Towing activities are high-risk. They’ve become associated with a significant percentage of fatal and serious injuries in parts of Australia.

Going out on the water in one of the most beautiful parts of the world should always be fun. We at Mike’s Marine take towing safety in the Redlands Bay area extremely seriously. That’s why we’ve compiled a towing safety guide that’ll help you to mitigate any risks.

Read on for boating tips you need to know in Raby Bay and the Redland Bay area.

The Most Popular Towing Activities

Towing involves a boat pulling a person and watersport equipment with a rope or line to skim along the surface of the water. Here are some of the most common towing activities:

  • Kneeboarding, water skiing, aquaplaning, parasailing
  • Wakeboarding, riding on an inflatable raft, inner tube or biscuit

If you’re towing a person or you’re close to a person who’s getting towed, you need to take extra care. There must always be a driver and an observer on board. The only exception to this is “tow-in surfing” when you’re using a personal watercraft (PWC) to tow someone on a surfboard onto a breaking wave.

The boat should be a registered vessel, have a safety label if it’s a powered craft and carry the necessary safety equipment such as lifejackets.

All About the Tow Rope

The tow rope has to be long enough for the towed person. That means it needs to be at least 7 metres behind the boat. This is to eliminate any danger from carbon monoxide emissions or potential contact with the propeller.

There may be exceptions:

  • If you have a plan to mitigate any risks of carbon monoxide emissions
  • When the propeller is forward of the back of the hull

You should refrain from a sudden or heavy load on tow ropes. This could happen when the tow rope is loose and the boat accelerates rapidly. Failure to do this could lead to serious injuries both to those on board or others in the water.

The Driver’s Responsibilities

The driver of a boat when towing should have a boat licence when driving over 10 knots in a powerboat or a sailing boat using its engine. They should also wear a lifejacket and be under the legal alcohol limit.

The driver is responsible for:

  • The safety of the vessel and the person towed
  • Ensuring the person towed wears a lifejacket
  • Keeping a proper lookout
  • Ensuring the tow rope is the right length
  • Ensuring the tow rope or equipment does not pose any danger to others

The driver must also ensure they keep the boat and towed person a minimum distance from people, other vessels, structures and land. A driver should never tow more than 3 people at a time, or pull a person through the water while they are holding onto the back of a vessel.

The Observer’s Responsibilities

Part of the observer’s role is to keep a lookout and let the driver concentrate on driving. The requirements of an observer are stringent. They include:

  • Having a boat or PWC license if under 16
  • Wearing a life jacket on a PWC
  • Being under the legal alcohol limit

Observers must not have any hearing, sight, medical condition or disability that might have an adverse effect on their ability to observe. They need to be up to speed with standard hand signals. They should always be facing backwards to watch the towed person.

The observer is responsible for:

  • Keeping a close eye on the towed person
  • Communicating with the towed person
  • Reporting any safety concerns to the driver
  • Telling the driver about other boats coming up from behind

More About the Person Getting Towed

Anyone getting towed should always wear a life jacket. That includes “tow-in” surfers and wake surfers. They also must be under the legal alcohol limit and stay a minimum distance from people, other vessels, the shore and structures as part of towing safety in the Redlands area.

When returning to the shore they must stay well clear of other people who may be on the shore or in the water. Towing safety includes approaching the shore at a safe speed.

Keeping to a Safe Speed

You should never drive faster than 10 knots if you’re aged 16 or under. That’s unless you’re exempt as part of an organised event. You should never drive faster than 60 knots if the towed person is under the age of 18 or when anyone on board is under 18.

You must always travel at a safe speed when returning the person to shore. Pay special attention to “‘fling finishes” or “whip turns.” These manoeuvres can very dangerous, especially if the person lacks experience. Provided it’s safe, the best advice is to stop the vessel and bring the person on board.

Keeping a Safe Distance

The driver should keep the boat, towed equipment and towed person at recommended minimum distances of:

  • 60m from others in the water, including swimming and surfing areas
  • 60m from the boundaries of designated swimming areas and surf zones
  • 60m from a dive flag or float
  • 30m from other vessels, the shore and structures if driving faster than 6 knots

When towing aerial equipment such as parasailing gear, you need to stay a minimum distance of 200m from other vessels, cables, wires and pipelines, bridges or other structures. You should also keep at these distances when approaching other boats or people from any direction.

You must never tow at night i.e. between sunset and sunrise. You should avoid congested areas and be mindful of unexpected hazards such as snags or floating logs. Abide by any towing safety signs displaying disallowed activities.

For “tow-in surfing,” the personal watercraft operator should follow these rules:

  • Only tow one person at a time
  • Carry a safety knife in a readily accessible place along with dive fins
  • Give right of way to other recreational or boating activities

The driver must also not operate the boat at a speed of more than 6 knots within 200m of others in the water with the exception of the towed person.

Come and Have a Chat About Redland Bay Boating

We at Mike’s Marine are happy to talk through any boating queries you may have and direct you to the relevant official advice. Get in touch with us today. We’re always up for a chat about anything boat-related.