While going out on a boat is fun in itself, many people like to take part in watersports. And no watersport is more popular than water skiing. However, if you don’t follow the proper precautions and safety tips, your day could end prematurely either by injury, discipline, or vessel malfunction. Here are six tips to ensure that you have a wonderful and memorable day on the water.
Know the Laws and Follow Them
This isn’t just for water skiing but for boating in general. Make sure that you’re aware of the laws and regulations whenever you’re on the water. There are some rules that apply to everyone regardless of where you’re boating such as not exceeding the boat’s capacity and not operating a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, each state and sometimes waterway have their own laws and regulations that must be followed.
In Florida, you may need to take a boat education course in order to be legally allowed to operate a boat. These situations include if you’re operating a boat with a motor of 10 horsepower or more, if you’re 21 years old or younger, if you’ve been convicted of a criminal boating violation, if you’ve committed a non-criminal boating infractions that resulted in a boating accident, or if you’ve committed two non-criminal boating safety infractions within the last year. If you fall into one of these categories, you are required under Florida law to enroll, attend, and successfully complete a NASBLA-approved boating safety course. For non-Florida residents, any NASBLA-approved courses from their state will be accepted.
Apart from boating laws, the state of Florida also has certain water skiing laws. For anyone operating a boat and towing someone on skis or any other aquaplaning device, they must have an observer in addition to the driver on board who is paying attention to the actions of the skier or they must have and be using a wide-angle rear-view mirror. No skiing or aquaplaning is allowed in Florida waters between half an hour past sunset and half an hour before sunrise. The boat operator may not pull the skier close enough to a fixed object or to another moving vessel that there’s a risk of collision.
Keep Up with Boat Maintenance
Keeping up with routine boat maintenance can make a huge difference in how your day goes. You should frequently check and maintain the equipment on the boat. Many of the problems that occur on a boat that result in ending a boater’s day could’ve been avoided with just a little maintenance. Make sure to check the fluid levels before going out on the water and ensure that the boat’s battery is fully charged. These little maintenance checks take very little time to complete and will ensure you’ll have a great time on the water while avoiding any potential embarrassment of boat trouble.
Due to the fact that the driver of the boat and the person being towed are separated by the length of the towrope, verbal communication is impossible. Instead, it’s important to establish a set of hand signals prior to going out that each person will use to properly communicate with the driver and person being towed. Some of the basic signals include thumbs up or down for speed adjustments, patting the top of the head to end a run, and swirling your pointer finger in a circular motion to turn around. Regardless of what hand signals are decided on, it’s important that everyone involved has a full understanding so there is no miscommunication.
Know Your Speed
Depending on the watersport that you’re participating in, the activity you’re doing, and the experience of the rider, there is an ideal tow speed. For example, a beginning wakeboarder should be towed as slowly as 10-12 miles per hour but an advanced slalom skier can be towed as fast as 36 miles per hour. It’s important to understand what the ideal speed is for your participant to ensure the maximum amount of fun while maintaining a safe speed for them.
You also should always be aware of the speed limit. For the safety of all vessels and wildlife, certain areas of the Indian River Lagoon have strict speed limits that are posted in the water. The driver of the boat should always be aware of the speed limit in the particular area in which they are driving.
Wear Your Life Jacket
One of the most important things about going out on the water is to wear a coast-guard approved personal flotation device. Many wakeboarders and waterskiers like to wear competition vests when wakeboarding or skiing recreationally but these vests are specifically designed for the controlled environment of competition. Also there is safety and medical staff nearby if something does go wrong. When you’re out on the lagoon, this isn’t the case so you should think safety first and wear a proper vest.
Additionally, Florida law dictates what type of vest a person should be wearing while boating. Any skiing or other aquaplaning device without a U.S. Coast Guard approved non-inflatable Type I, II, III, or V personal flotation device is prohibited.
Don’t Drink and Boat
Never attempt to operate a boat or participate in any watersports while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Make sure you wait until you’re off the water before doing so. Florida law states that any boater that is suspected of being the influence must submit a sobriety test and physical or chemical test to determine their blood or breath alcohol content. The person is deemed to be under the influence if their blood or breath alcohol level is at or above .08. For any boaters 21 years or younger, a level of .02 or higher and operating or being in physical control of a vessel will find them in violation of Florida law.
Participating in watersports while on the water is a great way to maximize the fun of your outing. At 321 Boat Club, we want to make sure that you remain safe while enjoying your time on the Indian River Lagoon. These tips will help ensure that you have a fun and memorable day on the water.