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Before You Go Out on Your PWC

Although a personal watercraft (PWC) is considered an inboard vessel and operators must follow the same rules and requirements that apply to other vessels, there are additional, specific considerations for the PWC operator.

Operating a personal watercraft carries the same responsibilities as operating any other vessel. Before taking your PWC out on the water, you should:

  • Read and understand the owner's manual.
  • Take time to review the video most PWC manufacturers provide.
  • Inspect your PWC periodically, and perform necessary maintenance to keep it in good operating condition.
  • Be aware of all local, state, and federal laws that apply to PWCs.
  • Do not forget that in addition to obeying all boating laws, the PWC operator must adhere to laws specific to personal watercraft.
Steering and Stopping a PWC
Steering a PWC
  • PWCs are propelled by a jet drive where water is drawn into a pump and then forced out under pressure through a steering nozzle at the back of the unit. This "jet" of pressurized water is directed by the steering control—when the steering control is turned, the steering nozzle turns in the same direction. For example, 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.
  • The most important thing to remember about steering most PWCs (and other jet-drive vessels) is that you always must have power in order to maintain control. If you allow the engine to return to idle or shut off during operation, you lose all steering control. The PWC will continue in the direction it was headed before the throttle was released or the engine was shut off, no matter which way the steering control is turned.
  • Always allow plenty of room for stopping. Just because you release the throttle or shut off the engine does not mean you will stop immediately.