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Personal Watercraft—Getting Underway

watercraftOperators and passengers should be competent swimmers.

When starting your personal watercraft, make certain you are in deep enough water. Check your owner's manual for recommendations. Be sure the water is free of debris, weeds, and trash. Always attach the safety shut-off lanyard to your wrist or PFD before you start the engine.

When launching from a dock, follow your owner's manual for procedures. Make certain the path ahead is clear. Once aboard with the motor running, apply enough throttle to provide steerage. Idle away from the dock until you are in clear water and away from traffic. Get the feeling of how the craft handles. After looking around, make gentle left and right turns and check throttle operation.

Obey no-wake zones. Keep a sharp lookout for swimmers, skiers, and other traffic. Go slowly until you are in a clear area. Many areas have speed restrictions, either close to shore or in certain channels. Obey the signs and use common sense. Look for no-wake buoys and swimming areas. When in doubt, ask. When operating in a harbor area, be considerate and go slow enough to not create a wake. Many waterways have heavy traffic and special traffic patterns. This is particularly true on lakes popular with water skiers. Make certain you follow the traffic pattern. Never pass between a skier and a boat. This is a life-threatening situation for both.

Follow the nautical rules of the road, particularly where they pertain to right-of-way. Always look behind you for traffic before you turn.