Who Needs the Card?
Any person who was born on or after January 1, 1988, operating a vessel powered by a motor of 10 horsepower or greater (including PWCs) must have a Florida Boating Safety Education ID Card.
A PWC (Personal Watercraft) is a small vessel that uses an inboard jet drive as its primary source of propulsion, and is designed to be operated by a person or persons sitting, standing, or kneeling on the vessel rather than inside the vessel. The U.S. Coast Guard includes personal watercraft in the group of inboard vessels less than 16 feet in length.
PWCs are subject to all of the same laws and requirements of any other vessel plus a few laws specific to PWCs.
• Stern: Back of a vessel
• Bow: Front of a vessel
• Draft: Depth of water needed to float a vessel
• Intake: Opening in the hull that draws water toward the impeller
• Intake grate: Screening cover over the intake, which prevents large debris from entering
• Drive shaft: The long stem connection between the handlebars and the impeller
• Steering nozzle: Device used to steer the PWC by directing the stream of water to the left or right
• Impeller: Device used to force water in a desired direction under pressure
Ignition Safety Switch
Most PWCs and powerboats come equipped with an emergency ignition safety switch, which is designed to shut the engine down if the operator is thrown from the proper operating position. The ignition safety switch works by attaching a lanyard between the operator and the switch. If the lanyard is removed from the switch, then the engine will shut off. You must wear the safety switch lanyard while operating a PWC.
Although a personal watercraft (PWC) is considered an inboard powerboat and operators must follow the same rules and requirements that apply to any other power-driven vessel, there are specific considerations for the PWC operator.
Operating a Personal Watercraft
Stand-on vessel: The vessel that should maintain its course and speed
Give-way vessel: The vessel that must take early and substantial action to avoid collision by stopping, slowing down, or changing course.
Power vs. Power: Neither vessel is the stand-on vessel. Both vessels should keep to the starboard (right).
Power vs. Sail: The powerboat is the give-way vessel. The sailboat is the stand-on vessel.
Power vs. Power: The vessel on the operator’s port (left) side is the give-way vessel. The vessel on the operator’s starboard (right) side is the stand-on vessel.
Power vs. Sail: The powerboat is the give-way vessel. The sailboat is the stand-on vessel.
Power vs. Power: The vessel that is overtaking another vessel is the give-way vessel. The vessel being overtaken is the stand-on vessel.
Power vs. Sail: The vessel that is overtaking another vessel is the give-way vessel. The vessel being overtaken is the stand-on vessel.
No Wake Zones
Swim area on most of southwest Florida’s beaches are marked off by buoys. You may enter these areas but must proceed with minimal wake as these are no wake zones.
Anchoring a PWC
Each rental is equipped with anchoring system which is comprised of three components. An anchor, anchor rope and buoy. To anchor your rental, connect the end with the stainless steel clip to the stern of the watercraft. When disconnected, the buoy will float allowing you to find the anchor easily upon return. NEVER BEACH nor START the watercraft in water shallower than 2ft. Doing either may result in debris and sediment being sucked up through the intake grate and damaging the jet pump, wear ring and prop costing you hundreds in repair costs.
NEVER drive the watercraft through grassy or weeded areas. This includes floating vegetation. The intake grate may become clogged leading to overheating of the engine or catastrophic engine failure costing you thousands in repair costs.
Always maintain a minimum of 150ft between you and any other watercraft. Never cross another crafts wake, wake jumping is illegal. All bridges are considered no wake zones and require a minimum wake when within 150ft of the structure.
Always stay within the proper channels when operating a PWC in the back bay areas. Straying outside the channel may lead to severe injury or death. While some sand bars are visible above water, many lie just inches below the waterline. Striking a sandbar at speed can severely damage the watercraft and kill any rider/s.
Steering and Stopping a PWC
A personal watercraft (PWC) is considered an inboard vessel and comes under the same rules and requirements as any other vessel. PWC operators must keep in mind that there are specific considerations when using a PWC.
A PWC is a quick, highly maneuverable vessel that is a lot of fun to operate. Many PWC operators and passengers are injured on Florida’s waters because they become too comfortable with the speed and maneuverability of their vessel. This tendency leads to several operator mistakes that usually result in severe injury or death. These mistakes are:
Riding Too Close
The PWC in front of or beside you can change direction in an instant, often leading to a high-speed collision. Keep lots of distance between you and any other vessel or object.
Turning Without Looking
You may not realize that another vessel is behind you, and any abrupt turn (like a 180-degree turn) is likely to result in a serious collision. Making abrupt turns in an area where any other vessels are nearby is not only dangerous but also is a violation of Florida law.
Trying To Turn Without Power
Even though PWC manufacturers have made improvements in “off-throttle steering” capabilities, PWCs will not turn effectively when the throttle is released.
In the event of a near collision, one’s natural tendency is to reduce power and turn … but PWCs do not turn this way.
Pay close attention to your surroundings and stay away from other vessels or objects so that you don’t make this often fatal mistake.
As discussed, most PWCs have a steering nozzle at the back of the unit. The nozzle is controlled by a handle bar that directs the stream of water from right to left. When the steering control is turned right, the steering nozzle is turned right. The force of the water stream leaving the nozzle then pushes the back of the vessel to the left, which causes the PWC to turn right.
The most important thing to remember about steering most PWCs, and other jet-drive vessels, is that you must always have power in order to maintain control. If you allow the engine to return to idle or shut-off during operation, you lose all steering control. The PWC will continue in the direction it was headed before the throttle was released or the engine was shut off, no matter which way the steering control is turned. Always allow plenty of room for stopping. Just because you release the throttle or shut off the engine does not mean you will stop immediately.
Before You Go Out On Your PWC
Operating a personal watercraft carries the same responsibilities as operating any other vessel. Before taking your PWC out on the water you should:
• Inspect your PWC periodically and perform necessary maintenance to keep it in good operating condition.
• Be aware of all local, state and federal laws that apply to PWCs.
Do not forget that in addition to obeying all boating laws, the PWC operator must adhere to laws specific to personal watercraft. Do not operate a PWC in shallow water. Doing so damages both your PWC and the environment.
When operating your personal watercraft, always consider the effect you may have on the environment:
• Do not operate a PWC in shallow water. Bottom sediments or aquatic vegetation can be sucked into the water pump and damage your PWC and the environment.
• Operate at slow speed and avoid creating a wake, which can cause erosion when operating near shore or in narrow streams or rivers.
• Do not dock or beach your PWC in reeds and grasses. This could damage fragile environments.
• Take extra care when fueling your PWC in or near the water. Oil and gasoline spills are very detrimental to the aquatic environment. Fuel on land if possible.
Never use your PWC to disturb, chase or harass wildlife.
Reboarding a Capsized PWC
PWCs are designed to allow you to fall off and reboard from the rear of the craft. Sometimes after a fall, the PWC could be completely overturned. When this occurs, you should be familiar with the proper procedure to right the PWC.
• Most manufacturers have placed a decal at the rear or bottom of the craft that indicates the direction to roll your PWC to an upright position. If no decal exists, check your owner’s manual or ask the dealer. With this information you should be able to roll the PWC over and reboard with little trouble. If you roll it over the wrong way, you could cause serious damage to your PWC.
• It is a good idea to practice reboarding with someone else around to make sure you can handle it alone. Also, avoid riding your PWC when you are very tired, because reboarding will be difficult. Also avoid riding where there are strong currents or winds, which could hamper your reboarding efforts.
Because a PWC is very maneuverable it is possible for a PWC to get into trouble fast. Here are some important things to do when operating a PWC:
• Do not ride too closely behind another PWC. If it turns sharply or if it stalls you could collide with it; if the other rider falls off you could run over him or her.
• Always look behind you over both shoulders before making turns; another vessel may be too close behind you.
• Be aware of all traffic in your boating area; don’t focus just on the short distance ahead.
• Always remember that operating a PWC has the same responsibilities as operating any other vessel.
Buoys and markers are the “traffic signals” that guide vessel operators safely along some waterways. They also identify dangerous or controlled areas and give directions and information. As a recreational boat or PWC operator, you will need to know the lateral navigation markers and non-lateral markers of the U.S. Aids to Navigation System.
These navigation aids mark the edges of safe water areas; for example, directing travel within a channel. The markers use a combination of colors and numbers, which may appear on either buoys or permanently placed markers.
Red colors, red lights, and even numbers indicate the right side of the channel as a boater enters from the open sea or heads upstream
Green colors, green lights, and odd numbers indicate the left side of the channel as a boater enters from the open sea or heads upstream.
Red and green colors and/or lights indicate the preferred (primary) channel. If green is on top, the preferred channel is to the right as a boater enters from the open sea or heads upstream; if red is on top, the preferred channel is to the left
Red Right Returning is a reminder of the correct course when returning from open waters or heading upstream.
Entering channel: red buoy on starboard, green on port
Lighted Buoys use the lateral marker colors and numbers discussed above; in addition, they have a matching colored light.
Nuns are red cone-shaped buoys marked with even numbers.
Cans are green cylindrical-shaped buoys marked with odd numbers.
A Lighted Buoy
Daymarks are permanently placed signs attached to structures, such as posts, in the water. Common daymarks are red triangles (equivalent to nuns) and green squares (equivalent to cans). They may be lighted also.
A Green Daymark
A Red Daymark
Intracoastal Waterway System
The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is a chain of channels that provide an inland passage along the U.S. coast. Buoys and markers in this system are identified by yellow symbols and serve a dual purpose—they are navigation aids for both the lateral system of markers and the ICW.
If following the ICW from New Jersey to Brownsville, Texas, in a clockwise direction:
• Any marker displaying a yellow triangle should be passed by keeping it on the starboard (right) side of your vessel.
• Any marker displaying a yellow square should be passed by keeping it on the port (left) side of your vessel.
A Red Intracoastal Marker
A Green Intracoastal Marker
Non-lateral markers are navigation aids that give information other than the edges of safe water areas. The most common are regulatory markers (shown below) that are white and use orange markings and black lettering. These markers are found on waterways throughout Florida.
Information: Squares indicate where to find food, supplies, repairs, etc. and give directions and other information.
Controlled: Circles indicate a controlled area such as speed limit, ski only or no skiing, or “slow, no wake.”
Exclusion: Crossed diamonds indicate areas off-limits to all vessels such as swimming areas, dams, and spillways.
Danger: Diamonds warn of dangers such as rocks, shoals, construction, dams, or stumps. Always proceed with caution.
“IDLE SPEED, NO WAKE” ZONE: A designated area where vessels must be operated at a speed no greater than that which is necessary to maintain steerage and headway. The vessel should not produce a wake at this speed.
“SLOW SPEED, MINIMUM WAKE” ZONE: Areas where vessels must be fully off plane and completely settled in the water. Any wake created by a vessel in one of these zones must be minimal (very small). If your vessel is traveling with the bow even slightly elevated while in one of these zones, it is not proceeding at “Slow Speed” as required by law.
Maximum 25 MPH, 30 MPH, and 35 MPH SPEED ZONES: Controlled areas within which a vessel must not exceed posted speed.
• Always wear a PFD (personal flotation device) when onboard the PWC, it should go without saying that you should wear a life jacket when water tubing. This is especially important in the event that the rider should become separated from the ski.
• Always use a spotter who can keep a lookout for water tubing accidents or see if anyone has fallen off the tube, while the driver concentrates on oncoming obstacles.
• Be aware of water regulations. Make sure you are familiar with the specific regulations governing the body of water you’re boat tubing on, in particular towing speeds.
• Drive Responsibly. Always begin with the tow rope fully extended. Never start the PWC with the rope near the rear of the ski or go in reverse which can result in the tow rope becoming tangled in the impeller causing severe damage to the ski. Never accelerate quickly which can snap the tow rope and jar the rider resulting in injury. While sharp turns, high speeds, and big waves can be fun, these should never come at the expense of rider safety. Enjoying a day of water tubing, the driver should be alert, sober and have a solid grasp of boating rules and regulations. Be respectful of and keep your distance from other boats in the area when water tubing, and always keep an eye out for additional water hazards such as rocks, docks, and buoys. Handle wakes with care. Slow the boat speed when crossing wakes. bouncing off wakes at high speeds has been known to cause back injury.