By Lt. Bill Hempel
United States Power Squadrons
While many operators of personal water craft (PWC) are careful to obey the laws of the water road and of courtesy, some people seem electrically charged by the handle bars. Like the results of Dr. Frankenstein’s machine, they are transformed into mindless monsters. These drivers grab the handle bars, throw their heads back, and mindlessly speed off.
I have seen PWC’s running into the face of waves in attempts to do 360 degree flips. Of course, most of them fall backwards into the water with the machine on top of them — only to do it again. Every boater has been plagued by such careless operators crisscrossing over their wakes, trying to get the small crafts air borne, and shouting with glee as they slam back onto the water. If a person were to attempt these antics in any other type of small craft, you would question their sanity.
Recently, you may have read of a fatal accident when a vessel turned into the path of a speeding PWC. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the PWC operator cruising in the vessel’s blind spot and illegally overtaking the larger vessel while jumping over its trailing wake.
There are state laws governing the age of persons allowed to operate a PWC, yet I see small children buzzing across the water. Most states require persons aboard to wear life jackets, to operate it sensibly, to avoid close wake jumping and 360 degree flips, and to operate only after dawn or before dusk. It is illegal to operate any watercraft under the influence of alcohol, yet considering my Dr. Frankenstein theory, this is a main factor in most fatal accidents.
PWC’s provide recreational boaters with a great way to enjoy our waters. Speeding along closely to the water on these small craft is really thrilling. It is much akin to the experience of driving a motorcycle down the highway. Some of these craft are large enough to tow a water boarder and fast enough to tow a water skier, thus providing even more recreational venues. But again, there are laws requiring rear view mirrors, an observer aboard, and space for a fallen skier to climb board, so such craft with inadequate seating cannot be used for these purposes.
In the safe boating classes taught by the United States Power Squadrons, there is a segment dedicated to the safe and legal operation of a PWC. I urge all PWC owners to take the class. The class does not teach common sense, but it will put you a step ahead of the crowd, and it may even keep that magic handlebar charger from turning you into a young Frankenstein.
The members of the United States Power Squadrons always remind us: “Boating is fun…we’ll show you how!”
For many more tips on boating safety and maintenance, contact your local power squadron unit Marco Island Sail &Power Squadron at 239-393-0150, visit it on the web at www.marcoislandsailandpowersqaudron.org or go to www.usps.org.