To Fly the Flag or Not to Fly the Flag that is the Question.


One of the most common questions is the use of a Skier Down Flag. When to use it and how to use it.

 On any given day, one will see well meaning boaters pulling a skier, or a tube, with the flag proudly displayed for all to see.  Conversely, one will see  boater displaying no flag and worse yet no observer when pulling a skier or tube. 

Each state has different laws regarding the skier down flag.  So become familiar with the law in what ever state you are boating in.

 In Missouri State law requires that operators of a motorboat (other than a PWC) on the waters of the Mississippi River, the Missouri River, or Missouri lakes between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and sunset must clearly display a red or orange flag whenever a person enters the water before or after being towed on water skis or other similar devices.

  • The flag must be at least 12 inches x 12 inches in size.
  • The flag should not be displayed while the vessel is underway towing the person(s) on water skis or other similar devices. (Less known is that the flag is only to be flown when skier is in the water, not when underway. That will come as news to the captains of all those boats seen flying down the lake with an orange flag flapping in the breeze.)
  • PWC and moored or anchored motorboats are exempt from displaying the skier-down flag.
  • Vessel operators must not operate within 50 yards of a displayed skier-down flag. ( That means all boats are required to operate at idle speed within 50 yards of the flagged vessel.) 
In regards to an observer Missouri law states" No person shall operate a personal watercraft on any waters of this state for towing a person or persons on water skis, or a surfboard, or similar device unless there is a person on the personal watercraft, in addition to the operator, or an approved ski mirror attached to the personal watercraft, in a position to observe the progress of the person or persons being towed."

Another adult or at least someone over the age of 12 can be an observer.   Lets face it as captain of the boat you are busy operating the boat, watching for other boaters, the safety of the passengers, with all that going on and then some.  It is a good idea to have an observer to inform you when someone is down in the water, as well as to operate the skier down flag.

Two other points, where to ski or tube,  Here at Lake of the Ozarks ( or as some as called it Lake of the Ocean) Don't pull a tube or ski in the main channel.   At times, the wake can be so large that a boater will not see a person in the water until it is to late, Skier down flag or not.

Find a large enough cove, where you can safely pull a tube or skier, with out causing damage, or disrupting other boaters.    Stay at least 100 feet from no wake buoys and docks, please be respectful of others and keep everyone save to enjoy the water another day. 


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