Personal Watercraft, Safety, And You
At an average length of around 10 feet, personal watercraft (PWC) may seem small, but they come with some pretty big responsibility. With the horsepower of a large outboard engine and the acceleration of a motorcycle. PWC are not toys. In fact, the U.S. Coast Guard considers personal watercraft Class A vessels, which means all safety equipment and operation laws that apply to boat under 16 feet also apply to a PWC. Most states have operator age and education requirements, too. So before you launch, here are a few things you’ll need to know to have a safe and hassle-free day on the water.
Required Equipment For A PWC
- A life jacket for each operating passenger, and person being towed
- A Coast Guard-approved B-1 fire extinguisher
- An approved sound-signaling device such as a whistle or horn
- An emergency engine cutoff lanyard attached to the operator
- Proper display of registration numbers, letters and validation decals
- Vessel registration, to be displayed when requested
- A functioning backfire flame arrestor and passive ventilation system
Recommended Safety Equipment
- Hand-held VHF radio, and a cell phone as a backup
- A basic first-aid kit, sunscreen, and burn cream
- A dewatering device such as a hand operated bilge pump
- An anchor and enough anchor line for your area
- If pulling a skier or other tow-sport participant, a skier-down flag, ano server over a certain age, and rear–view mirrors may also be required.
Even if they’re not required, they’re good to have.
- And finally, when operating on inland waters, it’s recommended you have a suitable, daytime distress signal such as flares, an orange flag, or signal mirror.
Follow These Rules And Everyone Has Fun
In many states, PWC-operator laws are more stringent than recreational-vessel operator requirements. PWC manufacturers recommend a minimum operator age of 16. However, operator laws vary from state to state, so it’s best to check with your local waterway authority before operating or letting a friend operate your PWC. If you loan out your craft, be certain whoever operates it is fully aware of the local and federal boating laws and know how to operate your craft. You’re responsible when you loan your PWC. For more state operator requirements, visit www.BoatUS.org and click on your state.
- Wear a life jacket approved for PWC use.
- Take a safe boating course. No excuses.
- Know the laws and don’t push the limits.
- Learn the meaning of navigation marks and signs.
- Never ride after consuming drugs or alcohol.
- Carry no more passengers than the vessel’s rating allows.
- Check your craft for proper function before riding.
- Respect ecologically sensitive areas and wildlife.
- Large vessels, sailboats under sail, and paddle craft should always be given priority.
- When meeting another craft head-on, steer to the right and pass like cars.
- If overtaking another boat, you may pass on either side, but you must keep clear.
- If you’re about to cross paths with another vessel, the craft on the right should be allowed to continue at the same speed and direction, and you must alter your speed and direction to pass safely behind.
- You must take action to avoid collisions and maintain a proper lookout by scanning constantly.
- If you are unsure about the rules of the road, reduce your speed and take early defensive action.
For more on Rules of the Road, take a boating safety course. For online study materials and a safety course or to find a classroom-based class near you, click on the Educational Programs at www.BoatUS.com/Foundation.
Content Courtesy of BoatU.S.