Guide To Personal Watercraft Touring Operators

Go touring and get the most out of your PWC

Story by Jeff Hemmel, Jan. 22, 2013
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For obvious reasons, winter’s no fun for the diehard PWC enthusiast. For starters, your PWC is likely winterized and tucked away. Adding insult to injury is that, even if it was ready to run, lakes and rivers across much of the country are frozen solid. The only thing left to do is daydream about the season to come…and what you plan to do with it.

Surely just simply riding makes the top of that list, but let’s face it, spinning around the same old spot gets old after a while. Fortunately personal watercraft make great vehicles for getting out and exploring. They’re easy to trailer, relatively fuel efficient, and even have the necessary stowage to haul along some gear for the ride.

Ottawa River PWC Tour

But while certainly fun, the idea of actual PWC touring can be a little daunting for the uninitiated. The easiest way to get started? Join an existing PWC tour, an organized, supported excursion that takes a lot of the trouble and guesswork out of planning a trip and gives you the backup support to put your mind at ease. Touring companies plan the route, arrange the food and fuel stops, and organize the hotels or bed and breakfasts along the way. In short, they make touring as simple as an all-inclusive resort, allowing you to focus on the goal at hand – just having fun on the water.

We’ll be honest, PWC tours have yet to really catch on in number. Only a handful of choices exist, but the touring companies that are out there are well organized and have a track record of success.

Discovery River Tours

The granddaddy of them all is undoubtedly Discovery River Tours, owned by Vicki Williams and Sam Thomas. The pair put their first river exploration trip together all the way back in 1993. Two decades later, they continue to offer a selection of trips around the southeast that earn rave reviews and repeat participants year after year, not only for the great, uncrowded waterways they visit, but also for the many historic inns that provide the overnight accommodations.

Discovery River Tours has four trips planned for the 2013 season. The first is the Okee-Kissimmee Lake and River Tour, a 350-mile excursion focusing on “old” Florida that starts in Indiantown, locks through Lake Okeechobee to Ft. Myers, and includes a third day running the Kissimmee River. Stops along the way include the historic Seminole Inn. Early June features the Tombigbee-Mobile River Trip, another three-day adventure that spans 474 miles and the thrill of traversing multiple locks. Rivers include the Alabama, Tombigbee, and Mobile; also on the agenda are the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and its many creeks and narrow canals. A new trip for DRT in 2013 is the 342-mile, late-July Roanoke River Run, which starts near Roanoke Rapids, NC, and heads through many historic landmarks en route to Albemarle Sound and the nearby waters of the Cashie River. The final trip of the season will be the always-popular PeeDee-Waccamaw River Trip in early September. This 325-mile trip starts in the riverfront town of Conway, SC, and passes by old plantation homes along the Intracoastal Waterway, North and South Santee Rivers, Great Pee Dee River, en route to Conway, SC. Further exploration includes the Waccamaw Basin.

WaterTop Eventns Bimini Road Rally

Prefer the open ocean? WaterTop Events continues to offer the popular Bimini Road Rally, an open-ocean crossing in mid-July from South Florida to the islands of Bimini in the Bahamas. The crossing itself is only 51 miles each way, but those are miles that pass right through the heart of the Gulf Stream as well as the Bermuda Triangle, and promise to challenge a rider’s physical and mental stamina. In fact, WaterTop limits the number of participants to 20, and encourages those riders to be in good physical shape and up to the task. The reward, however, is a trip few can say they’ve accomplished, as well as once there, visits to the infamous Bimini Road, numerous shipwrecks, and the quaint Alice Town. WaterTop is the same company behind Sea-Doo press events for well over a decade, and offers the same all-inclusive treatment to all Rally participants.

Watercraft Adventure Tours America's Rhine Tour

A newer company on the horizon is Watercraft Adventure Tours, started by a veteran of several Bimini Road Rally trips. In 2013 the company will be offering three all-inclusive, three-day trips, each aimed at riders of increasing skill levels. The easiest, the America’s Rhine, is a 230-mile adventure on the Hudson River. The Inner Harbor promises to take intermediate skill-level riders on a tour of the Delaware River, C&D Canal, and Chesapeake Bay, including Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The third, Walk the Boards, offers more advanced riders the chance to follow the Ocean City coastline, cross challenging Delaware Bay, and culminates in another boardwalk town, Ocean City, MD.

Interested in participating in one of the above trips, or wondering how to prepare for your own? Check out our guide to Long-Distance PWC Touring/Riding. Then start dreaming. Summer, and all its potential for long-distance, bucket-list adventure, is just around the corner.

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Long-Distance PWC Touring/Riding