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Want to become a better, safer, more responsible PWC user? It’s not that hard to do. And though there are probably dozens of ways to do both, we think these simple five steps will get you started in the right direction…
Look Over Your Shoulder
Many years ago, I worked at a PWC rental location on the beach. One thing the owner clearly communicated to each renter before they ever hit the water was to look over their shoulder before making a turn, and make sure the path was clear. It’s simple advice that I’ve practiced, and shared, ever since.
Many, many PWC accidents have resulted from a rider turning directly in front of a fellow PWC rider or boater who has following along on a parallel course. Much of the reason is that many of us simply get into a “zone” when riding. It’s fun, the sun is typically out, and though quiet, the engine’s hum drowns out the sounds of craft nearby. At times, we tend to think we’re all alone out there.
The reality, however, is that there are many other craft sharing that same water. Fellow riders may want to come up alongside, boaters may be trying to pass from behind, and if you’re not aware of their presence the results can be disastrous.
Remember, before you turn, look over your shoulder in the direction you’re turning…and make absolutely certain the path is clear.
Keep a Minimum Distance
Along those same lines, also keep a minimum distance from the riders you’re sharing the water with. It’s tempting to run close together when out on the water with a friend, but it’s not safe. An ill-timed wave or momentary distraction can push you together, resulting in a collision or a loss of control.
It may sound excessive, but a good rule of thumb is to stay 100’ apart. That distance almost guarantees you won’t have any unexpected mishaps. That same distance applies for jumping boat wakes. We’ve all seen (or been) the person jumping their craft off a large boat wake, but get too close and you risk an accident, not only with the boat but also other boaters you may not see passing on its opposite side.
Give yourself the distance that allows you time to safely respond in any situation.
Learn the Rules of the Road
Everyone will benefit from a boating course, specifically learning the rules of the road. Though we do most of our boating on waterways far more open than any roadway, there are still rules that apply to allow boaters to do the right thing when in close proximity. They include how to pass when approaching head on, how to pass when overtaking a vessel from behind, and how to treat people enjoying non-motorized vehicles like canoes, sailboats, or stand-up paddle boards.
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Convenient online courses are even available that allow you to take a course from the comfort of home. Find a course at uscgboating.org or boatus.org.
Vary Your Riding Area
Want to become a better neighbor, whether you actually live on the water or just tend to frequent the same spot? Vary your riding area. When I was in my 20s, I probably drove my neighbors crazy endlessly practicing freestyle tricks in our bay. Yes, today’s craft are far more quiet than my buzzing two-stroke, but it’s still the same pitch of noise, for a prolonged amount of time. And let’s face it, that can get annoying if you’re not the one out there having the fun.
Vary where you ride, or where your friends congregate, to give the local homeowners a little break from the action. It will help the image of all PWC riders, and help keep waterways welcoming and open.
Don’t Harass Swimmers, Wildlife, or Other Boaters
You know that person who always thinks it’s cool to roost their friends, chase the ducks, or rock their friends in the canoe? Don’t be that person. They’re annoying, give PWC riders a bad reputation that will have long-lasting repercussions, and may even cause an accident. Show some simple respect out on the water.
And if you see that guy, use a little peer pressure to rein them in. Face it, they’re being jerks, and endangering others. From a purely selfish standpoint, they’re also displaying riding behaviors that may someday affect where you get to ride.
Think of it as the golden rule — treat others as you’d like them to treat you, and you’ll all continue to enjoy the water.
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