Driving or riding a personal watercraft (PWC) is a fun, unique way to enjoy time on the water. PWC provide freedom and maneuverability that is unparalleled. The jet propulsion feature and lack of propeller provide a smooth ride unlike anything else.
The unique nature of a PWC requires a basic understanding of operating procedures. Before grabbing the throttle, it is important to learn about responsible riding. You see, riding responsibly is not just about protecting yourself, it’s about being aware (and honest) about your skill level, conscious of your boat and the wake it leaves behind, considerate towards other boaters and being sensitive to marine life.
First, a word about today’s PWC technology. With clean and quiet four-stroke motors, comfortable seating, stable decks and a long list of improved safety features, the PWC being sold today really have earned the title “Next Generation.” With the proper education, riders can use PWC in new, exciting ways including watersports like skiing and wakeboarding, fishing and even camping expeditions.
Using the Throttle and PWC Features
Most PWC don’t have brakes. They require the rider to use thrust from the throttle while turning away from whatever object (swimmer, dock, boat, submerged log) you may be heading towards. This is important to think about because it is as counter-intuitive as just about anything else you may need remember in a hurry. For that reason, it is best to ride slow until you are comfortable. Like anything else, PWC just take a few minutes to learn, but plenty of practice to master.
At least one brand of PWC includes a “braking system.” You will still need to get used to the stopping distance particular to that model of PWC. Always practice your power-out maneuver, brake or no brake, until it becomes second nature.
Wear Proper Safety Gear
Part of the thrill of piloting a PWC is that “here we go” sensation. But responsible riding requires that you make sure you are protected while having fun. That means wearing a proper-fitting lifejacket and neoprene shorts. Eye protection is not a bad idea either. Snug fitting, wrap around shades can prevent water or debris from entering the eye.
Know The Rules
They call basic boating safety guidelines the “Rules of the Road,” even though you’re out on the water. That’s probably because most automobile drivers know how to act at a four-way stop or if they’re turning left in front of an oncoming car. There are lots of different rules that you should know before leaving the dock, but here’s one you need to know about PWC....they never have the right of way. Long story short, boats under power give way to sailboats and paddlers like canoes and kayaks. And the shorter and more maneuverable the powerboat, the lower on the pecking order you are. In other words, PWC riders always have to give way to other boats. Never assume the other guy will dodge you…take evasive action and get back to the fun.
For More PWC Safety Tips, check out DiscoverBoating.com.