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Course Outline

Observer with orange flag watching persons being towed

Vessel operators towing a person(s) on water skis, aquaplanes, kneeboards, inner tubes, or any similar devices have specific equipment and observer requirements.

  • Every vessel towing a person(s) on water skis or other devices must have on board, in addition to the operator, a person capable of observing the person(s) being towed and reporting their progress to the operator. The observer must:
    • Continuously observe the person(s) being towed and…
    • Tell the vessel operator when the person(s) is no longer being towed and…
    • Display a red or orange skier-down flag whenever a person is in the water after falling or while preparing to ski. The flag must be displayed so that it is visible from all directions. The flag should not be displayed when the person is skiing or is out of the water.
  • Every person being towed behind a vessel on water skis or other devices must wear a USCG–approved wearable PFD. Wearable PFDs that are inflatable and most wearable Type II PFDs are not approved for persons being towed, and they are not designed for impact at higher speeds.
  • If towing a person on water skis or other devices, the vessel must be rated to carry at least the number of persons on board plus those being towed.
    • If towing a skier with a PWC, the PWC must be rated for at least three people—the operator, the observer, and the retrieved skier.
    • You may not exceed the vessel's safe carrying capacity.
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  • Topic 14 of 21
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