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Depending on who you talk to, tubes are either, "a real kick" or a source of, "severe injury, even death." Most of the same things about pulling a skier apply to pulling a tube. As the towing boat's captain, you need to know how towing a tube affects your boat, how your maneuvers affect the tube and a few miscellaneous things to make life on a tube -- and in a boat -- safer for everybody.
Three Letters: "PFD"
The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary points out that, "Most states require that PWC operators, as well as water skiers, and those riding on water toys, must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket." Not only must all persons wear a personal flotation device -- a life jacket -- when riding a tube, you should have a variety of sizes aboard, to accommodate tube riders of varying size. Each personal flotation device should have an impact rating that equals or exceeds your boat's top speed.
Tubes Affect Your Boat
Have the engine serviced before you pull the first tube of the season. Just as your car's engine may bog down a bit when you tow your boat, your boat's engine bogs down when you pull a tube. Ensure the point of attachment for the tow rope, whether a ski pole, towing cleat or other attachment point, is well-attached to your boat. Test your boat's kill switch, if it's so equipped, and experiment with tow rope length. The tow rope should be at least 20 feet long, to keep riders out of the engine exhaust.
Take your unoccupied tube for a test drive at the beginning of the season. Pull the tube through turns, over wakes and bring the boat to a stop, to see what the tube does in relation to your boat. When you turn your boat, the length of the tow rope acts like a whip. Experiment with towing the tube. Slow down for turns; the boat swings the tube in a wider circle than your boat and its speed in a turn can double that of the boat.
Follow Water Skiing Rules, Too
Follow the general rules for water skiers; have an observer to watch the tube in tow, kill your boat's engine when you move into position to retrieve tubers from the water, make sure everyone can leave the tube in a hurry, in case of trouble and make smooth, slow starts and stops. Remember that, when you go into a turn, centrifugal force can sling riders from the tube. Use the kill switch and remove the ignition key befor you attempt to pick up fallen riders. Finally, when you or the riders become tired, call it a day.
Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.