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Personal watercraft can be single-seater machines or can take two or three people. They are fast and exciting, but need to be handled with care.
Whether you just want to have a go on holiday or buy your own machine, the RYA Personal Watercraft Proficiency Course will teach you how to safely enjoy your experience. The course is designed for first time and experienced riders alike. Increasingly RYA certificates are required for launching in UK harbours, but is also if you want to use your PW abroad.
Most courses take place over one day and can be taken either on a centre’s craft or your own.
Safety and Emergencies
The safest way to go to sea is with another craft, so there is always someone to assist you in an emergency.
- Killcord – Always use a Killcord and ensure it is attached to you. It is also advisable to carry a spare incase of damage or loss.
- VHF – A marine band VHF radio will allow you to speak with the coast guard and other craft at sea, but note that you will need a VHF operator’s licence and licence for your set. Details of courses are available from the RYA.
- Flares – If you are in grave danger do not hesitate to use flares to signal for help. In bright sunlight the most effective signal is orange. In dull, overcast conditions a red hand-help flare should be used. Make sure you store flares in a water-resistant container.
- Mobile phone – Keep it in a waterproof pouch. Check your battery is fully charged before departure and remember that you may find ‘dead spots’ with no coverage when at sea. You can contact the Coastguard by dialling 999 or 112.
- Bag Anchor / Anchor – A bag anchor can be used as an effective sea drogue in an emergency. The most common type of anchors used on PW’s are grapnel and Danforth, which fold for easy storage.
Essential Personal Watercraft Gear
- Tow Line – Six meters of floating high visibility line
- Flare Pack – Two orange smoke and two red hand-held flares
- Waterproof torch – For signalling and inspection
- Waterproof compass and chart
- VHF marine radio and/or mobile phone in waterproof case
- Knife with serrated edge
- Fire extinguisher (2kg)
- First aid kit
- Anchor and line
- Food and drink
- Tool kit and essential spares (spark plugs)
- Documentation – Insurance /RYA certificate
- Spare Killcord
A number of local authorities will request a permit and insist a craft carries an identification number (see theft protection) on the bow along with proof of insurance.
Some busy commercial harbours have designated channels to keep small craft out of the way of shipping and some have bans of PW’s altogether, or offer a dedicated PW zone. Make sure that you check and abide by local regulations.
Many harbours have no go areas. Make sure that you observe these.
Look out for warning signs:
- PW zone high visibility marker
- Speed limit marker buoy
- Swimming area
- PW activity prohibited
- PW permitted
It’s a good idea to research a new destination online to find out exactly what the rules for the area are.
Here are some resource documents from various agencies for advice on PWC use around our local coastal wildlife.
The Datatag PWC Theft Protection Kit makes your PWC easy to identify and therefore much less attractive to thieves.
Datatag’s unique multi layered technological approach to identification consists of a range of electronic transponders, microdots and visible ID labels (a bit like a car number plate) that contain unique identification numbers. All the Police have to do to establish or confirm the registered keeper of a craft is call the 24/7 secure contact centre with the visible ID number or, having scanned the craft, the unique transponder code.
Since its introduction Datatag has seen reductions in theft rates for all Datatagged Personal Watercraft. At the same time recovery rates for stolen equipment, which has been tagged, have soared.
Due to the effectiveness of Datatag, all manufacturers fit these technologies as standard in the UK. You may find that you will not be allowed access to some slipways without having a Datatag system fitted, or being the current registered owner.
Don’t forget that when you buy a second hand craft that you must re-register with Datatag to receive all the benefits that the system offers.
Uniquely in the PWC world, Datatag also acts as the main form of registration. This allows PWC clubs, insurers and Marine Authorities (Police and Harbour Masters) to verify ownership of a craft through either the Visible ID numbers and/or the Datatag transponders (more commonly called RFID or tags).
For further information on the Datatag PWC security system please visit www.datatag.co.uk