It has happened to everyone who has ever installed a slalom course – you spend $50 or more on a set of buoys to get your course looking new, and a quarter of the new buoys pop while you are inflating them or bust the next day. And how about the frustration you feel when a daydreaming driver runs over your new boat guides, not to mention the strain of the eyes as you search for one ball that faded in a week's time? Common problems, but not insurmountable. Here are some ideas to save you some money and eliminate the buoy frustration.
Problem: Buoys pop while you're inflating them.
Solution: We purchased three sets of 12 buoys each from Overton's, Bart's and Ski Limited to see just how big a problem this is. We called from home and had the buoys shipped to that address so they wouldn't select any “special ones.” Amazingly, all 36 buoys inflated perfectly. Not one popped! Why? The solution may be that instead of using a high-pressure compressor to inflate the buoys, we used a small portable inflator that you can pick up at Kmart or order from a catalog for about $45. These inflators are still much faster than hand pumps but do not stretch the buoy rubber as quickly. An additional benefit is that the inflators usually come with a lighter-plug adapter so you can fill the buoys in the boat.
Problem: Buoys pop after a day or so in the lake.
Solution: The real problem here is over-inflation. I know, you filled the buoy to exact AWSA specifications, but you forgot about one thing. When the sun hits the buoy, the cool air you pumped in warms up and expands. This causes the rubber to over-stretch and pop. The secret here is to inflate the buoy to about half an inch smaller than the specification. By doing this, you will also prevent a few of the buoys from popping when you initially inflate them. None of our buoys popped after being in the Florida sun.
Problem: Daydreaming driver running over your boat-guide buoys.
Solution: The recommendation here is to spend an extra $3 per buoy and buy the Spongex boat-guide buoys. These buoys are made of solid foam, will not become waterlogged or pop, and can withstand the cut of a prop and show little damage. These buoys are available in the catalogs and are well worth the extra few bucks. They last much longer and keep your course looking great. Blackburn Buoys also sells a less-expensive version, but they don't last quite as long.
Problem: Buoys fade quickly in the summer sun.
Solution: Here's a photo-shoot trick. Rather than replace all of your old buoys that are in good shape, just pull them out, wash them in bleach and spray-paint them. You can easily get a full summer's use from a repainted buoy.