Jet Skiís have become a major force
in boating over the last few years, now accounting for over 1/3 of new boat
sales annually. There are about one million Jet Skiís in use today! That is a
huge number of boats, and unfortunately there is an equal amount of
misunderstanding to go along with them. Did you know that a Jet Ski was even
considered a boat? Many people donít, and think of them more as toys that
require no training or knowledge of how they work.
When Jet Skiís first came on the
market, they were generally designed for only one person and were designed for
high manoeuvrability. They were usually only available as stand-up models, and
had few features. Over the last several years, two, three and even four seat
models have become the top sellers. These craft are much more substantial than
earlier craft, and are even capable of pulling a water skier. Today's models
generally come with a good deal of storage space for gear, and have a very
traditional "dashboard" with gauges. Remember, your Jet Ski operator's manual
will tell you the specifics of your boat, including tips on safe operation, and
how many people you can safely carry.
Virtually no Jet Skiís have running lights as all manufacturers recommend that
they only be used during daylight. In fact, many countries ban the use of Jet
Skiís at night. You are required to have Personal Floatation Devices and these
are to be worn at all times whilst on a Jet Ski. Some areas require an adult
to be on board when a minor is operating the craft, or may require completion
of a boating safety course before a minor can legally operate a Jet Ski. There
may be regulated speed limits, noise limits, hours of operation, and distance
from other boats or objects that you may operate your Jet Ski.
How They Work
Jet Skiís are operated by two-cycle inboard petrol engines, which drive a jet
of water pump. Water is taken in through a water pick-up on the bottom of the
Jet Ski, drawn into an internal propeller (an impeller) that creates a jet of
high pressure water which exits through a nozzle on the back of the Jet Ski.
There is also a moveable "gate" that can be dropped over the nozzle to provide
reverse thrust on some models. Be careful, this is not designed to be used to
stop a Jet Ski operating at a high speed!
Jet Skiís are designed to be
extremely manoeuvrable. They are built for quick, sharp turns, low-radius
circling, and rapid acceleration. However, they are only manoeuvrable with the
throttle engaged Ė to maintain steerage, you must apply throttle! For instance,
the best way to avoid hitting an object is NOT to slow down, rather, you should
apply throttle and steer away to avoid impact. Most models have an automatic
cut-off lanyard (which must be attached to the operatorís wrist or life jacket
at all times) or self-circling feature to prevent a Jet Ski from going far from
a driver who has fallen off.
Jet Skiís are self-righting if you
fall off. Donít abandon your vessel if it overturns. Simply turn it over on the
direction marked on the hull or as indicated in the userís manual that you read
prior to use. Righting your craft improperly may make it more difficult than
necessary to re-board, and you could cause internal damage to your Jet Ski. To
re-board your craft, approach the rear of the Jet Ski, pull yourself up into a
kneeling position, take your seat, start it up and continue on your trip. This
sounds easier than it is Ė it is often quite difficult to re-board a Jet Ski,
especially in rough water or when fatigued. A good idea is to practice in calm
shallow water before venturing out.
Practice boarding your Jet Ski in a
calm shallow area with your friends or family. If you have difficulty getting
back on a Jet Ski from the water, you should most likely avoid using your Jet
Ski in areas where there is a strong current or high waves. There are "ladders"
available to help you climb back on Ė definitely a worthwhile investment.
Finally, don't forget to re-attach your cut-off lanyard!
When operating a Jet Ski, keep clear
of shallow water (less than two feet deep) or beds of sea grass or other
vegetation. Since a Jet Ski sucks water in to power its water jet, it is best
not to operate in these waters. This will help keep dirt and debris from fouling
the impeller, which could lead to power loss or damage to your Jet Ski.
Be aware of what is around you. The leading cause of Jet Ski accidents is
striking an object (usually another Jet Ski). If you are operating your Jet
Ski in a congested area, slow down and look at what the boats around you are
doing. To avoid being struck yourself, always look for other boats before
making sharp or sudden turns.
Because Jet Skiís are so small and
manoeuvrability it is best to always give the other boats the right of way.
Larger boats may not see you, and may not be able to get out of your way in time
to avoid contact. Keeping a proper lookout can save your life! As with any boat,
operate at a safe speed. It is very easy to get thrown from a Jet Ski,
especially if you hit wakes or turn too quickly. Operating at a safe speed for
the conditions will lower the risk of an accident.
If you lend your Jet Ski to a
friend, make sure they know the Rules of the Road and how to operate your Jet
Ski. Large portions of Jet Ski accidents occur with rental Jet Skiís or when
people other than the owner are operating the vessel.
Jet Ski Etiquette
With the rapid rise in the number of Jet Skiís, there have been many
complaints about their use and misuse. Many people would love to see them
outlawed altogether. With common sense and common courtesy, both Jet Ski users
and traditional boaters can coexist and enjoy their time on the water.
Following some simple operating procedures can help eliminate the majority of
complaints against Jet Skiís
Noise is probably the number one
complaint about Jet Ski use. Though manufacturers are continually developing
quieter motor and exhaust systems (Jet Ski motors all operate within legal
limits for noise) there are many complaints about noise. The best way to avoid
noise complaints is to follow the Rules of the Road and also to avoid operating
at high speed near the shoreline and other boaters. Riding through surf and boat
wakes is dangerous.
Obey the law! If all Jet Ski users faithfully
obeyed the law, there would be far fewer complaints, and consequently far fewer
usage restrictions. Jet Ski operators control their own destiny.