you need to
execute is a tight U-turn, off-set with the skier
at the bottom of the U (see FIG 1, next page).
To do this safely, keep these tips in mind:
■ Your spotter should keep an eye on the
HERE’S WHY YOU WANT A SPOTTER
WHEN TOWING ANYONE BEHIND YOUR BOAT, whether on a tube, board, or skis, you should have at least one spotter aboard to keep track of your skier and relay instructions to the driver, such as speed up, slow
down, and so on. And it’s important for the driver, spotter, and skier to all know and
go over the signals before starting (for basic skiing hand signals, see this article
online www.BoatUS.com/Magazine). When everyone knows their roles and what to
expect, things go better. In states that require a skier-down flag, the spotter would
be responsible for holding it aloft when the skier falls. While spotters aren’t always
required in all states, they’re always a good idea. Some states require a spotter for
each person being towed, and there are often minimum ages (kids don’t usually
qualify). To find out the laws in your state, go to www.NASBLA.org and click
on State Boating Laws under the Resources tab.