OFF-THROTTLE STEERING AND BRAKING
If you’re new to driving a PWC, you’ll need to take extra care whenever you’re returning to dock or shore, or approaching an obstacle that you need to avoid.
Unlike other vessels where it is advised to slow down to avoid obstacles, PWCs lose their steering ability when you take your hand off of the throttle. That’s because the same stream of water that propels a PWC also steers the PWC. So if you take your hand off the throttle in an effort to stop, you’ll also find that you will no longer be able to steer, even if you turn the steering wheel.
This can lead to some dangerous situations, especially when you take into account that a PWC at full throttle can take several hundred feet to stop. And most don’t have brakes.
It all means that you need to be careful and take time to practice slowing down, stopping and avoiding obstacles.
Luckily, PWC manufacturers have been designing some new technologies to make maneuvering PWCs easier and safer.
For example, most new PWCs come with “Off Throttle Steering”. This technology senses when an operator is trying to avoid an obstacle—for example when an operator turns the steering wheel hard to one side while taking their hand off of the throttle—and gives the PWC a little extra power which is often just enough to avoid a collision.
Some PWCs are also being designed with braking technology, which effectively puts the vessel into reverse in order to slow it down more quickly.
These technologies are making PWCs safer, but they don’t replace understanding the basics of PWC operation.
Always remember: You need to be applying the throttle to control your PWC and you need to give yourself a lot of time and space in order to turn and slow down.