Some of my favorite memories of my little ones are the times we've spent together on the water. Happy memories on a boat will last a lifetime for all of us. Of course, since they are four and seven, their favorite thing to do is tube behind the boat.
Keeping my kids safe on a tube is my number one priority. It feels silly to even have to write that but I feel like it's important to just remind people. It's so easy to fall into a complacent lifestyle and start to letting cumbersome safety measures slide away.
I'm sure the regular readers out there are tired of my over sharing. But hopefully you'll humor me one more time. My oldest child is epileptic and the helicopter parent in me wants to draw the line in the sand and say NO to tubing. It's hard when you have a child with special needs to let them do things that might be high risk. I have to remind myself that life is about the memories and not about living in a bubble. The reason that I've spent the time telling you all of this is because I want you to know that I do let my child tube but I take the following list of safety tips together VERY seriously.
Always wear a PFD
Common sense? Sure. It's always a good idea to wear a life jacket when on a pontoon in general, but it's not even negotiable when you're on a tube. The rider could easily become separated from the tube and, if the lost consciousness, would sink well before the boat could loop around. Children should be wearing a life jacket no matter what.
Designate a spotter
Use one person onboard as the official spotter. This person is in charge of keeping a lookout for water tubing accidents or to notify the captain if anyone has fallen off the tube. Having this specified person allows the boat driver to concentrate on oncoming obstacles and keeping the boat moving safely and smoothly.
Have your flag ready
When your tuber is off the tube, you will need to raise a brightly colored flag, usually red or orange, to let other boaters know that you have someone in the water, away from the boat. The color of the flag is a state regulation so check with your local boating authority. There's a debate on whether or not the flag should be in the air at all times, even when someone is out of the boat yet on the tube. This is against the law in some states so this is also a good thing to research.
Know your equipment
Be familiar with your tubing equipment and its limitation. Make sure to follow to the manufacturer's recommendations for capacity in terms of size and weight, number of riders, age limits and maximum towing speed. Companies don't include this information for fun, they have tested it out. They know their product best and you can trust what they tell you.
Use a secure tow line
Another important safety aspect of tubing is making sure that the tow line is securely tied before you fire up the engine. Be conscious of wear, tear, and fraying on your line and replace as frequently as needed. Use rope that is specifically designated for towing tubes.
Recognize your riders' capabilities
It's also important to use common sense when it comes to the capability of your rider, especially when tubing with small children or anyone with special needs. While sharp turns, high speeds, and big waves create a thrill for those involved, use them sparingly with little ones. Trust me, they enjoy the feeling of the wind in the hair that eight mile per hour creates. They don't need to be whipped around.
Check before you start
Never start the boat without first making sure that your rider is ready to go. Being ready to go means that they have a firm grip on the handle, they are properly positioned on the tube and that the line is safely positioned away from the prop. When tubing with multiple passengers, help the riders understand how to balance their weight together to safely stay on the tube.
Don't drink and drive a boat. Ever. Especially when tubing. The driver should be alert, completely sober and have an understanding on how to pull a tube. Passengers should help by keeping an eye out for additional water dangers such as rocks, docks and buoys. It's also helpful to others on the lake if you keep your tubes at a reasonable distance away from those trying to fish.
Handle wakes with care
Slow the boat down when crossing wakes. Bouncing off wakes at extremely high speeds has been known to cause back injury, especially with riders who are laying on their stomachs.
Be aware of local water regulations
Make sure you are familiar with the specific regulations governing the body of water you're tubing on, in particular towing speeds. It's not a bad idea to talk to someone who works at the marina or dock to see what local customs are. They may not be law but they can help you fit in and be respectful.
Have fun and teach your kids to tube responsibly
Hopefully, that's enough said. Tubing is fun and a great way to spend a summer afternoon.