Personal watercraft safety tips: What every owner should know

7 Safety Tips Every Personal Watercraft Owner Should Know

Ah, the thrill of skimming across the water on your personal watercraft (PWC)—the wind in your hair, the spray of water on your face, the exhilarating sense of speed and freedom. Whether you’re a jet ski aficionado or a Sea-Doo enthusiast, the joys of owning and operating a personal watercraft are undeniable. However, these adrenaline-pumping water toys also come with their own set of responsibilities, especially when it comes to safety.

Too often, the excitement of hitting the water can overshadow the essential practices that ensure not only your well-being but also that of others sharing the aquatic playground. Every year, we hear stories of accidents and mishaps that could have been easily avoided with some basic safety knowledge and preparation. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide: “7 Safety Tips Every Personal Watercraft Owner Should Know.

From the moment you’re contemplating that first purchase, to your regular weekends ripping through the waves, these tips are designed to keep you and your loved ones safe. So, before you rev that engine and jet off into the horizon, take a moment to educate yourself on how to make every ride a safe one. Trust us, it’s worth it.

1. Consider a Boaters Safety Course

Personal watercraft are classified as Class A vessels by the US Coast Guard, which means they are subject to the same federal regulations as smaller boats (16 feet or less). Operating a PWC is considerably different from boating in terms of steering and performance.

Riders must undergo formal personal watercraft training in more than 40 states. But it’s still a good idea to take a safety course wherever you live, notwithstanding local boating laws. Boating accident statistics show that only 13% of boating deaths occurred on watercraft where the operator was certified by a nationally recognized boating education organization.

If it’s your first time, practice first in shallow waters or calm inland water before heading further out from the coast. However, don’t go overboard with your speed and fun in shallow waters that are less than 3 feet deep, as that is where your PWC can incur the most damage from rocks, corals, marine life, or other materials.

When buying a PWC, make sure it comes with all the necessary basic safety features that are both common sense and required by local boat laws.

Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, it’s time to acquire the supplies you’ll need for a safe journey.

2. Get a Safety Kit

An accident can happen at any time. Have a boat safety kit for personal watercraft with you at all times. Your emergency pack might contain the following:

  • A certified B-1 fire extinguisher by the Coast Guard.
  • A horn, whistle, bell, or other sound-signaling device.
  • Bilge pump operated by hand for removing water.
  • Life jackets for every traveler certified by the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • For coastal seas, flares or other visual distress signs are necessary so the rescue team can see you from a distance.
  • Mobile phone and VHF radio.
  • To help stop gas vapors from erupting if the engine backfires, a backfire arrestor is required.
  • Flashlight.
  • First-aid kit (be sure to fill it with burn cream, lip balm, and sunscreen).
  • An anchor for when you need to stop and rest.

NOTE: An engine shut-off lanyard should be fastened to the operator if a PWC has one.

3. Use as Many Personal Watercraft Accessories

The following are some of the accessories you might need:

  • Extinguisher on board. In case there’s a fire situation, you are ready to put it out.
  • Portable paddle: You might need to paddle back to land if your PWC breaks down or runs out of fuel. A folding paddle is a smart purchase.
  • A cover for PWC: Your watercraft can be shielded from the elements with a high-quality cover when being towed and stored off-season.
  • Waterproof case: If put into water, your cell phone won’t likely float, even if it is waterproof. A floating, waterproof case can shield your phone, wallet, and keys.
  • Mats for traction: Your feet can start to slide around if your PWC doesn’t have traction mats to assist in retaining your shoes.
  • Riding goggles: Compared to normal sunglasses, these provide higher UV protection, a more stable fit, and a sharper view. High-speed water spray from the PWC can also be severe, another benefit of goggles.

4. Wear Personal Watercraft Safety Gear

Personal watercraft gear or safety equipment includes:

  • Having a waterproof whistle attached to your life jacket.
  • Eye protection from glare from the sun, water spray, and insects.
  • Watercraft helmet.
  • Safety lanyard.
  • To keep your feet safe and improve traction, use diving booties, water socks, or similar gear.
  • Helmet.
  • A wetsuit shields your body from heat, wind, and cold water and assists in preventing injuries on the water.
  • Gloves that will improve your grip.

5. Follow the Safety Rules of your PWC, Jet Ski, Sea-Doo or WaveRunner

Practice safe boating by following factors before getting on your personal watercraft:

  • Always check the weather conditions before leaving the house so you are aware of any potential weather concerns, such as a strong wind, rough water, or sun. If you are riding and you see clouds that are dark or moving quickly, get off the water.
  • Make the assumption that other boaters can’t see you and ride defensively. It’s better to stay away from busy locations if you’re a newbie.
  • You must abide by the speed limits, which means to keep a safe speed. There’s no need for excessive speed.
  • Never, ever ride under the influence of alcohol. It’s common for people to go Jet Skiing or Waverunning while partying, but that’s how the worst accidents occur. Not only is it against most local driving and boating laws, but it’s also the number one leading cause of fatal boating accidents.
  • Keep an eye out for additional vessels and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Absolutely always have your safety lanyard on.
  • If you fall off your craft, know how to get back on. Look for a label showing how to roll your PWC upright in the rear or at the bottom of the device. Or consult your owner’s guide.
  • To safeguard you and your vehicle, it’s crucial to have the necessary equipment, expertise, and insurance coverage and know the general boating laws.
  • Practice boarding with someone else nearby in case you require assistance.
  • Avoid letting the engine idle or shut off while driving since this will result in a loss of steering control.
  • Always stay away from the jet pump intake, and make sure your hands, feet, loose clothing, or hair keep a safe distance from it.
  • Have a life jacket for each passenger.
  • Must have their validations decals and vessel registration displayed or available when requested.

6. Get a free Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number and Digital Selective Calling (DSC) installed and connected to your GPS.

These preparations can assist in taking the search out of search and rescue when taking place in coastal and inshore waters. When the emergency button is pressed, DSC enables the VHF radio to transmit data digitally and send an immediate digital distress signal to the Coast Guard, including your precise location. The MMSI number (which will automatically identify your vessel) is a part of the alert.

7. Don’t Forget the Carbon Monoxide Detector.

Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas that may kill in minutes, make you sick in seconds, and is emitted by all internal combustion engines. Remember that you cannot see, smell, or taste CO, so be aware of the signs (which are similar to motion sickness or intoxication from alcohol.)

Do not panic! It will ruin your common sense. Be alert and assess the situation. Have your swimmers ready in case you need to evacuate the watercraft. Ride safe!

Financing a PWC

Don’t deny yourself or your family the joys of being out on the water on a personal watercraft, enjoying the speed and breeze. Whether you’re only taking the family out on a ride or using it to improve your skills in water sports, don’t let an unreasonable rate or ridiculous terms on a boat loan sink your dream of owning that ski boat, you’ve always dreamed about.

Get a Personal Watercraft Loan with SEF

As a personal watercraft driver, knowing what features to look and learning about boating safety can make all the difference when shopping for a PWC. Southeast Financial offers financing options to help you purchase the personal watercraft of your dreams without worrying about rates or your cash flow each month. Contact us today to see how we can help make your PWC dreams a reality.

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