Boating Basics

A personal watercraft (PWC) is considered an inboard vessel and comes under the same rules and requirements as any other vessel. PWC operators must keep in mind that there are specific considerations when using a PWC.

Steering and Stopping a PWC

A PWC is a quick, highly maneuverable vessel that is a lot of fun to operate. Many PWC operators and passengers are injured on Florida’s waters because they become too comfortable with the speed and maneuverability of their vessels. This tendency leads to several operator mistakes that usually result in severe injury or death. These mistakes are:

If the steering control is turned right, the nozzle turns right and the jet of water pushes the back of the vessel to the left, which causes the PWC to turn right.
  • Riding too close to another PWC or a fixed object. The PWC in front of or beside you can change direction in an instant, often leading to a high-speed collision. Keep lots of distance between you and any other vessel or object.
  • Turning without looking. You may not realize that another vessel is behind you, and any abrupt turn (like a 180-degree turn) is likely to result in a serious collision. Making abrupt turns in an area where any other vessels are nearby is not only dangerous but also is a violation of Florida law.
  • Trying to turn without power. Even though PWC manufacturers have made improvements in "off-throttle steering" capabilities, PWC will not turn effectively when the throttle is released. In the event of a near collision, one's natural tendency is to reduce power and turn—but PWC do not turn this way. Pay close attention to your surroundings, and stay away from other vessels or objects so that you don't make this often fatal mistake.