Personal Watercraft Safety Course

California State Parks Division of Boating andWaterways

Personal Watercraft Safety Course

STATE OF CALIFORNIA California Natural Resources Agency California State Parks DIVISION OF BOATING ANDWATERWAYS

C ontents Personal Safety

1 Safety Equipment 2 Life Jackets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Learn to Swim and Float . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Factors that Can Affect Your Judgment, Health and Safety . . . . . 5 Noise Levels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Heat Exhaustion 7 Cold Water Shock/Immersion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Stages of Cold Water Shock and Critical Responses . . . . . . . . 8 Post-Rescue Collapse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 First Aid Training . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Alcohol and Drugs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Boat Safety 11 Anatomy of a PWC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Main components of a PWC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Legal Requirements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Boater Card 14 Hull Identification Numbers (HIN) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Registration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Restrictions Applying to PWC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Safety Mechanisms 17 Operating A PWC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Water Safety 21 Navigational Rules . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 PWC Rules of the Road 23 Accident Prevention and Rescue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Causes of Accidents and Injuries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Dangerous Moves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Casting Off . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Returning to Shore . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Navigational Aids . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Towing a Water Skier behind a PWC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Bad Weather . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Environmental Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Conclusion 33

Personal Watercraft Safety Course

P ersonal W atercraft (PWC)

Wave Runners, Jet Skis, Sea-Doos. Personal watercraft, or PWCs, come in many makes and models, all of which promise the operator a good time on the water. They are found on most waterways these days and in 2016, there were more than 70,000 PWCs registered in California. PWCs are fast, powerful and fairly easy to operate, but they are also involved in many boating accidents and injuries. With their ever-increas- ing popularity, it is important for all PWC users to know how to operate their crafts safely and with courtesy at all times. California boating accident statistics paint a picture of PWC use and misuse. For example, PWCs account for only 10% of registered vessels, but were involved in 17% of all boating accidents reported in 2016. Of those PWC accidents, the majority (62%) involved a collision with another vessel or fixed object. There are three main causes of PWC accidents: inexperience, operating at excessive speeds, and inattention on the part of the operator. Finally, there are two 2016 statistics that show a real need for public education on the proper, safe and fun use of PWC: almost half of PWC accidents (44%) involved people who had borrowed a vessel and 28% had rented their equipment. These accidents might not have occurred if the operators had taken the time to read the owner’s manual and safety literature that most dealers provide after a sale, that rental companies should provide, or had taken an approved safe boating course and obtained a California Boater Card (see page 14 of this course). You have made the right decision to learn about PWC safety. PWCs offer the operator an exhilarating sporting experience. You’ll have fun on your PWC if you operate it like any other boat – with skill and respect. This course will tell you how to operate your PWC safely, prevent accidents, be aware of hazards, and use courtesy and good judgment so you can enjoy your PWC to the fullest.

STATE OF CALIFORNIA California Natural Resources Agency California State Parks DIVISION OF BOATING ANDWATERWAYS


Personal Watercraft Safety Course

P ersonal S afety

Always wear a US Coast Guard-approved life jacket Always carry a whistle Wear eye protection Wear a wetsuit to avoid effects of cold water immersion Wear booties, deck shoes, or tennis shoes Wear gloves for grip

Wear a helmet Stay hydrated


Safety Equipment Safety equipment is essential to the proper operation of any boat or vessel, includ- ing PWCs. Some safety equipment is required by law, while other equipment is recommended. The most important piece of equipment for personal safety is the life jacket. The life jacket must be the correct type, be the correct fit and be well-maintained. Life Jackets Most boating fatalities occur as a result of drowning and could be prevented by wearing a life jacket. Modern life jackets are colorful, comfortable and easy to wear. Wearing a life jacket is important, regardless of your swimming ability or your boating experience. Each person on board a PWC must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket for PWC use. A life jacket should provide enough buoyancy to keep you afloat until help comes. Therefore: „ „ Check that the life jacket is a U.S. Coast Guard-approved for PWC use on the label. „ „ Check that the life jacket is appropriate for your weight and chest size. „ „ Check that it is properly fitted and fully clipped or zipped up. To make sure that you have selected the correct life jacket for yourself: „ „ Check for a snug fit. Adjust straps and buckles to ensure a proper fit that does not restrict breathing. If you lift a partner’s life jacket by the shoulders, the life jacket should not ride up to cover the wearer’s ears. If it does, readjust the straps and buckles, and if it still does not pass the lift test, try a different size. „ „ Check the buoyancy in safe water by relaxing your body and letting your head tilt back. The life jacket should keep your chin and mouth out of the water and allow you to breathe easily.


Personal Watercraft Safety Course

The most common types of life jackets used on PWC are Type III and Type V as shown here. Whatever the Type, always follow the manufacturer’s label for intended use. Type III, High-impact Flotation Aid. (15.5 lbs. buoyancy) Where: Good for calm, inland water or where there is a good chance of a fast rescue.

Advantages: Generally the most comfortable for continuous wear because of the freedom of movement for activities such as personal watercrafting, water skiing, paddling, small boat sailing, and fishing. Disadvantages: Not for extended use in rough water. Will not turn most unconscious wearers face up. Sizes: Many individual sizes from child to adult. Type V, High-impact Special Use Device. Where: Required to be worn for special uses or conditions. Advantages: Made for specific activity. Typical Type V life jackets that are used for PWC are designed

to help protect the user in case of an impact. Disadvantages: See label for limited use. Sizes: Many individual sizes from child to adult. To learn more about life jackets, consult the DBWwebsite.


Some Things to Remember To make sure that your life jacket remains in good/ serviceable condition: „ „ Do not alter the life jacket. An altered life jacket no longer meets legal requirements and may not save your life. „ „ Do not place heavy objects on the life jacket during storage or use the life jacket for a kneeling pad, boat fender, or seat cushion. Life jackets lose buoyancy when they are crushed. „ „ Let the life jacket air-dry thoroughly before putting it away. „ „ Always store your life jacket in a well-ventilated place, out of direct sunlight and away from fuel or oil. „ „ Never dry your life jacket by a direct heat source, such as a dryer, heater, or radiator. Before wearing, check the life jacket for signs of wear and age. Look for rips or tears, mildew, insecure or missing straps, frayed webbing, broken zippers or buckles, and hardened stuffing. A life jacket with any of these problems must be replaced. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, a life jacket is no longer in serviceable condition if the straps and/or zippers or fasteners do not work. For personal safety, a PWC operator should also have: „ „ A whistle attached to your life jacket, one that works even when wet. „ „ Eye protection, to protect from the sun, spray, and bugs. It is recommended that you have a leash on your sunglasses to ensure you don’t lose them if you enter the water. „ „ Boat shoes or booties, to improve traction and protect your feet from underwater hazards. „ „ Gloves for improved grip and comfort. „ „ A wetsuit to protect you from sun, wind, abrasion, and cold water shock. Manufacturers recommend wearing wetsuits to prevent injury. „ „ A helmet to protect your head from injury. The type of helmet varies with the type of water activity. A properly fitted helmet is mandatory for racers during competition. „ „ Sunscreen and lip protection. „ „ Water and snacks. „ „ Communication devices such as a VHF radio or a cell phone.


Personal Watercraft Safety Course

Learn to Swim and Float The ability to swim and float is basic to personal safety anytime you are in or near the water. These skills may help you save yourself as well as others. One gauge of swimming ability is being able to swim 100 yards using any stroke and to tread water for five minutes. If you are unsure of your skills or know that you need improvement, contact your local recreation center for practice times or swimming lessons. Factors that Can Affect Your Judgment, Health and Safety Natural stressors, such as sun (temperature and glare), wind, waves, vibration and noise may affect your judgment and put you at greater risk for a mishap. Drug and alcohol use also affect your judgment, health and safety. It is important to watch your own condition, as well as that of those you are boating with. It is often easier to see early signs of fatigue in others than in yourself. Impact of Stressors: „ „ Increased physical and mental fatigue „ „ Clouded judgement „ „ Slowed reaction time „ „ Boaters placed in dangerous situations ranging from severe sunburn to boat collisions To Reduce the Impact of Stressors: „ „ Limit exposure to the stressors „ „ Drink plenty of water „ „ Eat energy-providing foods, such as energy bars or fruit „ „ Be well rested and take frequent breaks „ „ Wear 100% UV protection sunglasses, sunscreen, a hat and proper clothing


Noise Levels What is too much noise?

Noise from poorly muffled or non-muffled motors is not only annoying, it is illegal and prevents boat operators from hearing voices, signals, and warnings of danger. It is also illegal to alter your PWC muffler system as it can increase the level and raise the pitch of the sound from the motor. California Boating Law prohibits operation of any motorboat in or upon the inland waters of the state, or in or upon ocean waters that are within one mile of the coastline of the state, with excessive noise levels. Excessive noise levels measured at a distance of 50 feet from the motorboat are described as: 1. For engines manufactured before January 1, 1993, a noise level of 90 dB(A) when subjected to the Society of Automotive Engineers Recommended Practice SAE J2005 (Stationary Sound Level Measurement Procedure for Pleasure Motorboats). 2. For engines manufactured on or after January 1, 1993, a noise level of 88 dB(A) when subjected to the Society of Automotive Engineers Recommended Practice SAE J2005 (Stationary Sound Level Measurement Procedure for Pleasure Motorboats). 3. A noise level of 75 dB(A) measured as specified in the Society of Automotive Engineers Recommended Practice SAE J1970 (Shoreline Sound Level Measurement procedure). However, a measurement of noise level that is in compliance with this paragraph does not preclude the conducting of a test of noise levels under paragraph (1) or (2). Remember that prolonged exposure to noise is a stressor that can increase fatigue and lower response time. The next time you go boating, be courteous. Reduce your level of noise, especially when you are in a congested or residential area. Don’t operate your PWC in the same area for long periods of time as it may be unpleasant to others. Courtesy counts. Remember, your actions reflect on all PWC operators. Temperature Temperature not only affects your judgment, but can lead to serious injury or illness. Heat exhaustion occurs when your body is unable to sufficiently cool itself when exposed to high air temperatures. Cold water shock occurs when the core body temperature drops below normal – a low enough drop can result in death. It is important to know that both problems are easier to reverse when recognized in their early stages.


Personal Watercraft Safety Course

Heat Exhaustion Early symptoms of heat exhaustion include weakness, pale skin, headache and heavy sweating. If the victim is not treated, the skin may become hot and bright red. The victimmay become delirious or disoriented, followed by a loss of consciousness (heat stroke). Avoid heat exhaustion by avoiding prolonged direct exposure to heat and sun. When possible, spend time in a cooler location and be sure to drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Avoid diuretics such as caffeinated sodas, coffee, tea or alcohol as these drinks will make you more dehydrated. Cold Water Shock/Immersion Cold water shock/immersion is associated with two significant medical emergencies: near drowning and hypothermia. Boaters’ chances of surviving cold water sock depend on having sufficient flotation to keep heads above water, controlling their breathing, having timely rescue by themselves or others, and retaining body heat. „ „ Sudden contact with cold water can cause involuntary gasping while under water, which can lead to panic, start the drowning process, and even trigger cardiac arrest and temporary paralysis. Cold water entering the ear canal can cause vertigo and disorientation, which may lead confused swimmers to venture deeper into the water. Cold water reduces body heat 25 to 30 times faster than air of the same temperature and causes impairment that can lead to fatalities. „ „ Do not intentionally enter water that is too cold. The average body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The average pool temperature is 84 to 86 degrees. Snowmelt causes some California rivers to run at temperatures between 30 and 40 degrees even during the summer. Wind chill is the effect of the wind and air temperature on the human body. Wind chill can rapidly cause heat loss, especially if you are already wet. Under some conditions, such as in cool or cold weather, staying out of the wind may become a very important factor in staying warm. „ „ Control your breathing to avoid gasping water into your lungs. Just half a cup of water in the lungs can drown a person. Don’t panic if you fall into the water. Stay afloat with the help of a life jacket, regain control of your breathing and keep your head above the water in view of rescuers. Look for ways to increase buoyancy.


„ „ Your body temperature can drop quickly if your PWC capsizes and you are in cold water. Get as far out of the water as possible by righting the PWC and climbing back onboard, or if it will not right, try to climb onto the hull. This may help prevent heat loss from your body, especially if the temperature is warm and the winds are calm. „ „ If you can’t get out of the water, keep your head up and curl into a ball or huddle together with everyone facing inwards to stay afloat and keep warm. This is known as HELP, or Heat Escape lessening Positions. „ „ Before going out on the water, make sure everyone is wearing a properly fitted life jacket with an attached whistle that works when wet. Stages of Cold Water Shock and Critical Responses „ „ Cold shock: You have one minute to adjust to the cold shock response. Remember, control your breathing and don’t panic.

„ „ Meaningful activity: You have about 10 minutes of effective movement, so first assess your situation, locate other party members, attempt self-rescue, and perform emergency communication and signaling.

„ „ Useful consciousness: You have one hour in cold water before becoming hypothermic and unconscious to focus on heat loss prevention (HELP); increase buoyancy and use a communication device such as an emergency locator beacon, waterproof marine VHF radio, cell phone in a waterproof case, whistle, mirror or small flares. „ „ Hypothermia: After one hour of cold water immersion, the body core cooling leads to loss of consciousness from hypothermia.


Personal Watercraft Safety Course

Post-Rescue Collapse „ „ After rescue, someone who has been immersed in cold water is still in danger

of “post-rescue collapse.” As blood pressure drops, inhaled water can damage the lungs. Cardiac arrest or arrhythmia can develop as cold blood is released from arms and legs into the body core. „ „ It is vital to treat the victim gently and get immediate medical care. If left untreated, both heat exhaustion and cold water shock can result in death. For more information on cold water shock, consult website: First Aid Training In addition to learning about heat exhaustion and cold water shock, it is important to learn first aid. It is highly recommended that you at least receive training in basic first aid and CPR. The best place to contact for a class near you is your local American Red Cross office. Check the Internet at for a CPR course near you. Alcohol and Drugs Drinking alcohol and using drugs while boating are significant causes of accidents. Alcohol and drugs impair judgment, slow response time and reduce your ability to respond to an emergency. On the water, alcohol and drugs also increase the negative impacts of sun, wind, waves, vibration, and noise.



Personal Watercraft Safety Course

Observe legal requirements: age, boater card, etc. Lanyard/cut-off switch compliance Carry essential safety equipment Ventilate compartments before operating Check for hull and other damage Check engine, pump, and control mechanisms Check trailer registration and condition B oat S afety


Anatomy of a PWC Personal watercrafts, or PWCs, are small jet-drive propelled powerboats. The pumps draw water into the housing with an impeller, which pressurizes the water and forces it through the steerable nozzle, pushing the boat forward. (See jet pump diagram below) PWCs exist in three main styles: stand-up, sit-down sport class (one or two people), and sit-down three or four-person. The stand-up style carries only one person who stands while operating the vessel, while the sit-down styles have seats for one to four people.


Personal Watercraft Safety Course

Main components of a PWC „ „ Hull - the body of the boat

„ „ Deck - flat surfaces such as the seat, foot wells, and compartment covers „ „ Throttle - mounted on the handlebars, regulates the amount of fuel delivered to the engine and controls the speed „ „ Steering nozzle - located at the rear of the vessel and controlled by the handlebars „ „ Water in-take - located on the underside of the hull, where the impeller pulls water into the vessel „ „ Other controls include the start and stop switches and the cutoff or “kill” switch with attached lanyard. When the steering handlebars of the PWC are turned to the right, the steering nozzle also turns to the right. The stream of water pushes the back of the boat to the left, causing the PWC to turn right. It is important to note that the PWC loses steering ability if it loses power or the stream of water for any reason.


Legal Requirements Similar to powerboat operators, PWC operators are required to have the following safety equipment: „ „ A properly fitted, U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for personal watercraft use, worn by each person on board „ „ Sound signaling device – a whistle attached to your life jacket and/or a stored signal horn „ „ A U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type B fire extinguisher, good for gasoline and oil fires „ „ A backfire flame arrestor that is clean, functional and well-secured, where applicable „ „ Visual distress signals, such as flares (required for coastal waters and recommended for inland waters) Age of Operator To operate a PWC designed for one person, the operator must be 16 years of age or older. A person 12-15 years of age may operate a PWC designed to carry two or more persons if the operator is supervised on board by a person 18 years or older. Boater Card As of January 1, 2018, DBW is implementing the California Vessel Operator Card law contained in California Senate Bill 941 passed and signed by the governor in 2014. More commonly known as the California Boater Card legislation, the law prohibits the operation of any motorized vessel in California without a valid Boater Card developed and issued by DBW. This program will be phased in by age, beginning with boaters 20 years of age and younger in 2018. To apply for a California Boater Card, or to see a list of approved courses, please visit Boaters who have taken an approved safety course between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2018, will have one year from January 1, 2018 to apply and pay for their

California Boater Card under a “grandfathering” exemption regardless of their age. After December 31, 2018, boaters who took a course prior to 2018 will need to take and pass a new safety course in order to be eligible for a California Boater Card.


Personal Watercraft Safety Course

Hull Identification Numbers (HIN) A HIN is a 12-digit number/letter combination that is stamped into the hull of the vessel. A HIN is required for registration and is useful in identifying a stolen PWC.


Registration PWCs must be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The regis- tration numbers must be applied left to right on the forward sides of the bow using 3” block letters of a contrasting color. The state decal must be placed 3” aft (towards the back) of the numbers. Letters are separated from the numbers by hyphens or spaces equal to the width of the numbers. The registration numbers should be placed above the water line for easy identification. The registration certificate and California Boater Card must be carried on the PWC when under way. It is best to keep them in a waterproof container. Restrictions for PWCs It is important to know that PWCs are subject to the same boat operating and navigation rules as other powerboats. Furthermore, many waterways in California may have unique local regulations and it is your responsibility to know what these rules are. Ignorance of the rules does not exempt the operator from the law. To help make PWC a safer form of boating, the law prohibits the operator of a PWC from: „ „ Undertaking unsafe or reckless practices. „ „ Jumping another vessel’s wake within 100 ft. of the vessel creating the wake. „ „ Operating at a speed in excess of 5 mph within 200 feet of a beach or within 100 feet of swimmers, surfers or anyone else in the water. „ „ Operating at a rate of speed and proximity to another vessel causing either operator to swerve at the last minute to avoid a collision. „ „ Operating a PWC toward any person or vessel in the water and turning sharply at close range so as to spray that vessel or person. „ „ Altering the self-circling device on a PWC equipped with such a device. „ „ Operating a PWC without a properly attached lanyard that runs from the cutoff or “kill” switch to your body. „ „ Operating a PWC between sunset and sunrise.


Personal Watercraft Safety Course

Safety Mechanisms Most PWCs are equipped with a cutoff switch that must be attached to the operator by a lanyard. If the operator falls off, the lanyard is pulled and the cutoff switch engages to shut down the engine. The PWC engine will stop, and it will glide to a stop nearby. Operating a PWC equipped with a self-circling device is prohibited if the device has been altered. Some PWCs have an automatic idle and self-circling device. If the rider falls off, the PWC will circle slowly in the area until the rider can safely reboard. Before Leaving Home Driving with your PWC on a trailer is subject to all of the laws outlined in the California Vehicle Code. In addition, driving with a trailer requires extra practice and caution. Be especially careful when going around sharp curves, when backing and when you are launching at a boat ramp. Check that the trailer: „ „ Is licensed with the Department of Motor Vehicles and you have the registration certificate in the towing vehicle. „ „ Lights are working. „ „ Hitch and safety chains are in good condition and properly attached. „ „ Tires are in good condition and are properly inflated. „ „ Tie-downs are in good condition and secure. „ „ Has no loose bolts, cracks, or broken joints. „ „ Bearings are lubricated and adjusted according to manufacturer’s recommendations. „ „ Fuel cock on the PWC is in the “off” position. „ „ Fuel cans and other gear are secure. Pre-Operation Check Read and understand the owner’s manual. Be familiar with the steering apparatus and the mechanism that governs the PWC if the rider falls off. Read the warning stickers on the craft. „ „ Check the regulations that apply to powerboating and to PWCs. „ „ Check the weather and water conditions. „ „ Check that you have filed a float plan with a friend or family member. „ „ Check the engine, battery fluids, oil and fuel levels.


Check the required safety equipment: „ „ U.S. Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher is charged and secure „ „ Backfire flame arrestor is clean and secure „ „ Cutoff switch is working „ „ Start/stop button is working „ „ A sound signaling device is onboard (whistle or horn) „ „ There is a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD for every person on board „ „ Visual distress signals for coastal waters are on board Check the recommended safety equipment: „ „ Basic first aid kit „ „ Anchor and a tow line of the correct length „ „ Extra lanyard „ „ Phone or VHF radio „ „ Tool kit for simple repairs Check your personal equipment: „ „ Wear suitable clothing: wetsuit, eye protection with a leash, gloves, helmet, booties, or boat shoes „ „ Life jackets are in good condition „ „ Whistle attached to life jacket Check the condition of the PWC: „ „ Hull is not damaged „ „ Engine compartment is vented

„ „ Gas and oil caps are secure „ „ Spark plug cables are secure „ „ Handlebar grips are not loose „ „ Hose connections are tight and not cracked or leaking „ „ Bilge is drained

„ „ Drain plugs are in place and secure „ „ Jet pump is not fouled or clogged „ „ Throttle springs back after being pressed „ „ Steering mechanismmoves easily „ „ Engine cover latch is secure „ „ Storage compartment covers, seat cushions, and footwell pads are secure


Personal Watercraft Safety Course

Operating A PWC While Under Way

„ „ Check the water depth. Never operate the PWC in shallow water because materials may be sucked up from the bottom causing damage to the pump. The natural environment including plants, animals and soils can also be harmed. Manufacturers recommend operating in a minimum depth of 18 to 24 inches of water that is free of debris and weeds. „ „ Check for other boats, swimmers, and people being towed. Be cautious when turning: look to both sides and aft. „ „ Check and obey the speed laws, right of way, navigation markers, and signs. „ „ Check your noise. Be courteous, limit noise by not boating in one place for too long. „ „ Check and monitor weather and water conditions, including: tides, river flows, wind, visibility, ocean swells and waves, storm conditions, and debris in the water. „ „ Check the current or water flow. Avoid strong currents as they can be hazardous to riders trying to reach and reboard the watercraft. „ „ Check the waterway. Avoid rocky areas and jetties because of unpredictable currents and a possible collision. „ „ Check the fuel; conserve to make sure you can get back to shore. Remember the one-third rule: one-third of a tank out, one-third back in, and one-third for safety. „ „ Check the time. Return before dark or before you are too tired.



Personal Watercraft Safety Course

W ater S afety Learn and observe the rules of the road Maintain safe speeds to avoid collisions Cast off and return to shore slowly and safely Pay attention to navigational aids: buoys, etc. Keep a sharp lookout

Observe safe towing practices Never make dangerous moves

Learn how to deal with waves, capsizes, stalls, etc. Know legal requirements for reporting accidents File a float plan Never take alcohol or drugs on the water


Remember to maintain good awareness and judgment „ „ Beware of natural stressors such as wind, sun, noise, and motion. „ „ Do not drink alcohol or use drugs and operate a PWC. „ „ It is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drink alcohol in California. „ „ If you are stopped for operating a PWC while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you can be cited and your voyage will be terminated. Navigational Rules Driving a PWC is in some ways similar to driving a vehicle because there are rules of the road on the water and signs to obey. Operating a PWC is different from driving a car or motorcycle because there are no familiar lane lines on the water or brakes on your PWC to aid in maneuvering. Crossing rules, basic rules of the road and naviga- tional aids are all important parts of safely navigating on the water. Navigational Rules Meeting head-on When two boats meet head-on, each must keep to the right (starboard). Crossing

When crossing, the boat to the right is the stand-on ves- sel. The stand-on vessel continues on a consistent course and speed. The give-way vessel should slow and turn to starboard if necessary, and carefully pass the stand-on vessel astern. Overtaking another boat When you overtake another boat from behind (the stern of the vessel), you become the give-way vessel. The boat being overtaken should hold course and speed. Pass with care on the right or left of the stand-on vessel. Right-of-way Other boats, such as commercial fishing boats, deep- draft ships, sailboats, or other non-motorized vessels have less maneuverability and, therefore, are the stand- on vessels over PWCs.


Personal Watercraft Safety Course

PWC Rules of the Road Follow the basic rules of the road except when it is necessary to depart from them to avoid a collision. „ „ Avoid ship channels when possible. Cross quickly when it is unavoidable. „ „ Always watch and listen for other boat traffic. Realize that you are smaller than most boats on the water and may be difficult for those operators to see you. „ „ Know that five or more short sound blasts mean danger or emergency. „ „ Know the potential hazards and high traffic areas where you are operating the PWC. Referring to marine charts or using other local resources can help you learn about your area. „ „ Keep a safe distance between your PWC and other boats or persons in the water. „ „ Sailboats not under power and other boats such as paddle craft also are the stand-on vessels due to limited maneuverability.


Accident Prevention and Rescue „ „ Do not make sharp or erratic turns. „ „ Do not operate your PWC in shallow water because the intake may pick up debris and clog the pump. „ „ Be aware of other boat traffic and your abilities as an operator at all times. „ „ Know how to right a capsized PWC and how to properly reboard. „ „ Know the rules of the road. „ „ Check the weather and water conditions before going out on the water and throughout the day. „ „ Do not carry more passengers or weight than the PWC’s capacity as stated by the manufacturer. „ „ Drink water, juice or soft drinks (non-caffeinated). Never drink alcohol before or during boating. Save it for after docking for the day. „ „ Prevent fire and environmental damage by following correct refueling procedures. Causes of Accidents and Injuries The most common causes of PWC accidents include: Operator Inattention and Lack of Experience Simply not realizing limitations of your boating skill, not paying attention to the conditions, not looking out for other boaters or others in the water and/or lack of judgment are the major causes of PWC accidents. All of these are easily prevent- able by being cautious, using good judgment, staying alert and taking a boating safety course. Excessive Speed, Stopping Distance and Risk of Collision Personal watercraft lack any means of stopping since they have no brakes. You will keep moving forward for several seconds after releasing the throttle depending on your original speed. Combine excessive speed and the lack of brakes and you have a dangerous combination. It is important to be alert to the fact that it will take time and distance to come to a complete stop in order to decrease the risk of a collision with another boat, people in the water or other obstructions. Lack of Power and Loss of Steering Power must be maintained to steer a PWC because the jet pump nozzle provides not only propulsion, but also steering. If power is not maintained for any reason,


Personal Watercraft Safety Course

the PWC will continue in the original direction of travel even if the operator turns the handlebars. Without power, the operator will lose steering control of the PWC. Therefore, it is important to be alert and always be prepared to leave enough time to carefully steer away from a person, vessel or object, and to then stop if necessary. Wake Jumping, Spraying and Other Dangerous Moves Jumping the wake of a vessel within 100 feet of that vessel is not allowed. Dangerous moves are not only illegal, but they are also significant contributors to PWC accidents. See the Dangerous Moves section. Alcohol and Drugs Any use of alcohol or drugs will impair your judgment and physical ability to operate your vessel safely. Don’t operate your PWC anytime you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs! Dangerous Moves You, as the operator of a PWC, are in violation of California Boating Law and can be cited for reckless or negligent operation if you perform the following dangerous moves. Citations involve a fine. Local law enforcement may “terminate” your ride – this means you may be forced to leave the waterway for the day or longer. „ „ Tag and turn. This involves sharp and erratic turns in close proximity to other vessels. „ „ Overtaking another vessel at high speeds. „ „ Wake jumping within 100 feet of another vessel. Not only is a collision a possibility, but you may not be able to see someone or something on the other side of the wake. „ „ Spraying your friends, other vessels or people in the water. „ „ Following other boats too closely. Leave a safe distance to allow time to maneuver and avoid a collision. „ „ Riding too closely beside another rider. An unpredicted turn, unexpected wave action or other event could cause a collision. „ „ Operating your PWC in the wake of another boat. The water may be aerated which can affect your steering and maneuverability. „ „ Chasing another PWC in small circles. These types of activities increase the risk of collisions and other accidents. The potential danger and almost certain annoyance to others could lead to conflicts on the water.


Casting Off „ „ Check that the lanyard is attached to your wrist or life jacket. „ „ Check that the fuel cock is in the “on” position.

„ „ Check the steering and throttle as the PWC is eased away from the dock. „ „ Check your surroundings. Watch for swimmers and other boats. Leave the dock or beach area slowly. Remember the 5 mph law within 200 feet of a beach and 100 feet of anyone in the water. Returning to Shore „ „ Check your speed. Slow to minimum speed as you approach the landing site. „ „ Check the water depth. Be prepared to get off the PWC prior to touching bottom at about 18 inches depth. Push the PWC ashore or to its mooring site. Navigational Aids Buoys, the primary waterway marking system, have distinctive shapes, numbers, lights, and sounds to guide boaters on a safe course. There may be other signs and markers showing rules and regulations that are set by local authorities. Signs also control speed. When operating a PWC, the most important signs to recognize are the ones that read “NO WAKE” and “5 MPH.” These signs must be obeyed by ALL boaters. Lateral markers and safe water aides also mark channels. When returning to dock, solid green marks the left side of the channel, red marks the right side, and red- striped marks the middle.


Personal Watercraft Safety Course


Towing a Water Skier behind a PWC „ „ Towing a person on water skis, a wakeboard or tube is not allowed with any PWC smaller than a three-person craft, in order to accommodate the operator, observer and person being towed. „ „ In addition to the operator and person being towed, you must have an observer on board who is at least 12 years old. „ „ The person being towed and all persons on board must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket approved for PWC use. „ „ The observer must display a red or orange signal flag (minimum 12” square) to indicate: „ „ a downed person „ „ a person in the water preparing to be towed „ „ Everyone should know the standard hand signals in order to be able to communicate between those on board and the person being towed. (see diagrams) „ „ Be aware that your PWC will handle differently when towing a person. „ „ You should always be on the lookout for other vessels, aware of where the person being towed is in relation to the shoreline or other obstructions, and aware of towlines, skis, tubes, and other items that may be in the water. „ „ It is illegal to operate a PWC or tow between sunset and sunrise. „ „ a line extended from the PWC „ „ a ski or other gear in the water


Personal Watercraft Safety Course


Bad Weather You should constantly monitor weather and water conditions as both can change

quickly. Keeping an eye on incoming clouds, noting increasing wind or observing changing water conditions can prevent you becoming a victim of bad weather. If you are caught in bad weather: „ „ Reduce speed. „ „ Proceed with caution.

„ „ Stay calm and head for the nearest safe shore. If the water becomes choppy, head into the waves at about a 45 degree angle. This is the most comfortable way of getting over steep waves and reduces the risk of capsizing. If your PWC capsizes and/or you fall off the vessel Cut-off Switch The moving parts of a PWC are internal, eliminating a propeller injury. However, other injuries and fatalities can occur if a person is struck by a PWC. In the event that a rider falls off the PWC, most have one of the two following safety mechanisms: „ „ A cutoff switch that stops the engine when the operator falls off. „ „ A self-circling device that allows the engine to continue to idle. The steering mechanism will turn all the way to port or starboard causing the PWC to circle slowly nearby. If the PWC capsizes and stops, swim back to the craft and right it in the direction the manufacturer recommends. There is usually a sticker diagram on the stern of the PWC showing the proper direction to right the craft. Failure to right your PWC properly may result in water entering the motor. In either case, the operator and passengers should carefully reboard the PWC. Be careful to avoid the steering nozzle, water intakes and any other part of the PWC that may cause injury. Be sure to remember to reconnect the lanyard in order to restart the engine. Always watch for oncoming vessels while righting and re-boarding the PWC.


Personal Watercraft Safety Course

If your PWC has stalled and will not restart „ „ Wait a few minutes before trying to restart again. The engine may be “flooded” or the fuel line may be clogged. „ „ Check the lanyard, it may be improperly attached or not attached at all. „ „ Do not attempt to do repairs on the engine while on the water. „ „ If the watercraft will not restart, stay with the PWC until help comes. „ „ Wave your arms, use a whistle, air-horn or other signaling device stored on board to attract attention. If there is a fire aboard a PWC and you can safely reach a fire extinguisher, do the following: „ „ Pull the fire extinguisher pin. „ „ Aim the nozzle of the fire extinguisher at the base of the flames. „ „ Squeeze the trigger. „ „ Use a sweeping motion from side to side with short bursts. If you cannot reach the fire extinguisher „ „ Swim to a safe distance away from the PWC to prevent burns in case of an explosion. „ „ Signal others to keep away from the PWC.


Environmental Issues Fueling - It is preferable to fuel your PWC while it is on the trailer in the parking lot or at a gas station. However, if you need to add fuel to the PWC on the beach, it is important to take all necessary precautions to prevent spilling fuel. Pull the PWC up on the beach as far as possible so that accidentally spilled fuel will not go directly into the water. Fuel up your tank slowly and use oil absorbents to catch spills. When you hear or see that the tank is nearly full, stop pouring the gasoline. Do not overfill because gasoline expands as it warms. Never top off when fueling on a beach because this is the most common way spills occur. Replace the cap tightly when you are done. Air the absorbent until it is dry or store it in a covered metal container. Habitat Damage - Shallow water in bays, lagoons and any other waterway are sensitive habitats. These shallows are critical areas for many plants, and are nurseries for fish and shellfish. Operating your PWC may harm these delicate ecosystems, which are often identifiable by floating plant life. Avoid operating your PWC in any potentially fragile areas.

Wildlife Harassment - It is illegal to harass any wildlife, including marine mammals and any birdlife. Harassment is defined as any action that changes the natural behavior of the animal. This may include simply causing a bird to fly away or a marine mammal, such as a seal, to leave the beach or rock. The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 states that you must stay at least 1,000 feet away from any marine mammal.


Personal Watercraft Safety Course

Conclusion PWCs are boats that provide an incredible amount of fun and enjoyment for the user if used properly and safely. Good judgment, courtesy, knowledge of boating rules and regulations, and knowledge of your individual craft are all critical elements for safe use.

The information in this course is a good first step towards many years of safe and enjoyable boating!

Additional courses can add to your safety and enjoyment of California waterways.

STATE OF CALIFORNIA California Natural Resources Agency California State Parks DIVISION OF BOATING ANDWATERWAYS | (888) 326-2822 |

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The California mandatory boating safety education law is now in effect. If you operate a motorized vessel on California waterways, you will be required to pass an approved boating safety exam and carry a lifetime California Boater Card when on state waterways. Boaters 20 years of age and younger are the first group that must carry a Boater Card in 2018. Are you over the age of 20? See when you will be required to complete your exam by visiting

California BOATER CARD

Don’t leave shore without it.

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