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When you come up to people who are not doing what they’re supposed to be doing water-skiing, what’s the gist? What do you give them when you say, here’s what you need to know?
Captain Mike England
Well, for the most part, we hope they know the law, but we have to educate them a little bit. And so we talk to them about the different types of life jackets and what they’re for. We definitely don’t want to see a water-skier wearing an inflatable life jacket. When people are water-skiing, they need to have a life jacket that fits properly. You want something that’s going to fit tight, so when they fall, that the life jacket doesn’t come off, or tear loose, or come up over the arms to keep them from being able to swim. So they need a Coast Guard–approved life jacket that fits very tight around them.
You have to make sure that you have an observer on board or a wide-angle ski mirror. You always want to make sure that the driver of the boat’s concentrating on where they’re driving and what other boats are coming within traffic, and you want to make sure that somebody’s watching the skier so that if they fall—skiers give hand signals to let them know to speed up, or that they want to go back home, or that, you know, something’s happened, to slow down. Another question that comes up is, how many people can I pull on an inner tube? And basically, we just need to make sure that people don’t overload their vessel. So that if the inner tube were to pop and everybody had to get back in the vessel, we want to make sure that they’re not overloading it.
What other laws are there for skiers?
The other laws are as far as how you tow skiers. Basically, being aware of how long your ski rope is, so that when you’re pulling people and you’re making a turn, knowing that that inner tube or that that skier can go outside that wake and go as far as that ski rope. So if you’ve got a 70-foot ski rope, you know, making sure that you allow enough room for that tube or that skier so that they don’t hit any objects on the shoreline. In Georgia, we have the 100-foot law. So the 100-foot law means that vessels and skiers have to be 100 feet away from the shoreline, docks, or objects in the water.
OK, you’ve got to be far enough away from objects, you need life jackets—
The other thing for water-skiers is that they are considered to be, you know, they’re in charge of where they go and how they operate. And skiers can also be arrested for operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. So skiers have to make sure that they’re not partaking in any type of illegal drug or alcohol that would affect their ability to maneuver their skis and make good judgments. Water-skiers need to make sure that they stop skiing at sunset. So we enforce the law by time: sunrise to sunset. Now, whenever sunset is, they need to check the chart and see when sunset is. That’s when they need to have their lights on for operation, and that’s when all skiers and tubes need to be put up. Water-skiers that ski over toward someone and try to spray them with water is considered to be reckless operation. And here, again, they’re violating the 100-foot law by doing that, but it’s also considered to be reckless if they ski over toward someone to try and spray them with water.