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Wet & Wild!

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

Just about everybody loves boating. Everything feels different offshore, where the air is
cleaner, colors are crisper, the company is more lively and the toughest decision is
choosing a marina restaurant for lunch. Squeeze the livliest aspects of recreational
boating down into a package less than 16 feet long, and you’ve got a personal watercraft.
Known among enthusiasts as PWC, personal watercraft are exactly that: completely
waterworthy and U.S. Coast Guard-certified Class A boats that have been downsized for
personal use. It’s no coincidence that PWC trailers are showing up in greater numbers on
the hitch-receivers of motorhomes. Like a coach equipped with all the essentials, PWC offer
everything necessary for a great day on the water: an excellent hull design (usually
fiberglass), easy-to-use hand controls (mounted to the same type of handlebar steering you
grew up with on your bicycle), a comfortable seat – and more than enough power to fuel your
quest for adventure. Plus, a personal watercraft trailer loaded with a pair of these 400-
to 600-pound runabouts can be hooked up by one person – and that same person can easily
launch these mini-cruisers without assistance at traditional boat ramps and even shallow
dirt inclines leading to water’s edge. Once properly equipped (wet suit, personal flotation
device, supportive footwear and gloves for you, fire extinguisher, flares, canned
compressed-air horn, GPS unit and cell phone in your PWC), you can learn to ride as you go.
Personal watercraft have a very abbreviated learning curve. The reason is balance: Instead
of four wheels creating a stable riding platform, PWC ride on a single pivot point – its
V-shaped hull. You quickly learn how to center your weight on the boat, though, just as you
learn how to manuever PWC under throttle. At slow speeds, most of the hull is in the water
and capable of supporting riders quite easily; once a boat comes up on plane, however, much
of it rides above the surface. Keep this in mind when buying or renting a PWC; the wider
the hull, the more stable the platform. Like their all-terrain-vehicle cousins – most PWC
are manufacturerd by the same companies building ATVs – personal watercraft are available
in a number of different sizes and models. For the most part, they are selected on the
basis of either price (they range from about $6,000 to as much as a small compact car),
amenities (which go hand-in-hand with cost) and engine size. Whatever make or model of PWC
you settle on, don’t be afraid of falling off – if you ride PWC; this happening is as
certain as the sun coming up tomorrow morning on your favorite waterhole. The greatest
thing about riding personal watercraft, though, is that water is soft. For more about
personal watercraft, pick up the June 2004 issue of MotorHome.

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