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California Boating 

A Course for Safe Boating

Chapter 4


Personal Watercraft

How a PWC Jet Pump Works

While propeller powered boats move forward by a rotating prop, a PWC jet

pump pulls water in through the impeller and uses a nozzle to powerfully

push water out. When you turn the handlebars to the right, the steering

nozzle also turns to the right and the water stream pushes the back of the

boat to the left, causing the personal watercraft to turn right.

Off Throttle Collision Risk and Stopping

Older PWC do not have a way to stop quickly because they have no brakes.

Depending on how fast you’re going, you will keep moving forward for several

seconds, and possibly several hundred feet after you let go of the throttle.

Without power or at idle speed, most of the steering control will also be lost.

You must apply the throttle and steer away to avoid obstacles. This loss of

control is a common cause of PWC accidents. Since 2003, most of the personal

watercraft manufacturers have developed off-throttle steering (holding some

RPMs on the engine after throttle release) on many models, as well as adding

braking systems using drop down rudders. However, it is important to learn

the steering and stopping ability of your personal watercraft before operating

the vessel in crowded and/or unfamiliar waters.


water flow

steerable nozzle

water flow

water flow


Do not

follow or operate too closely to other


Do not

jump the wake of another boat within

100 feet of that boat.

Do not

operate a PWC while under the

influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

Do not

pollute the waterways.


It may take several hundred feet to

stop after throttle release to come to

a complete stop. Loss of steering also

occurs in personal watercraft without

off throttle steering (OTS) systems.

It is important to be alert and always

be ready to apply power and steer

away from a person, vessel or object

when riding personal watercraft not

equipped with OTS.