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Water safety on the Murray River and skiing information


Murray River
Water Skiing and Safety

Click here for boating information

More information from the Marine Operations Group Safety Handbook Correct at the time of printing. This information is provided as is. Discover Murray accepts no responsibility for any information relating to this page.


Water Skiing and Boating Safety


About Water Skiing

Water skiing is a very popular form of boating, as evidenced by the numerous skiers who converge on favourite spots along the River Murray, particularly on weekends. There are times when this level of popularity results in overcrowding of some areas and this, coupled with the relatively high speeds associated with water skiing creates an element of risk both for participants and other river users.

To minimise these risks, a number of special rules apply to water skiing in addition to those which apply to boating generally-

* Water skiing is not permitted before sunrise or after sunset except with written permission from the Marine Safety Section.

* No more than three people or one device (such as a tyre tube) may be towed behind a boat at any one time, except with written permission.

* Every water skier (or person being towed in any other manner) must wear an approved personal floatation device (PFD) type 2 or 3.

* A boat engaged in water skiing must carry an observer in addition to the operator. In general, both the operator and the observer must be at least 16 years of age. However, a person between 12 and 15 years of age may act as an observer, provided that he or she holds a boat operator's permit and the boat operator is at least 18 years of age.

* The observer must continuously watch the skier and give the operator of the boat any directions necessary to ensure the safety of the skier.

* 0.05 blood alcohol limits apply to observers and water skiers, in addition to boat operators.

* A skier falling into the water must when possible hold an arm or ski vertically in the air to signal his or her presence.

* Turns on leaving, approaching or in front of a take-off area must be made in an anti-clockwise direction.

* Boats leaving a take-off area must keep out of the way of boats arriving at a take-off area.

* Ski ropes or skis trailing from a boat must be removed from the water before arriving at a take-off area.

* Dropped skis must not be left in the water so as to present a hazard to other traffic.

* Applicable to all boats - a boat must not travel within 50 meters of and directly behind a person who is being towed by another boat.

Alcohol and Drugs

0.05 alcohol limits apply to the operators of all boats in South Australian waters. Police and Marine Safety Officers are empowered to use breath testing equipment to help detect operators exceeding legal limits. Heavy penalties and loss of license apply to offenders.

Alcohol increases body heat loss, reducing your survival time if you should fall overboard, and increases pulse rate, leading to quick exhaustion if you have to swim to safety.

Prescription medications and other drugs can also pose problems. Many preparations for a sea-sickness, hay fever and other allergies can make you feel drowsy or easily confused. Check with your doctor or chemist on the possible side effects of any drug you are obliged to take before you go boating.


If you are operating a boat which is involved in a collision or other casualty, you are legally obliged to:

* Stop your boat;

* If the accident results in he death or injury of any person, or damage to another vessel which affects its seaworthiness of the safety of those on board, render any assistance possible without serious danger to your own passengers or crew

* Give your name and address and, if requested, the name of the owner of the boat to the operator of any other boat involved, any injured person or the owner of any damaged property;

* If the accident has resulted in death or injury to any person or damage to any vessel; or property apparently exceeding $300, you must report the matter to a police officer near the place of the accident as soon as possible and within 48 hours, stating:

    • the time and place of the accident;
    • the circumstances;
    • the name and addresses of any person killed or injured; and
    • the names and addresses of any witnesses.

A special form for reporting boating accidents is available from most police stations.

If you are not directly involved in an accident but see one occur nearby, you have a legal obligation to assist where possible, provided that in doing so you do not seriously endanger your own passengers.


Although boat insurance is completely voluntary, boat owners are strongly advised to take out some form of cover, particularly against liability which may occur if loss of life or serious injury results from a boating accident.

Even accidents which result in little or no property damage often cause serious injuries to those involved, and damages claims for the personal injuries sustained in an accident often amount to tens of thousands of dollars. Without adequate third party insurance, the consequences of a claim for personal injuries or damage caused to property could be disastrous and quite easily lead to financial ruin.

Marine insurance cover is reasonably inexpensive, however, it can be arranged through any insurance company offering this type of policy.

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