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PWC are versatile craft, and that means a three-passenger model can do double-duty as a towboat for watersports. But just because you’re a skilled and competent PWC driver doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be a skilled and competent PWC driver for towsports. Towing takes a steadier hand on the throttle, a greater focus on your craft’s path through the water, and the added responsibility of taking care of a rider – and a towline – trailing behind you in the water.
Want to do it right? Here are five simple tips.
Maintain a Steady Speed
It’s probably the number-one most difficult task for a PWC driver. We’re used to punching the throttle, or fluctuating our speed based on the conditions. With a skier, wakeboarder, or tuber in tow, however, it’s essential to maintain a steady, predictable speed.
If you’ve got some form of cruise control, the job is easy. Just lock in the target speed and squeeze the throttle. Your speed will stay relatively constant, even through the turns. If your PWC isn’t equipped with cruise control, however, the pressure is on you to have the steady hand. And that’s not always as easy as it sounds.
It’s simplest when going straight. Try to avoid letting wakes or bumps cause your finger to jump on the throttle, but do your best to maintain a consistent, steady pressure. A good suggestion is to glance at your RPM, not your speed, and try to keep it consistent. You can also anticipate when a wake may make your finger jump, and prepare yourself to avoid it.
Safe Tubing Behind Your PWC
Heading into a turn, realize your speed will naturally drop. Accelerate gently and predictably so that your towee doesn’t lose momentum. At the same time, avoid the temptation to punch the throttle through a turn; it can result in your rider being whipped to the outside of the wake at dangerous speeds.
Drive a Straight Line
Chances are, most of us drive a pretty crooked path, even when we think we’re going straight as an arrow. The cause is usually watching the water too close in front of the craft, or taking your eyes off the water too often to check your skier in the mirror. The latter is the spotter’s job. As the driver, your attention should remain focused on the water and other boats around you.
To keep that path straight, use a trick relied on by tournament ski boat drivers. Rather than look slightly ahead, pick a target on a shoreline in the distance, and steer directly at it. You’ll notice your path stays far straighter.
And when you do take your eyes off the water immediately ahead, you’ll have a landmark to quickly come back to.
Use Care When Coming Back for a Downed Rider
PWC are highly maneuverable. That’s a big strength when coming back to a downed rider. That maneuverability, however, can also get you into trouble.
Safe Boating Reminders For PWC Operators
Always slow to an idle when approaching a rider in the water. Try to bring them back the rope in a predictable arc, with the driver always keeping an eye on exactly where the rider is in relation to the PWC. Should you find yourself getting too close, don’t punch the throttle to get clear. You may not have the room and time you think. Instead, slow the craft with reverse or neutral, or in the worse case scenario, shut off the engine by pulling the lanyard. Better to drift up against a rider in the water who can fend off your slow-moving boat than to risk hitting them with any force.
Don’t Suck Up the Rope!
Don’t laugh; plenty of us have driven too close to the towrope when our rider is down in the water and inadvertently sucked it up in the pump. What follows is a lengthy process of getting your boat to shore, turning it on edge, and attempting to unwind the mess wound around the driveline. Usually, that process ends with you slicing up your perfectly good towrope.
Task your spotter with keeping an eye on the towrope line whenever you are idling, whether it’s at the start or when circling around a downed rider. Try to maintain some forward momentum so that the line strings out behind you. It’s when you’re stopped and drifting that you’ll cross over the line most often.
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Should the spotter alert you that the line is going under the boat or should you see yourself drifting towards the line ahead, don’t be tempted to punch the throttle and get away. The sudden suction of water may be all the line needs to find its way into the pump. Instead, shut off the engine and assess the situation, even if it means drifting over the towrope. Chances are you’ll just need to pull the line clear and away from the pump.
Don’t Forego a Spotter!
Tempted to tow a rider without a spotter? Don’t. Towing is a two-person job. The driver needs to be focused on the water, other boats, and any other obstacles that may appear in the boat’s path. In turn, the spotter’s job is to watch the rider in tow and communicate any problems or directions to the driver.
Ready to argue that you have rearview mirrors? They’re not enough, and again, take the driver’s focus away from where they should be looking.
Do things right, keep everyone safe, and the fun will follow.
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