PWC Etiquette

Personal Watercraft are remarkable, agile machines; and I enjoy riding as much as anyone. It’s a freedom that can’t be appreciated until you take your first ride. I like to spin out, hop some waves and take my friend’s kids for rides now and then. However, I also make sure that the enjoyment of my chosen recreation doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s. Let’s face it – no matter what sport or recreation out there, there’s always someone who’s determined to wreck it for everyone else, but we aren’t going to change anything by preaching wild-riding abstinence. No one becomes a respected rider without a lot of practice and many mistakes. There is a time, a place and a safe way of improving your skills, though. If you adhere to the following guidelines, you can have your fun without annoying other boaters and upsetting the neighborhood.

Noise Offends

Imagine someone running a chainsaw on your front deck for minutes on end, and you’ll get a feel for what it’s like for waterfront homeowners when a PWC rider is constantly buzzing around in one small area. PWC’s are actually quieter than most power boats. But even the loudest power boats seldom annoy people because they’re never operated in small areas for extended periods of time. So keep on moving…you can still have your fun and keep the peace at the same time. When pulling away from a dock or launching in a congested area, cruise slowly, quietly and in a straight line away from shore. If you want to practice spins and tricks, taxi to an isolated area on a non-busy day where there won’t be any homeowners to bother or other boaters to look out for. Since many of today’s watercraft are so easy to ride, owners are often pressured into letting friends give them a try. If you must give in, start with the proper instruction onshore, followed by a tandem familiarization cruise. Make sure they understand the “rules of the road” before turning them loose on their own.

Comfort Zones

PWC etiquette means more than operating within your handling limitations. When navigating around other boaters, you must also consider what their interpretations of your actions might be. Given the uncanny maneuverability of most PWC’s, a good rider could easily rip high speed “S” turns in semi-congested areas without excessive risk or the least bit of fear. He’d certainly be scaring everyone else around him, though. Think about other people’s comfort zones. Water-skiers don’t like to hear a PWC ripping around them any more than you’d like to hear the roar of a Mack truck approaching fast when you’re on the back seat of a moped. Don’t ride behind water-skiers or cross in front of a boat’s bow and stay far enough away from all boats so that no one has to worry about what you’re going to do. If you can’t find a totally traffic-free area to cut loose on, you may want to give it a rest until the lake quiets down a bit.

Jumping Waves

Few watercraft stunts can match the wide-eyed thrills that wave jumping offers. The problem is, the high-spirited sensation of free-flying often lures PWC riders to jump boat wakes, which is illegal, dangerous, and utterly unnerving for the boat operator. It’s also a leading cause of PWC and boating accidents. Use common sense and stay as far away from all boat traffic as possible. As always, I recommend that all boat operators take a boating safety course sponsored by either the Power Squadron or US Coast Guard. There are no bad boats out there, just bad operators.

The bottom line is: you can ride aggressively as appropriate and your ability allows – just have the patience, common sense, courtesy and respect for your fellow lake residents, they’d like to enjoy the lake as much as you do.

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