Personal Watercraft

Personal Watercraft

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Personal watercrafts (PWCs), sometimes called jet skis, are small fast and fun boats that you sit astride. The Dorset coast has over 285 km of stunning coastline including isolated bays, popular bathing beaches and the spectacular Jurassic Coast World Heritage Coastline. PWCs are the perfect way to explore the Dorset coast because they are powered by a motor so you can travel distances quickly.

What do I need?

When you ride on a PWC you will get wet, it is all part of the fun, so you need to wear a wetsuit or drysuit to keep yourself warm. Another good reason to wear a wetsuit is that PWCs can reach speeds of up 65-70 mph and the wind rushing past you at these sorts of speeds can also make you feel colder than you would on dry land. It is also a good idea to wear PWC goggles or sunglasses while you are out to protect yourself from spray, wind and reflected light.

If you are hiring a PWC, going out on a tour or learning on a course then the provider should kit you out with a wetsuit and all the safety equipment you need such as a buoyancy aid, helmet, small folding anchor or sand anchor and first aid kit. If you are a more experienced on a PWC then use the Personal Watercraft Partnership safety kit list to check you are taking out everything you need to keep yourself safe.

If you are just starting out at PWC and want to do it regularly then you can use the iCoast map to find out the locations of all the tuition centres in Dorset. All of the tuition centres on the iCoast map run RYA approved courses which teach you the basic principles of PWC.

When is the best time to do it?

Power boating can be done all year round on the Dorset coast and many tuition centres run courses all year round too. You should always check the weather, tides and currents before you go out. During winter months the water is colder, winds stronger, there are rougher seas and less hours of daylight – this all needs to be taken into consideration.


Planning Your Trip

What to look out for

The Dorset coast can offer fantastic opportunities to see wildlife such as puffins, seals, and dolphins in their natural environment as well as getting up close to see the geology of the Jurassic Coast. The waters can however get very busy, especially close to amenity beaches. There may be other users in the water including swimmers and divers so you should be observant and careful at all times when you are out.

Do your bit:

Watch out for wildlife
  • Think about whether you are going to be going through any areas that are important for wildlife.
  • Don’t linger for too long when you are close to wildlife – by all means look, but then move on. Keep back and stay slow around dolphins –
  • When you are within 300 metres of dolphins move at a constant slow speed, don’t go any closer than 100 metres.
  • Avoid sudden or repeated changes in speed or direction.
  • Do not chase whales or dolphins when they leave you.
  • Do not attempt to approach dolphin mothers and young calves.
  • Do not approach seals ashore, cliff nesting or rafting sea birds

More information about how to behave around marine wildlife and some top tips for spotting marine wildlife visit The Green Blue

  • Avoid anchoring, dragging and boat wash in eelgrass (seagrass) sensitive areas – Seagrass beds are important because they:
    • Provide shelter for lots of creatures including cuttlefish, fish, and spiny and short-snouted seahorses.
    • Provide food for overwintering birds such as brent geese, wigeon and mute swans.
    • Stabilise the sediment
  • Recreational boats impact on seagrass beds by:
    • Vessel grounding – If this occurs on a seagrass bed it can uproot the plants.
    • Propeller wash- Scouring of the seabed and disturbance from wash can damage, dislodge and smother plants.
    • Anchoring – Can all have a negative effect on the seagrass beds.
    • Mooring – Fixed moorings within sea grass beds can cause scarring and scouring
  • Seagrass sensitive areas can be found within Poole Harbour, close to Whitley Lake. These areas are marked with buoys.
  • Report live strandings of cetaceans, and injured/entangled marine mammals to British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) on 01825 765546 (24 hours). Report all other live injured or entangled animals to RSPCA 0300 1234 999.
Watch out for other users
  • Share the water and slipways –Most PWC use takes place in the close inshore zone along with many other recreational activities such as gig rowing, kitesurfing, swimming etc. It is important to be keep your eye out for other users to prevent collisions. It is important to watch out for other user is at slipways as they can be busy with other water sport users. Find out the location of slipways along the Dorset coast using the iCoast map and help reduce conflict at slipways by parking away from the slipway, waiting for your turn to launch and recover from the slip way and always launch and recover with another person to help make sure you are speedy and efficient.
  • Keep your distance from other boats, especially dive boats that are flying the blue and white ‘Alpha’ flag – This flag means that divers are in the water.
  • Get skilled up in seamanship, navigation and the Rules of the Road to avoid conflict and collisions with other sea users. Follow the Sea Sense code, which tells you who has priority in which situation and how you can be more considerate to other sea users.

 MCA guidance on distress signals and prevention of collision

The RYA offer a number of courses to help you get skilled up.

  • Be considerate – Many people on the Dorset coast want to enjoy some peace and quiet while they are out on the water, on the beach or walking the coast path. PWCs can be fun but they can be very noisy.  Be considerate and keep your eye out for other people and try not to disturb the peace.
  • Plan your route and have a back-up plan– Plan your route using the iCoast map and admiralty charts, then you can ensure that you won’t end up in any busy shipping lanes, avoid any known navigational hazards and any sensitive/restricted areas. In planning a route it is best to have a few places where you can take refuge if the weather changes or if someone gets hurt. You can buy admiralty charts from most chandleries in Dorset, find out where the closest chandlery to you is using the iCoast map – use route plotter to measure how far you go.

See RYA’s watercraft information page

  • Look at the restrictions layer on the iCoast Map – All the information you need on speed restrictions and areas to avoid such as bathing only areas and sea danger areas can be found on the iCoast map –
    • Sea danger areas –The Ministry of Defence operates in a number of areas along the Dorset coast. In order to keep safe and to avoid disturbing training and operations it is important to avoid these areas.

The Lulworth Ranges Sea Danger Area – the boundary of this area is shown in iCoast and in the below link. You can find out when the army are firing here by:

    • Reading the Lulworth Ranges – Information for mariners
    • Contacting your local yacht club – Exact details of the firing programme are sent monthly in advance to all the main yacht clubs in the area.
    • Listening to the radio – Firing times are broadcast on Radio Solent (300m, 221m, 96.1 MHz and 103.8 MHz) during the shipping and weather news at about 0645 and 0745 hours on weekdays.
      • If you are already out then it’s easy to see when firing is taking place because red flags are flown, and red flashing lights are displayed from the flag-staffs on Bindon Hill, Kimmeridge Bay and St. Albans Head. During firing, range safety boats are on station at the outer extremities of the danger area.

Weymouth Harbour- A permit is needed if you wish to operate any form of powered watercraft towing skiers, wakeboarders, donuts etc. within the limits of Weymouth Harbour. Much of Weymouth Bay is zoned therefore PWC users need to follow the following:  Weymouth Bay chart

All craft should keep seaward of the white buoys across Weymouth Bay

  • Personal Watercrafts in Ports and Harbours –Ports and Harbours are very busy places; to reduce conflict and respect other harbour users make sure you follow the rules.
  • Please do not enter and/or attempt to anchor in the bathing areas shown on the map. Propellers and anchors could seriously injure bathers, therefore, common sense and good seamanship dictate that navigation and mooring in bathing areas should always be avoided.
  • There is a permitted anchoring area marked by the blue buoys.
  • The water-ski channel (marked by red and white buoys) is only for water-ski craft to gain access to the beach. Once passengers and water skiers have been collected from the beach all water-ski activities should take place to seaward of the white buoys.
  • Harbour byelaws require water-ski boats to have at least two people in the boat whilst engaged in skiing, thus allowing one person to act as look out astern.
  • The PWC channel (marked by red buoys) must only be used to gain access to the beach. After launching all PWC activities should take place to seaward of the white buoys.
Watch out for the environment
  • Bring home all rubbish – do not discard rubbish at sea or beaches. Marine and beach litter spoils peoples experience of the Dorset coast, harms marine wildlife and can disrupt industry by getting tangled up in fishermen’s nets. Find out more about marine litter in Dorset.

Staying Safe

It’s easy to stay safe if you follow these simple steps:

  • Always tell somebody responsible where you are going and when you will be back. They will be able to raise the alarm by calling 999 and asking for the Coastguard if they get worried and you are not back on time.
  • Register your vessel with the CG66– Voluntary Safety Identification Scheme. This scheme gives the Coastguard details of your vessel so that, if you get into trouble, they have all the information they need to mount a search and rescue operation. You can join online and the scheme is free
  • Check your equipment and craft– The RNLI offer a completely free, friendly and confidential service that looks at safety aspects involved with your boat. Advice On Board is neither a test nor an inspection and there is no pass or fail. Conducted by one of our highly trained volunteers, Advice on Board is a personal face-to-face safety advice service that takes place on board your own craft.
  • Carry emergency alerting equipment so that  you can call for help, such as a VHF radio, flares, emergency position indicating radio beacons, personal locator beacons, man overboard device. See the RYA Alerting webpage for more information
  • Learn your life saving signals –If you get into trouble and search and rescue ship or plane comes to help then it is important that you know how to communicate with them properly using the internationally recognised life-saving signals. This leaflet tells you all you need to know in a simple, friendly way.
  • Check the weather and tides and be aware of local hazards– Learn to interpret tide tables and weather forecasts
  • Wear a lifejacket–For advice on what to look for when choosing a lifejacket visit the RNLI website
  • Be sun smart
    • Always wear SPF factor 30 and above waterproof sun cream. Reapply frequently.
    • Drink plenty of fluids as you dehydrate faster while exercising.
    • Consider taking a rest and seeking shade during the hottest part of the day.
  • Be prepared for capsizing and engine failure– If you capsize then check the engine is off and find out which way you should roll the PWC (it will say on the stern label) Get any passengers to hold on while you roll the PWC, climb back on board and then help passengers to get back too.
  • Safe and Speedy – One of the most exciting things about riding a PWC is the speed that you can travel at. Keep safe by:
    • Let your passenger know before you speed up, this gives then time to sit down and hang on.
    • Wearing a kill cord
    • Look out for other vessels
    • Avoid situations where you will need to change your direction quickly

Learn about travelling at speed

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