Other Water Sports Enthusiasts
Always keep a sharp lookout for swimmers while operating your PWC. Remember, glare and the sun make swimmers hard to see. Avoid congested swimming areas. Keep your personal watercraft at a minimal speed (just enough to maintain headway and steering) when you are near swimmers. When launching and landing onto a beach, maintain a low speed even if swimmers are not visible.
Give sailboats and sailboarders plenty of room. Their vessels do not provide as much maneuverability as your PWC. High speed wakes can cause them to veer off course and lose their source of power - the wind.
Often, the vision of sailboats and sailboarders is impaired by the position of the sail(s). A personal watercraft operator who is "heard but not seen" can make even the most experienced skipper or sailboarder nervous.
Be familiar with both the Divers Down Flag and the International Diving Flag (also called the Alpha Flag). Displayed on a boat or a float, either flag indicates that divers are present in an area. Avoid the area surrounding the flag by 300 feet or more. Keep an eye out for air bubbles breaking the surface of the water in the event divers have strayed from the safety of their diving marker.
Some state regulations permit personal watercraft along coastal areas. In other states this is illegal. Check and understand state and local regulations before taking to the waves. Watch out for surfers. Surfboards are usually not very maneuverable in the water. You have a legal and a common sense responsibility to stay away from surfers and other non-power and less maneuverable vessels and objects. Wave-jumping is dangerous and illegal everywhere. Don't do it!
You will frequently find yourself sharing the water with water skiers. A personal watercraft is more maneuverable than a boat towing a water skier, so it makes sense to stay out of the way. For safety, and to lessen the nervousness of skiers, stay as far away from skiers as possible. Never boat near a water skier. That is dangerous for everyone involved.
Fishermen should also be given plenty or room. On boats or ashore, fishermen usually have lines or nets out which can be damaged by - or damaging to - your watercraft or to you. Some fishermen also feel that noise "scares" fish away. That can cause bad press for PWC users!
If you intend to tow a water skier behind your PWC, there are some important rules of which you must be aware. Most states require that an "observer" must be present aboard the towing vessel. They usually also specify that there must also be room for the skier aboard the vessel. Anything less than a PWC with a 3-person capacity is obviously unsuitable for towing water skiers and even PWC of that size will probably be overloaded when carrying 3 adults - don't exceed your boat's load limits. Remember, a boat's capacity includes the people in the boat and the ones being towed.
When towing a water-skier, a person on an inner tube or wake board it's important to remember the aggressive pull will have a more destabilizing effect and exert a greater influence over the PWC than a larger craft. Plan your turns and stay clear of other boats and the shore. Instruct the water skier to raise the water ski if they fall. This will be easier to see by you and other boaters. Also, be aware of water-skiers towed by other boats. Some PWC operators have sustained serious injury running into towropes.
Below are some of the hand signals used by water-skiers to communicate with the tow vessel. These hand signals were taken from the U.S. Coast Guard safety web page. Additional water-skiing safety information can be found at: www.uscgboating.org/safety/metlife_archived_9-21-2007/water_ski.htm.
These signals should be understood and used by both the skier and the observer. It is important for the observer to watch the skier at all times. It is also important that the observer relays requests from the skier to the boat operator and visa versa. The observer must know the meaning of these signals and relay the message to the boat operator or skier correctly.
Operating a kayak, canoe, rubber raft or drift boat takes special skills and good physical conditioning. The following are important paddlesport safety tips:
Whitewater rapids are classified by six degrees of difficulty:
Before launching check the weather and river conditions. Be familiar with the river course and make sure you know how to "Eskimo roll" or escape for self-rescue, if you're using a kayak or enclosed-deck canoe. Check the equipment and secure all ropes and gear so it doesn't get in the way or tangles in the brush or trees - or entangle a swimmer if the boat overturns. The lower and closer the load in the boat is to the boat's centerline, generally the more stable the boat will be.
Check any unfamiliar section of the river. Go to the shore and scout rapids. If the rapid is too much of a challenge carry the boat around the obstacles.
Fishermen and hunters often don't consider themselves boaters and thus pay little attention to learning and observing boating safety rules. In a recent survey, half the people who purchased boats claimed they bought them to go fishing. Approximately one-third of national boating fatalities occurred while people were fishing from a boat. Likewise, more hunters die each year from drowning and the effects of hypothermia than from gunshot wounds. Many water-based hunting and fishing accidents occur when a hunter reaches for a decoy, or the boat capsizes from an unbalanced load, or a person falls overboard while standing up.
While PWCs are rarely used for hunting and fishing, when they are, PWCs have the same considerations as other boats. First, it is vital for hunters and anglers to know and follow all the applicable boating laws for the area they are in. As with any other boating situation, hunters and fishermen should not overload their craft and should wear a PFD in good condition while on the water. Also, broken lines, shells and any other trash should be packed out or deposited in a proper receptacle.
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