Personal Watercrafts (PWC) such as a jet-ski or sea-doo – also known as wave runners, or (our fave!) “boatercycles”, are a super fun and exciting way to get around on the water, but their handling is much different from traditional boating. Think about it like this: jet-skis are to boats what motorcycles are to cars. Both of them are driven on the water or roads, but there are different skills that need to be used on a motorcycle (such as balance and steering) that are not used when driving a car.
The main difference between the two is the steering, with jet-skis using handlebar steering and boats using either hydraulic or manual steering. The way that jet-skis operate is by forcing water out of the steering nozzle, which pushes the craft forward. What is unique about these sea-doos is that you can only turn the vehicle when you have the throttle on, meaning that once you release the throttle, you will begin to lose control of your steering ability. That said, it is important to note that some newer models maintain the ability to steer without the application of throttle. Make sure you know your craft!
You’ll notice a brightly coloured cord coming out of your engine kill switch. This is your safety lanyard that should always be attached to your wrist or lifejacket. If you were to hit rough water and fall off your jet-ski, your safety lanyard would go with you and cut the power to the engine so the machine doesn’t continue in the water. Always be sure that the lanyard is not caught up or tangled in the handlebars or else it may not deploy properly. If you fall off your jet-ski there’s no need to worry, re-boarding is super easy if you follow these 4 steps!
1: If it is capsized, turn your jet-ski or sea-doo upwards in one direction
2: Swim to the stern for re-boarding. Never re-board from the side because your vehicle could flip over onto you.
3: Grab the handle on the back of the seat and hoist yourself up onto the boarding platform
4: Move forward to the seat and reattach the safety lanyard.
There are no brakes on a jet-ski, so to stop your vehicle you must release the throttle, press the stop button (the green button on your left handlebar), and disconnect the safety lanyard. While your jet-ski may be equipped with a reverse throttle, it should never be used to stop yourself as you and any passengers could get thrown off. Exact stopping distances will vary with different models and weather conditions, but the general rule of thumb is that there is a minimum of 75 meters required to stop a sea-doo from full throttle.
These vehicles are highly responsive which may encourage boaters to attempt dangerous maneuvers, so to stay safe on your sea-doo, you should always follow these rules to minimize the risk of accident or injury.
Make sure your passengers are wearing Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
Show your passengers how to operate the jet-ski for you in an emergency situation.
Maintain a proper lookout while turning and beware of your blind spots.
Avoid operating in areas with heavy traffic.
Operate at a safe distance from shore, traffic and other obstacles.
Keep the load balanced and centered to avoid capsizing.
Have your passengers hold onto the seat strap while the jet-ski is underway.
Inspect and maintain your machine to avoid a breakdown on the water.
Make sure your passengers never place their feet in the water during operation.
Always cross a wake or large waves at a 90° angle to maintain lateral stability.
Never engage in wake-jumping or racing.
Personal Watercrafts, jet-skis and sea-doos are extremely fun to use and offer more speed and freedom than many boats. Smart boaters know to always check and maintain their vehicle and are well versed in how to properly handle these watercrafts. With your boating license in Canada, you can enjoy PWCs if you are over the age of 16 making them a perfect sweet sixteen present for all you adventurous kids out there.