Some Practical Tips For Jet Ski Riders

by Joyce Kramer

Can’t you easily picture yourself skimming over the waves, hair blowing free, warm sunshine on your body giving you that kind of tan that you can only get while out on the water. You can go fast and far, or you can go slow and easy. For this type of boating, the ideal craft is the jet ski.

It is the motorcycle of the water. With this kind of image sometimes it is hard to remember that it is a powerboat and it does require skills and practice to get it right.

Even though a jet ski is smaller and simpler to drive, it is still subject to boating rules and regulations. When getting down to it, the main difference between a boat and jet ski is the drive. A jet ski has a jet drive and a boat has a propeller.

However, your jet ski’s capabilities and limitations are different from a boat’s, even one of similar size. You can go in shallow water. You can maneuver easily. You can accelerate quicker, but you are more affected by waves, turbulence and obstructions. It is wise to take into consideration that other boaters may not realize your differences, so you must take extra precautions when in traffic.

Safe use of a jet ski is a great responsibility. Maturity of judgment and physical capability are necessary to safely operate the craft. For this reason there are restrictions on the age of a person legally allowed to operate a jet ski. Most manufacturers have recommended ages for operations and passengers. The operator should be no younger than 16 years old or older. Georgia has rules also and drivers are to be 16 years old.

Right of way rules are the most important part of jet ski operation. Knowledge and practice of these rules will help you avoid collisions, which is unfortunately the most common type of water craft accident.

There are three primary types of situations you may be confronted with while riding: head on, overtaking and crossing over. These three riding right of ways can be unnerving, especially for a new rider, so take a moment to visualize the situation in your head so that when you are confronted, you will be comfortable.

Remember you are a motorboat in these situations, so follow the rules that apply to boats with power. However, don’t assume the other boater knows what you are planning. Always ride with caution and use common sense. When making a pass, slow down and make sure the other boater knows what you are doing.

In an overtaking situation, stay well clear of the vessel you are going by. If possible, try to let the boat you are passing know you are there by a whistle or a horn. This will keep the boat from veering over and blocking or hitting you. Kind of like passing a semi, they can’t always see you.

Sometimes you will be faced with the crossover. Since your jet ski is low in the water in comparison to many other boats, it could be difficult to see around the one you are crossing. Make sure that you can see as far as possible by staying well back behind the boat so you can see if other traffic is coming. When crossing, the motorboat has the right of way. However, remember that not everyone knows just who has the right of way, so be defensive.

Water means freedom to many boaters and abusing that freedom prevents people on shore or other boaters from enjoying the peacefulness of open waters and beaches. It also creates pressure to regulate boating activity.

Excessive noise is one of the fastest ways to make yourself unpopular with other water users as well as people on shore. Remember that noise carries farther on water. Early morning and late afternoon are times when people particularly enjoy peace and quiet. Avoid riding for extended periods of time in front of residences.

As a personal water craft operator, you have a legal responsibility to stay away from other non-powered and less maneuverable vessels and objects.

Be alert to all situations involving anyone who might be in the water like water skiers, divers, swimmers and other personal watercraft operators. Keep a sharp lookout for swimmers. Remember that the glare of the sun obscures them as well as objects floating in the water.

You will often find yourself sharing the water with skiers. Keep in mind that a personal watercraft is more maneuverable than a boat towing a water skier so it makes sense to stay out of the way. Never jump that wake or that of a boat towing a skier.

Fishermen too should be given plenty of room. On boats or ashore, fishermen usually have lines or nets out that can be damaged by or damaging to your watercraft or to you. Some fishermen also feel that noise scares fish away, which can cause strained relations between fishermen and watercraft users.

Now for an equipment check. Let us start with the safety gear needed for the operator and passenger on the jet ski and then the craft itself.

The operator is to have the following safety gear: a Coast Guard approved life jacket. This must be worn by the operator and passenger. Be sure they are properly fitted and fastened completely.

Goggles or sunglasses help protect from glare and spray and a kill switch with a lanyard worn by the driver that will shut off the engine in case he is thrown from the craft.

Deck shoes or tennis shoes help to keep footing firm and avoid injury.

Gloves are needed to help maintain grip on wet controls and to protect your hands while docking or loading.

Carry a fire extinguisher in the event of fire. Swim away from the craft to a safe distance as soon as possible. This is one of the few instances when you are advised to leave your craft quickly.

Never operate in the dark. This practice is illegal and hazardous.

When out on the water and your jet ski stalls, and you find that the jet ski won’t start, stay with your vessel and continue to wear your life jacket. Signal another vessel for a tow. Don’t try to repair it in the water. Waves or wakes could easily swamp the craft.

Now that you are safe, lets go for a ride!

Joyce is a crewman and an officer in the Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 83 – Lake Seminole. She can be reached at kramers229@aol. corn.

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