Video: Personal Watercraft: Preparing to Ride
Press the play button (▶) above to start the video.
Oh, hey! I’m glad you could join me today. You ever been out on one of these Sea-Doos?
The person behind the camera shakes his head.
No? Well, you are in for a fun time today. But first, we have to do the pre-launch safety check because before we head out on one of these machines, there are a few things to consider.
On screen: PERSONAL WATERCRAFT—BEFORE YOU RIDE
First off, like operating any machine, commit your owner’s manual to memory, and review it each time you head out on the water. It will help you understand how to use and maintain your machine. Then, when you also watch the instructional video that some manufacturers offer, you’ll be ready for that first, sweet ride. Knowing how to operate is crucial, and you have to know the laws that apply to personal watercraft. Besides the basic boating laws and regulations, there are a few specific to these machines.
And while this might look like a big toy to some people, it’s really an inboard boat. And because it’s such a different kind of watercraft, you need to know what the differences are, and what that means for steering, stopping, and safety. Let’s start with steering.
On screen: PERSONAL WATERCRAFT—STEERING
These machines are propelled by a jet drive that jets water out this steering nozzle back here. Back in the day, if you throttled down or cut power, you’d lose all steering control. But today, manufacturers use some form of assisted steering, like my Sea-Doo here. If I throttle down but turn hard one way, the assisted steering will kick in, allowing me to turn. When you cut power, your steering is limited.
Moral of the story? Don’t get into this situation. Because when that happens, you and your machine keep heading in the same direction as when you lost steering. And you can imagine that might not be so good, which brings us to stopping.
On screen: PERSONAL WATERCRAFT—STOPPING
It’s a no-brainer. Boats and watercraft can’t stop on a dime because they don’t have brakes like cars. If they shut off, momentum keeps them going. It’s simple physics, right? So watch and see how far you might keep going when you release the throttle.
On screen, we see a side-by-side comparison of stopping distances for PWCs traveling at three different speeds: 20 mph, 40 mph, and 60 mph.
Even with assisted braking, personal watercraft can travel pretty far—depending, of course, on how fast you’re going when you release the throttle. Surprising, isn’t it? Even machines with braking systems like these Sea-Doos can’t stop immediately. So give yourself plenty of room to stop. Which brings us to safety.
On screen: PERSONAL WATERCRAFT—SAFETY
For this machine to jet out such a powerful stream, the pump needs to suck in lots of water. With all that suction, you could suck in some scary stuff too. And that’s why you need to keep your hands, feet, loose clothing, and hair away from that intake area. And before cleaning any debris from the pump intake, shut off the darn engine. This jet can really injure you and your passengers. And that’s why anyone riding should wear a wetsuit, or similar protective clothing. And for safety’s sake, please keep everyone away from the steering nozzle when this thing is running.
These things are fast and maneuverable, so novice riders shouldn’t attempt anything beyond their skill level. And even if you are a pro, it’s super easy for you and your passenger to get tossed off. That’s why it’s usually required, and always recommended, everyone on board wear a life jacket. Just make sure you wear yours properly. And you know what? Inflatable ones don’t cut it on machines like these. And all passengers need to hold on to you securely, or to the handhold, while keeping both feet on or inside the footwell. If kids are too small, don’t let them ride. And never put anybody in front of the operator. Because anything can happen on the water, make sure your PWC is equipped with safety and signaling gear before heading out.
And don’t forget this, your ignition switch [engine cut-off switch] safety lanyard. Consult your manual for proper use, and attach it to your life jacket. It will turn off your engine if you fall off or roll. And speaking of rolling, you should know how to properly upright your machine if you roll it over in the water. Look for a sticker like this that will tell you how to do it, without damaging it or yourself. All right, now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get suited up and get out on the water.