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15 Dos And Don’ts To Drive Your Personal Watercraft Safely


Riding your personal watercraft (PWC) can be an exhilarating experience.

But don’t let your ignorance ruin the fun! Your awareness is your ticket to safety. Before you board your PWC to cruise through the Australian waters, you need to have a clear idea about what to, and what not to, do.

Let’s take a thorough tour of the dos and don’ts of riding your personal watercraft.

Do get your PWC Licence. You need to have an updated licence to drive a PWC. And you need to carry it when you go out on your craft. To get this, you need to follow a certain procedure:

  • Complete the General Licence Boating Safety Course and PWC Licence Boating Safety Course
  • Provide proof of practical boating experience
  • Undertake the General Licence Test and PWC Licence Test and be successful at it to get your licence

Don’t let anyone without a licence drive the craft. If it’s your watercraft, you are responsible for it. Make sure you let only licensed drivers handle it. Otherwise, you may be penalised for letting unlicensed drivers handle your craft.

Do wear a life jacket (not an inflatable one). Whether you are driving it or riding with another, you need to wear a Type 1, 2 or 3 life jacket when on enclosed waters (rivers or lakes) and a Type 1 or 2 life jacket when on open waters (oceans and seas).

Don’t forget your safety lanyard. This lanyard, attached to your wrist or life jacket and your watercraft, ensures that it stops if you fall over. This gives you the opportunity to re-board the PWC, restart it and ride away to safety.

Do check the weather. It is highly recommended that you listen to the weather forecast before you go out to enjoy a ride on your PWC. Inclement weather conditions may hamper visibility, and impede the safety of you and others.

Don’t fail to check your craft. Before you start out, inspect your craft carefully. Make sure it is in good, workable condition, fuel and water storage is ample, and there are no little signs of trouble, such as fumes, dents or debris, anywhere.

Do obey restrictions. Certain areas may be flagged off as ‘PWC Exclusion Zones’. Sydney Harbour, Middle Harbour and rivers fall in this category. Stay away from them. Also, don’t go to the ‘PWC Prohibited’ areas.

Don’t drive in an irregular manner. Weaving through vessels, drawing a pattern or jumping on waves may seem to be fun, but don’t indulge in such behaviour within 200 m of the shoreline and the restricted zone. Causing trouble for others is no fun!

Do drive at a safe speed. Many areas have specified speed limits. If there isn’t, you need to consider numerous factors, visibility, hazards, manoeuvrability, presence of other vessels, winds, waves, and so on to determine a safe speed.

Don’t forget to report your trip details. Make sure someone, family, friends, or anyone else is aware of your going out on your PWC. Also, inform them about where you are going, for how much time, and such other relevant details.

Do carry necessities. It’s best to invest in a watercraft that has a watertight compartment to store water, a torch, sunscreen and a mobile phone. You never know when you may have a need for these essentials.

Don’t get high on alcohol or drugs. Weather, wind and waves multiply the effects of alcohol or drugs, and jeopardize your safety, and that of others. Therefore, it is best not to consume them before your drive your watercraft. It is a punishable offence too.

Do travel on the right side. This is especially important when you are driving through the narrow channels or navigating a bend. Each vessel obeys this rule to keep things simple and avoid any mishaps.

Don’t fail to keep a constant lookout. If you neglect to do this, you may hamper your safety. And if you fail to spot a swimmer among the waves or a vessel along the channel, the chances of accidents increase.

Most importantly, do relax and enjoy. Well, just because there are loads of rules and regulations, it doesn’t mean you have to sit stiff and lock your elbows in. Relax. Once you are calm, you are better equipped to handle the wind and the waves.

Take care of yourself, be courteous to others and use your common sense.

Photo via Getty Images [Photographer: Carol Gering]

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