There are various sizes available for jet-propelled watercraft, but the PWC is the most popular for recreational boaters.
Generally, a personal watercraft (or PWC) is a small boat where the operator sits, stands, or kneels rather than being inside (as is the case with an ordinary boat). Similarly to jet-propelled boats, a PWC uses inboard jet drives for its primary propulsion system. The easiest way to recognize a PWC is to think of its most popular brands, the Jet Ski and the Sea-Doo.
Due to the popularity of PWCs in US waters, specific laws and regulations are needed to ensure PWC safety and operation. The recreational boating community often shares the same waterways as PWC operators, and sometimes recreational boaters are also operators of PWCs. As a result, boaters and PWC operators need to be knowledgeable about the characteristics of their watercraft to ensure their safety.
The safe and proper handling of a PWC requires practice, just like that of other types of boats. For the new operators, it would be wise to spend one-on-one time with an experienced one to hone their skills, gain knowledge, and develop confidence in managing a PWC. This knowledge should not only be limited to skills but should also include appropriate decision-making to ensure everyone’s safety.
As a PWC operator, you must refrain from doing the following things to ensure everyone’s safety:
State and local laws govern many of the provisions outlined above. To operate their PWCs legally, operators must know what is and is not legal.
PWC operation differs significantly from that of other types of boats. Each is highly maneuverable and built for quick, sharp turns or rapid acceleration. Despite these characteristics, each PWC model has distinct functions that every operator must completely understand. Operators of PWCs need to consult their owner’s manual and understand the handling characteristics.
In some cases PWCs lose the ability to steer when the operator releases the throttle. Newer technology may reduce off-throttle steering loss.
PWCs do not have breaks, releasing the throttle will cause the craft to quickly slow down but this may lead to steering loss. Some PWCs include reverse wich can be used as a break.
Among the general components of PWC are:
A PWC is considered to be a type “A” Motorcraft and, therefore, must adhere to the following requirements of the US Coast Guard:
A PWC is highly maneuverable due to the jet drive propulsion system, which is highly responsive to even the slightest steering turns. As a result, PWC operators often attempt dangerous maneuvers beyond their boats’ capability to handle them safely. There is a risk of falling overboard due to these risky attempts. Even safe maneuvers can result in a fall overboard due to some uncontrollable contributing factors (like strong winds or waves).
As a result, PWC operators must be able to reboard their watercraft from the water. For a successful attempt, it is best to begin from the rear, or stern, of the watercraft. Reboarding devices are one of the best solutions to help the person get into the PWC from the water. These include a built-in transom ladder, lifting harness, and swim platforms.
When the operator is thrown from the watercraft, most PWCs have installed a lanyard-mounted cut-off switch. The switch automatically shuts off the engine if the operator falls overboard.
In some instances the PWC may flip over when the rider is thrown off. Follow the manufacturer’s instruction, sometimes found on the underside of the vessel in addition to the manual, on how to up-right the PWC.
Studies have shown that striking an object is the leading cause of PWC accidents. It is crucial to remain vigilant and keep a proper lookout if boaters operate in a congested area. Slowing down and being aware of what is around or if another vessel is approaching is the best way to prevent such accidents.
PWC are small and easily maneuverable, so boat operators must learn to give the right way to other bigger boats. Due to their smaller size, larger boats overlook what is around them and may not notice a PWC.
As with operating any other vehicle, boaters must maintain a safe speed and distance from other boats. Lastly, operators must be confident in their knowledge and skills in managing a PWC for everyone’s safety.
New operators should practice their skills with an experienced operator who can guide them on controlling the craft and making safe decisions.
When recovering a person from the water, the PWC should be powered off to prevent injuries.