PWCs are operated by two-cycle inboard gasoline engines that drive a jet water pump. Water is taken in through a water pick-up on the bottom of the PWC, drawn into an internal propeller (an impeller) that creates a jet of high pressure water which exits through a nozzle on the back of the PWC.
There is also a moveable "gate" that can be dropped over the nozzle to provide reverse thrust on some models. Be careful, this is not designed to be used to stop a PWC operating at a high speed!
PWCs are designed to be extremely maneuverable.
They are built for quick, sharp turns, low-radius circling, and rapid acceleration. However, they are only maneuverable with the throttle engaged – TO MAINTAIN STEERAGE, YOU MUST APPLY THROTTLE! For instance, the best way to avoid hitting an object is NOT to slow down, rather, you should apply throttle and steer away to avoid impact.
PWCs are self-righting if you fall off.
Don’t abandon your vessel if it overturns. Simply turn it over on the direction marked on the hull or as indicated in the user’s manual that you read prior to use. Righting your craft improperly may make it more difficult than necessary to re-board, and you could cause internal damage to your PWC. To re-board your craft, approach the rear of the PWC, pull yourself up into a kneeling position, take your seat, start it up and continue on your trip. This sounds easier than it is – it is often quite difficult to re-board a PWC, especially in rough water or when fatigued. A good idea is to practice in calm shallow water before venturing out.
Most models have an automatic cut-off lanyard
(which must be attached to the operator’s wrist or life jacket at all times) or self-circling feature to prevent a PWC from going far from a driver who has fallen off
Practice boarding your PWC in a calm, shallow area with your friends or family.
If you have difficulty getting back on a PWC from the water, you should most likely avoid using your PWC in areas where there is a strong current or high waves. There are "ladders" available to help you climb back on – definitely a worthwhile investment. Finally, don't forget to re-attach your cut-off lanyard!
When operating a PWC, keep clear of shallow water (less than two feet deep) or beds of sea grass or other vegetation. Since a PWC sucks water in to power its water jet, it is best not to operate in these waters. This will help keep dirt and debris from fouling the impeller, which could lead to power loss or damage to your PWC.