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Personal Watercraft—Preparation

When planning an outing, follow a checklist to make sure you are fully prepared. If you have a problem on the water, you may not be able to swim to shore. Maintain the watercraft in good condition and be prepared before you leave the shore. Customize your list depending upon the type of watercraft and the activity you are planning.

Watercraft Pre-Ride Inspection

Check your watercraft before every outing to avoid the dangers of breaking down. Use your personal watercraft owner's manual for specific information

Equipment and  Things to check include

  • Steering -  Check for proper steering operation
  • Throttle- Make sure the throttle works freely and returns to the idle position when released
  • Jet jump cover- Check the jet jump cover and inlet grate for looseness
  • Ventilate engine compartment- Open the engine cover. Keep it open for several minutes to vent gasoline fumes
  • Fuel leaks- Check for fuel leaks and gasoline fumes from the tank, fuel lines, and carburetor
  • Oil leaks - Check for oil leaks
  • Hose connection- Be sure all hose connections and hose clamps are tight. Check hoses for cracks and deterioration, replace if necessary
  • Drain bilge- Drain water from the engine compartment. Be sure the bilge system is operating properly
  • Fuel level- Check the fuel tank level, refill if necessary, and turn the fuel valve to ON
  • Engine oil level- Check the oil level gauge and refill if necessary
  • Battery- Make sure the battery is full and fully charged, and check cable connections to ensure they are tight
  • Hull damage- Inspect the hull for damage
  • Engine cover (hood) - Check that the engine cover latches are secure
  • Fire extinguisher- Be sure you have a fully charged fire extinguisher
  • Stop button- Start the engine, run it for a few seconds, and then check that the engine stop button works
  • Lanyard switch- If your watercraft has a shut-off lanyard, or other device, make certain it's on board and working properly
  • Rider protection- Always wear a PFD and appropriate protective gear
  • Trailer- Check your trailer lights, wheel bearings, and tires. Secure your watercraft to the trailer and be sure the engine hood and all latches are secure

Rider Gear

Riding a personal watercraft is a "wet" sport. You should expect to get wet and even end up overboard at times. Some items are a must. Others you may want to consider for an enjoyable outing.

riding gearEquipment and Things to check include 

  • Personal -flotation device - A US Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device should be worn by the operator and passenger(s). (This is the law in many states.) 
  • Eye protection- Water spray in your eyes can affect your vision. Wear glasses, goggles, or wraparound eye protection
  • Foot protection- Foot protection keeps you from sliding and helps you avoid scrapes and bruises
  • Gloves- Gloves will help you hold on to wet controls and also provide protection during docking and loading
  • Wetsuit- In cold water, you may want to consider a wetsuit. Hypothermia, an abnormally low body temperature, is a real danger in cold, or even cool, water
  • Helmet- A helmet provides protection against head injuries, one of the main injuries suffered