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An introduction to boating with PWC: Know before you go

Welcome To the World of Water Sports!

The use of personal watercraft has become one of the fastest growing recreational activities. Your decision to learn more about their safe operation will add to your enjoyment of the sport. Having studied the design and characteristics of available PWC, you have probably chosen the model that is right for you. Advice from experienced operators may have influenced your choice and perhaps you have had an opportunity to take one for a test drive.

Once you begin handling your own PWC, you will develop the techniques and skills necessary for safe operation. As your skill level grows, so will your enjoyment of the sport.

Some of your learning and experience begins here – on the pages of this manual. It continues by attending classes such as those offered by the United States Power Squadrons®, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or local law enforcement agency.

Although you are eager to begin your hands-on learning, first become a responsible boater and Know Before You Go. A personal watercraft is a boat, governed by all boating regulations and "rules of the road," and awareness is an important factor in preventing boating accidents. Continue the studying and decision-making you have done so far by taking the time to read this material and become familiar with it before heading for the water.

Very important: study and refer to your owner’s manual and product labels.

For other boating education programs, contact the United States Power Squadrons® toll free at 1-888-FOR-USPS (1-888-367-8777) OR on the Internet at

The operation of a boat carries many of the same responsibilities as the operation of an automobile. You are responsible for your own safety and that of others who will be sharing the water with you. While we all may not be in the same boat, we do share the same water. Learning and obeying the boating laws, rules, and common courtesies will enhance your safety and enjoyment of water sports.

The United States Power Squadrons® has developed this program with the help of qualified instructors nationwide. The program is intended to teach you the safe use of personal watercraft and provide you with the basics of navigation rules and regulations.

Continuing Education

It is important for boat operators to understand that one of their responsibilities is to keep up-to-date with new developments in boating laws and safety information. State laws vary with regard to licensing, equipment requirements, accident reporting procedures, etc. Boating equipment and safety information available to boat operators is constantly changing and improving. Boat operators who stay abreast of these changes will be ready for new situations, thus improving their own boating enjoyment as well as the safety of all boating participants.


  • To reduce your risk of injury by making you aware of safety considerations.

  • To teach you basic Navigation Rules.

  • To promote safe and careful operation.

  • To increase your awareness of conservation and environmental issues that are directly affected by you and your equipment.

  • To enhance your on-the-water enjoyment with a new understanding of the rules of Courtesy Afloat.

  • To meet your state's educational requirements where your licensing or certification as a personal watercraft operator is required by law.


The key to Responsible Boating.


Drinking impairs your judgment, coordination, and reaction time.  Most states have strict laws and severe penalties regarding the use of alcohol and drugs by boat operators. While the particular rules and regulations differ from state to state, their intent and message is universal – drinking and boat operation do not make common or legal sense.
Don’t drink and drive!

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