Water tubing tips for cottagers

I remember shrieking with excitement and frantically rounding up all my cottager buddies when my dad would agree to tow us behind the old Mastercraft. What a wake! Tubes have always been my preferred wipe-out toy of choice. Even after wakeboards became the coolest towable device, I remained loyal to the tube. I guess I just loved the distinct rubber smell, the neon colours, and the scraped elbows that tubes promised to deliver.

What I really love about tubing even now is that there’s no actual athletic skill required. But if you happen to have a brazen nerve, chewed up elbows bring you pride, and your lifejacket fits like a glove, you’re good to go!

If, like my dad was, you’re the designated tower for every summer-breaker within biking distance, it’s a good idea to remember a few key tips for keeping towing activities fun but also safe. The first step of course, is to be an educated and properly certified boat operator by getting your mandatory boat license. You also want to make sure that everyone participating has a lifejacket that fits them properly—especially when towing children. If a child’s lifejacket is too big and they have a doozy of a wipe-out, they will likely fall out of the lifejacket or become tangled in it while they wait for you to turn the boat around and come pick them up.

At BOATsmart! I highly recommend that boaters and passengers practice the standardized hand signals for towing. There are signals for going slower, going faster, stopping, etc. Go over these hand signals before your passengers become fast-moving and sometimes airborne objects! Get those cottage kids and your designated spotter on the dock and become a “driver-spotter-rider” team before anyone slides into those bindings or flops onto that tube.

Illustration courtesy of Chris Coles at BOATsmart!


Towing tips for an easy ride

When steering the boat for passengers who are tubing, try to make gentle S-shaped turns. This will help drift the tube outside of the boat’s wake and will reduce the possibility of a wipe-out for those who don’t want to fall off the tube.

Or how about a wild ride?

If you’re towing passengers who want to hit those wakes, you can cautiously zigzag up the lake—but only if there is no other boat traffic. Be aware of the other boats you are operating around when towing passengers. Non-powered boats like kayaks may be easily swamped by your boat’s wake, and paddle folk will not appreciate the rough water venue your zigzagging will create!

So what are the rules?

In Canada, it is required by law that you have a designated spotter on board the boat during towing activities. This is the only way to communicate over the roar of the engine, the sounds of other boat traffic, and the music that may be playing on your boat. As the rider who is being pulled along at fairly high speeds, you will definitely want to have a method of communication with your spotter!

Here is a list of the rules in Canada for towing a passenger with your boat:

  • There must be a spotter on board the boat to communicate with the operator and the rider.
  • There must be an empty seat on your boat for each person being towed.
  • Only personal watercraft (PWCs) made to carry 3 or more people may be used for towing.
  • No towing is allowed when visibility is poor or from one hour after sunset to sunrise.
  • A towing boat cannot be remotely controlled.

To operate a boat with skill and confidence, get your Pleasure Craft Operator Card from BOATsmart! Keep your family and your waterway safe by having the knowledge to operate your boat and tow your passengers safely.