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Patience may be a virtue, but as any personal watercraft buyer knows, it’s also in short supply when you’ve got that long-awaited craft on the trailer and sunny skies in the forecast. Buying the craft, however, is just one part of PWC ownership. Here are three additional things to consider before you actually put it in the water.
Boating License or Safety Certificate
You wouldn’t hand an untrained driver the keys to your car and tell them to go out on the roads and have a good time, yet that’s pretty much exactly what many people do with their PWC. We treat them like a toy, rather than a motor vehicle. And the result may not only put others at risk out on the water, but yourself as well.
Boating safety courses are designed to give you the knowledge to safely join the countless other boats crowding the waterways. Perhaps most valuable, you’ll learn the “rules of the road,” and know how to react when encountering another boat or PWC, how to safely fit into the flow of traffic, and how to react in a tense situation. You’ll also learn what navigation markers mean, how to recognize and avoid obstacles, and what to do in an emergency.
Take your course before you buy a PWC. That way you’ll be ready to actually enjoy the craft once it’s in your possession. Many states offer online courses, allowing you to study from the comfort of home.
Nobody likes to spend money on a “what if,” but insurance is yet another checklist item to seriously consider. A PWC insurance policy typically insures both you and your craft against accidents, vandalism, theft and liability.
Think about the potential scenarios – maybe you cause injury to another person through negligence (or maybe one causes injury to you), perhaps your hull or engine becomes damaged or you cause damage to another craft or dock, maybe you break down and need towing assistance, or perhaps just your stuff – like sunglasses, phone, etc – is taken out of your craft. Or worse-case scenario, maybe someone else takes a liking to your craft and decides to steal it. Insurance offers that peace of mind that you’ll be protected and back on the water as fast as possible without a significant financial loss.
What’s typically excluded from a PWC-specific policy? As always, read the fine print, but common exclusions include craft that have been modified for better performance (sorry racers) or operation of your craft after hours.
Cost varies depending on the extent of coverage, but a ballpark estimate would be between $150-$500 a year. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your existing homeowners policy will be adequate. Most have little to no coverage for your PWC.
There’s a reason dealers place accessories around the showroom, and it’s not just to pad their bottom line. PWC owners need more than just the craft itself.
For starters, you need a Type III personal flotation device (PFD) for every person riding. These “life vests” should fit properly, meaning kids need kid sizes – not a parent’s cinched-up vest two sizes too big. Other gear to consider includes footwear, not just for traction but also protection when walking in the water, and wetsuits if you’re planning on riding in cooler temperatures. Other smart choices include gloves and eye protection.
Planning on any long-distance touring? A waterproof, handheld GPS is also a good idea, as is a waterproof bag to house your cell phone. Finally, add a basic safety kit with a signaling device for emergencies.
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