We see them zip by with little time to even catch a glimpse. These speeding vessels might look a bit scary, but taking a PWC — or personal watercraft — out on the water can help make your vacation a special adventure.
More than 1.2 million Americans annually ride personal watercrafts, which are more commonly known by their brand names, such as Waverunners.
Though some models can seat up to three people, many prefer to ride solo like a motorcycle. They’re powered by an inboard motor and pump jet, and riders steer and accelerate using throttle handles. Just a squeeze gives the rider a chance to cruise the water with the wind in their hair.
“One you ride one, you’re going to be hooked on it,” said Maureen Healey, executive director of the Personal Watercraft Industry Association. “Riding one is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done.”
For those who seek speed, personal watercrafts are a perfect fit. They can go up to 70 mph, though for first-timers, it’s recommended to stay well below that mark.
“We encourage people to go only as fast as they feel comfortable and in control,” said Healey. “Speed is such an individual preference.”
According to Healey, many newer models are equipped with a learner key that caps the vessels top speed at around 30 mph, which she recommends as a good basis.
Healey also recommends going with a guide or tour for the first ride, not only to learn and become comfortable riding from an expert, but also to become educated about making a purchase in the future.
And speaking from personal experience, Healey said becoming comfortable riding happens quickly.
“I would 200 percent encourage people to take a ride,” she said. “That’s the best way to find out.”
- A personal watercraft has no brakes. 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.
- Most manufacturers place a decal at the rear or bottom of the craft that indicates the direction to roll your personal watercraft to return it to an upright position. If no decal exists, ask the rental agent or dealer. If you roll it over the wrong way, you could do damage.
- Vary your operating area, and do not keep repeating the same maneuver.
- Make sure that the water you operate in is at least 30 inches deep.
- Modern personal watercrafts come with a lanyard switch that usually attaches to the operator’s life jacket. It shuts off the engine if the operator falls off the vessel.
- Don’t allow your PWC to leave the water completely while crossing the wake of another boat or within 200 feet of another boat
- Don’t tow a person on water skis, a surfboard or similar device (it could cause the person being towed to collide with another person or object or to pass through a swimming area)
- Operating in excess of “idle speed” within 100 yards of the Atlantic coastline is prohibited.