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Jun 30

Personal Watercraft Safety

Did you know that the U.S. Coast Guard considers personal watercraft (PWC) to be Class A vessels, which means all safety equipment and operation laws that apply to boat under 16 feet also apply to a PWC. With the horsepower of a large outboard engine and the acceleration of a motorcycle. PWC are not toys. Before you hit the water, let’s take a look at some of the basics:

USCG Required Equipment for a PWC:

* A life jacket for each operating passenger, and person being towed

* A Coast Guard-approved B-1 fire extinguisher

* An approved sound-signaling device such as a whistle or horn

* An emergency engine cutoff lanyard attached to the operator

* Proper display of registration numbers, letters and validation decals

* Vessel registration, to be displayed when requested

* A functioning backfire flame arrestor and passive ventilation system

Some items you may wish to consider that are not required but definitely a good idea:

* Hand-held VHF radio, and a cell phone as a backup

* A basic first-aid kit, sunscreen, and burn cream

* An anchor and enough anchor line for your area

* And finally, t’s recommended you have a suitable, daytime distress signal such as flares, an orange flag, or signal mirror.

Use Basic Common Sense and Everyone can Enjoy the Experience

In many states, PWC-operator laws are more stringent than recreational-vessel operator requirements. PWC manufacturers recommend a minimum operator age of 16. However, operator laws vary from state to state. For more state operator requirements, visit and click on your state. Also:

* Wear a life jacket approved for PWC use.

* Learn the meaning of navigation marks and signs.

* Never operate any vehicle when impaired.

* Carry no more passengers than the vessel’s rating allows.

* Larger vessels, sailboats under sail, and paddle craft should always be given priority.

* When meeting another craft head-on, steer to the right and pass like cars.

* If overtaking another boat, you may pass on either side, but you must keep clear.

* If you’re about to cross paths with another vessel, the craft on the right should be allowed to continue at the same speed and direction, and you must alter your speed and direction to pass safely behind. For more information visit or