Summer is here for many of us, and many of us who live here in Northwest Florida we spend the summer on the water. We own boats, paddle boards, surf boards, etc. We love the water. This is why it was alarming to see this investigation on the Today Show. According to Rossen Report, last year there were more than 4,000 boating accidents, resulting in 610 deaths. Now the nonprofit BoatUS Foundation, safety entity of Boat Owners Association of the United States, is issuing a new warning. “When you’re tubing, you’re going about 18 to 25 miles per hour,” said Chris Edmonston, president of BoatUS Foundation. “And when you fall off, it can almost be like hitting concrete.” To demonstrate the jarring affect, NBC national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen went tubing, with Edmonston operating the boat towing him. When he hit the boat’s wake, Rossen flipped over, slamming into the water as his tube flew into the air.
Rossen demonstrated the recommended actions after wiping out:
Resist the instinct to immediately swim back to the boat. Instead, stay exactly where you are, treading water. (Since it is mandatory to wear a life vest while tubing, treading water is not difficult.)
Look around for other boats to make sure you won’t get hit. Then give the OK sign to your boat. Make eye contact so the boat operator knows you’re all right, and then wait for them to come get you.
What boat operator Edmonston did next is important: As soon as he came around and let Rossen grab the tow line, he turned off the boat’s motor before pulling Rossen in. With the motor off, there is no chance of getting hit with the propeller. Only then is it safe to get near the boat. With the right training, the right equipment, and knowing your ability, you can have a great time on the water and be totally safe. The same tips apply to other water sports such as wakeboarding and water skiiing.
Other important tips:
- Always make sure there are at least two people on the boat: someone to drive, and a spotter to watch the tuber or water-skiier. In place of the observer, the operator may use appropriate wide-angle rear-view mirrors. However, the safest bet is to use a “spotter” or observer. That way, the operator can concentrate on driving the boat and pay attention to what is in front of and around him or her. The spotter has a much better ability to watch the person being towed
- Any riders being towed behind a vessel are required to wear a life jacket; however, it cannot be the inflatable style.
- Although there is no required specific distance to keep away from fixed objects or other boats, operators should not pull the tuber close enough to anything where there is risk of collision. Doing so could not only result in a citation but, more importantly, it puts the life of the person being towed in jeopardy. “A good rule of thumb is this: Twice the line should be fine,” Florida Fish and Wildlife says. “If you consider the length of your towline and are diligent in keeping your boat at least two lengths of your towline away from all boats and other objects, you are much more likely to provide your riders with an enjoyable, safe time on the water.”
- Boaters may pull riders on towable water sport items only during the day – from a half-hour before sunrise until a half-hour past sunset.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife wants to ensure that boaters can enjoy all that Florida’s waterways have to offer.