By: Tim Pellaton
- 20 year Barefoot Tournament Driver -
- Nationally Ranked Senior Driver -
- Chief Driver at National and World Events -
- Chief Safety Director at National and World Events -
- 19 year Member of USA Waterski ABC Division Towboat Committee -
The purpose of this page, is to try and provide safe driving tips to new and seasoned drivers of boats, on both a Recreational and Tournament basis. Prior to driving any boat or personal water craft, you should have a firm understanding of the state laws and guidelines to operating a boat in that state.
I have observed drivers over the years at both tournaments and in a recreational setting, bringing their boats into a dock, even though at idle speeds and the driver turns the engine off while the boat is still moving forward. Remember, the weight of most boats is around two to four thousand pounds. Boats moving even at an idle speed can make contact with a stationary dock with enough force to injure some unsuspecting fingers, hands or limbs. It's been my practice to use the power of the engine in the boat, with the reverse throttle application to stop the forward movement of the boat prior to making contact with the dock. In this way, either a person in the boat or standing on the dock does not have to use their body strength or body parts, to stop the movement of the boat and take the risks of getting something injured or strained. There you have it, now go out and try it.
Retrieving Fallen skiers/wakeboarders/barefooters
When pulling a person behind your boat, it is inevitable that they will experience a fall. Turning around and going back to that person can be done in different ways, some safe, some not as safe.First you will focus on keeping your fallen skier in sight. When you first negotiate your turn to go back to your skier (in a public waterway), you should be aware of any other boats that might interfere with the safe turning of your boat. Once you have determined that other boats will not interfere with your turn, you can negotiate that turn and head back to your fallen skier. When approaching your skier always keep that skier on the driver side of the boat instead of the passenger side of the boat. By returning to the fallen skier and keeping them on the driver side of the boat, you always have a clear and unobstructed view of your skier. If the skier is going to continue to ski, you will be circling around that skier until the towline is stretched taught. Caution: never throttle the boat up to pull your skier out of the water until two things occur. First; the towline must be strait and taught and you must be able to follow the rope from the boat all the way to the handle in the skier's hands.
Second, always wait until the skier gives a verbal command indicating they are ready to be pulled out of the water. Your process must be in this order, line straight back to the skiers handle and taught and skier ready to go with an audible command. If you follow the above procedure you can help to greatly reduce the chances for any mishaps.
Pulling skiers on public waterways
You can never be too alert when pulling someone behind your boat. With the lakes and rivers getting more crowded every year, a driver must stay alert to all other boat traffic within site of his own boat. An observer, as required by most states, is your key helper in allowing you to be aware of the other boat traffic on the waterway you are using. The two of you should communicate when ever necessary in order to stay informed about the status of your skier, other boats and how you should navigate around or away from that traffic. By working together, you again reduce the opportunities for any kind of mishap. It is a healthy practice, like on the road in a car, to keep alcohol and any other mind altering drugs out of the driver's seat in a boat.