2015 New York Safe Boating - 62
General Information about
Personal watercraft (PWC) have become a popular choice for
New York boat owners in recent years. PWC are fast, turn
on a dime when underway, and put the operator right next
to the water. In other words, they're a blast, and it's easy
to see why they're so popular. Because of their speediness
and responsive handling, they're like the motorcycles of the
A personal watercraft is classified as an "inboard
motorboat." That means that the same rules and
requirements (with the exception of certain on-board
equipment) that apply to similar sized motorboats also apply
to PWC, including:
Although PWC offer excitement and thrills, PWC and their
operators have come under fire for several reasons:
Rules of the Road
Boating While Intoxicated
Persons being towed behind-skiing, tubing, etc.*
Capacity information found in owner's manual
Operating a PWC requires skill, and inexperienced
operators often run into trouble. At one time PWC
comprised less than 10% of the state's registered
boats but were involved in more than 20% of all
accidents on the water.
PWC operators have acquired reputations as thrill-
seeking nuisances because they may operate their
craft in a reckless manner such as jumping another
boats wake too closely.
PWC operators are sometimes discourteous or show
*Note that if a PWC tows a skier or tube, it must be rated
for at least three persons-operator, observer and skier-and
that the observer must sit facing the skier. PWC owners
can purchase a device that allows the observer to hold on
securely and balance while sitting backwards.
a lack of respect for other users of the waterways
by creating wakes in the presence of small boats, or
operating too close to swimmers.
PWC are appealing to young people because
they are so quick and maneuverable, but youthful
operators may lack the strength and coordination to
control the machine, and may lack the experience to
exercise good judgment in stressful situations.
There are also a few operating restrictions placed on PWC
that don't exist for other boats. We'll discuss those later in
Personal Watercraft Defined
Most of these problems stem from lack of boating
knowledge and inexperience with boats or PWC. This course
is meant to provide students with the knowledge to handle
PWC properly, safely, responsibly and courteously. It is
important for the PWC community to operate legally, safely,
and with courtesy towards all, or PWC operators may find
fewer and fewer waterways where they will be allowed to
ride their craft. Towns, villages and cities have the authority
to regulate PWC operation within 1500 feet of shore, and
they can ban PWC entirely if they choose to do so.
The New York State Navigation Law defines a personal
watercraft as "a boat which uses an inboard motor powering
a water jet pump as its primary source of motive power
and which is designed to be operated by a person sitting,
standing, or kneeling on, or being towed behind the boat
rather than in the conventional manner of sitting or standing
inside the boat."
The two key elements that distinguish a PWC from other
boats are its water jet pump propulsion, and the fact that
the operator sits or stands on the machine rather than in the
THE PROBLEM IS NOT THE MACHINE, IT'S THE
The water jet drive is located on the bottom of the hull.
Water enters the drive unit through a grate which keeps
debris from being sucked into the impellors. (This grate
can become clogged, especially if the PWC is operating in
shallow, weedy water).