About the Study Guide

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Personal Watercraft

A PWC is a small vessel that uses an inboard jet drive as its primary source of propulsion and is designed to be operated by a person or persons sitting, standing, or kneeling on the vessel rather than inside the vessel. The U.S. Coast Guard includes personal watercraft in the group of inboard vessels less than 16 feet in length.

PWCs are subject to all of the same laws and requirements of any other vessel plus a few laws specific to PWCs.

Personal Watercraft Parts Viewed from Front Angle
PWC, front view
Personal Watercraft Parts Viewed from Side
PWC parts, side view
  • Stern: Rear of a vessel
  • Bow: Front of a vessel
  • Draft: Depth of water needed to float a vessel
  • Intake: Opening in the hull that draws water toward the impeller
  • Intake grate: Screening cover over the intake, which prevents large debris from entering
  • Drive shaft: The long stem connection between the motor and the impeller
  • Impeller: Device used to pump and force water under pressure through a steering nozzle at the rear of the vessel
  • Steering nozzle: Device used for directing the stream of water to the left or right at the stern of the PWC, which steers the PWC
Animation: Parts of a Personal Watercraft

Find out if you've learned the various parts of a PWC with this interactive animation.

Drag and match each label to the correct vessel part.

  • bow
  • drive shaft
  • engine
  • impeller
  • intake grate
  • intake
  • safety lanyard
  • steering control
  • steering nozzle
  • stern