Lawful Operation of a PWC
In addition to adhering to all boating laws, PWC operators have requirements specific to their vessel.
- A PWC, operating at more than idle speed, may not run around, ride or jump the wake of, or be within 100 feet of another moving boat or PWC unless it is overtaking the other boat in compliance with the rules for encountering other boats. When a PWC is overtaking another boat, it must not change course to ride or jump the wake of the boat being overtaken.
- A PWC must be operated at idle speed if within 100 feet of a vessel not underway or adrift, a dock or pier, a bridge, a person in the water, a shoreline adjacent to a residence, a public park or beach, a swimming area, a marina, a restaurant, or any other public use area.
- It is unlawful for an owner of a PWC to allow anyone else to operate their PWC in such a way that it violates the Georgia Boat Safety Act.
- It is illegal to rent, lease, or let for hire a PWC to a person under the age of 16 years.
Video: Georgia PWC Speed and Distance
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So these personal watercraft—very maneuverable. There’s a few laws that are specific just to them. What about speed and maneuverability?
- Sergeant Mike Barr
They’re a very maneuverable vessel. In most situations you’ll find, though, that the laws are almost exactly the same from a regular boat to a jet-ski type of boat, normally called a personal watercraft.
A couple of the specific laws, in particular talking about speed?
- Sergeant Barr
You know, on a personal watercraft, you’ve got to regulate that speed to be safe at all times. But specifically, if you’re within 100 feet of another vessel, that personal watercraft has to be at idle speed only. Not only another vessel, but a person in the water, a boat that’s anchored or adrift, a public day-use area, a bridge, a wharf, a piling. Those are all situations that you have to have that vessel at idle speed only. Idle speed only means at the lowest speed necessary in order to still maintain steering on the boat.
And there is a unique law that is different about jumping the wake.
- Sergeant Barr
If you’re within 100 feet of another vessel, you specifically in a personal watercraft cannot jump the wake of another vessel. We see it almost every day on the water, especially with new operators. Sounds like a lot of fun—until you get in trouble.