Planning a Jetski Adventure

Getting away from your usual area of PWC (jetski) playtime can be an exciting and great way to use your ski. After all trolling or speeding up and down gets a little boring after a while but it is also likely to irritate the locals. As PWC owners we could all do without the bad press that comes with the sport created by inconsiderate riders racing up and down near the launch site / slipway. 


We are SO lucky to be on a craft that allows us to go further afield, explore and investigate new areas. Many people don't even consider the adventure possibilities we have on a PWC but also those that do explore further afield often don't consider the inherent risks that go along with being further from shore. 


Here's a few thoughts (certainly not all) on how you can be safer afloat and more confident in your explorations and maximise the use of your PWC (jetski). 

We had best start with the most obvious which would be safety equipment, but do keep reading down the page to see the planning considerations we should all be making before travelling further afield on our PWC. If you do not feel confident or would like to gain confidence we also offer a 'Jetski Adventure Cruising Training Day'  - Check out this link to see what it involves.

Venture Out, Explore and Enjoy.... 

- Candi Abbott (RYA PWC Instructor Trainer)


We'd love to hear about your PWC adventures and if you have any questions when making your plans feel free to drop us an email to info@marine-education.co.uk as we'd alway be happy to help fellow riders. 

safety equipment:

In addition to all the usual safety kit you carry (or we hope you carry) - SEE HERE for recommended PWC safety kit. 

If you're looking at traveling further from your usual operating area you may also wish to consider the following: 

RYA SafeTrx:

If you haven't already heard of RYA SafeTrx, now's the time! Plus it is FREE so theres really no reason not to use it.. 

  • Monitors your trip
  • Alerts emergency contacts if you don't arrive on time. 

Learn more at: https://www.rya.org.uk/knowledge-advice/safe-boating/keep-in-touch/Pages/safetrx.aspx 


GPS are a pretty essential bit of kit particularly when riding in unfamiliar waters. Being able to know where you are, where you're going, where the charted hazards are and what you expect to see along your route is very, very useful.. Obviously there are GPS apps (like Navionics) for your smartphone but being able to see your phone in sun glare is difficult, phones are expensive bits of kit and definitely not ruggedly built... 

Choosing a GPS to use on your jetski (PWC)? 

There are so many handheld GPS units available on the market now it makes it a bit difficult to choose.. however there are some simple things to consider when making your choice: 

  • Durability? - Is it waterproof? I.E. Will it stand up to the conditions you put it through?
  • Usability? - Buttons / Touch screen - Can you operate the functions with wet fingers/  whilst wearing gloves? Screen size - Is the screen size big enough that it's easily visible? Brightness - can you see it in bright sunlight?
  • Power? - Purchasing a unit with replaceable AA batteries (or similar) will allow you to carry spares afloat so you can change them when required. 
  • Mounting? - Some GPS units have mounts as part of the kit, some new PWC have built in accessory RAM mounts, you can also pick up aftermarket mounting kits or even make your own. If none of these work for you, keep your GPS in your glove box for easy accessibility. Having your GPS visible forward of the handlebars is best as mounting to the glovebox means you need to repeatedly look down rather than ahead & mounting on the handlebars can be irritating as the screen will be moving every time you steer.. 

VHF Marine Radio:

VHF marine radio's are far more realistic for on-water communication than a mobile phone, you may be aware that there are plenty of 'dead spots' and areas of limited phone reception when on the water. A VHF will allow you to communicate with your fellow riders, marina's (if you need to get fuel), and request assistance in an emergency. 


Choosing a VHF for your jetski (PWC)?

If you can afford it buy VHF with DSC then do so. The advantages of DSC is a one button distress alert function which sends out an alert message to every vessel within VHF range and will include your location. 

If you're looking for a more cost effective handheld VHF then simply ensure it is waterproof or buy a waterproof case for it. 

VHF Licence: 

There is no law against owning & monitor a VHF without a licence & I have no doubt that in an emergency situation that no-one is going to respond asking if you have a licence however it is technically an offence to do this without a licence. Regardless its certainly worth knowing how to make an emergency call correctly should you need to do so, so have a read of: https://www.marine-education.co.uk/2020/03/25/vhf-distress-call-mayday/


However if you want to 'legally' operate it you will need to hold a VHF licence. This is not as tiresome or expensive as you might think as you can now complete the VHF course online in a few hours (followed by a 'face to face' exam) which will give you a 'life-time' operators licence to use any VHF set.  Check out this link for more information on the online course. 

Personal Locator Beacon (PLB):

PLB's are more cost effective than they have ever been and they are an accurate way of pinpointing your location in an emergency situation. 

Their small size means they can be attached to your Buoyancy aid so if you were to 'part ways' with your PWC whilst afloat and require assistance you can access it easily. Of all the emergency electronics available, if you've got a limited budget this would be my item of choice by far.. 

Illustration ©CGOC Belfast Coastguard
Illustration ©CGOC Belfast Coastguard


How do PLB's work?

When activated the PLB sends a signal via satellite to the rescue centre (Coastguard) giving your location and ID (the info you registered). 

Battery Life when activated is a minimum of 24 hours. 


If you buy one, don't forget to register it so the emergency services have the correct details and don't forget they should only be activated when in 'grave and imminent danger'! 


Pros  & Cons of additional electronics when used in an emergency:

Product Pro's Con's Cost
Mobile Phone A cost effective GPS alternative, direct dial to the Coastguard (999) Battery power is drained quickly when using GPS functions, they don't transmit your location (unless using RYA SafeTrx or similar),not robust, require a waterproof case, risk of mobile phone dead spots & limited reception.               
RYA SafeTrx Pin points location, alerts shore contact and/or emergency services, tracks route Smart phone required, Battery power is drained quickly when using GPS functions on your smart phone £FREE             
VHF/DSC Pin point location, Robust & waterproof (model dependant), can contact anyone in VHF range, one button distress alert Need a VHF licence Unit: £180<             
VHF Robust & waterproof (model dependant), can contact anyone in VHF range Need a VHF licence Unit:£85<             
PLB Pin point location, Robust & waterproof (model dependant), one button distress alert None that I can think of?  Unit:£190<             
GPS Pin point location, Robust & waterproof (model dependant You will know where you are, but no-one else will ! Unit: £120<             


Where to go on your jetski (PWC)?

  • Is it worth it? Check out PWC forums, social media groups etc to find out some exciting spots to go !
  • Are PWC allowed? Nothing worse than arriving somewhere only to find that its not accessible.. check out local information online, in an almanac or local guide
  • Are there any safe havens on my route if things don't go to plan? - Check out a chart and almanac / internet to find the best spots you can 'dip' into if the weather unexpectedly changes, to top up your fuel, get a snack or if you simply 'need a wee' ! 

Is the trip realistic?

  • Calculate the distance and time to travel it may be much further than you imagined. Try to be realistic with your intended cruising speed travelling a 40 knots for hours is not really viable unless you are incredibly fit and have a larger than average fuel tank. Plus consider the effects of sea state, tidal streams and wind all of which could slow your overall speed down dramatically. 
  • Learn how to measure distance on a chart HERE
  • Learn how to calculate time to travel HERE

How to get there?

  • Make a route plan (passage / pilotage plan) - particularly important if travelling in unfamiliar areas/waters. Pre-Planning your route allows you to have a mental picture where you're going. Carry the plan onboard your PWC when you go, but even if you don't use it you have a reference guide if you get confused.. 
  • Learn how to create a route / pilotage plan HERE
  • Learn more by completing the RYA Essential Navigation & Seamanship Online Course - See HERE
  • Take  a GPS with you AND a chart / hand held compass.. Never rely solely on electronics to navigate  / locate your position you never know when it may let you down. 

Is the weather & tide appropriate?

Image ©jetdrift.com
Image ©jetdrift.com
  • Check the weather forecast for the day you're planning, then again before you leave..things can change quickly! 
  • Learn about interpreting weather forecasts HERE
  • Check the tides - can you launch / recover when you plan to? Can you plan to travel with the tidal stream?
  • Learn how to read a tide table HERE
  • Learn about Tidal Streams HERE

Am I / my passengers up to the adventure?

©Colwyn Jetski Club
©Colwyn Jetski Club
  • Fitness - PWC riding is exerting, particularly if the seas are choppy. The longer your journey the more tired you will be, often you won't even notice for the first 60% of your ride as the exhilaration will take over, but when its time to head home, if you fall off and need to climb back on or capsize and need to right your PWC you need to ensure you keep energy in reserve.. 
  • Personal Kit - is your gear right for the weather / temperature? Riding for longer periods means you're likely to have changes in conditions so dress appropriate and carry spare gear. Always dress to get wet & possibility be in the water. 
  • Hydration - however wet we are on the outside, we need to remember the inside too.. as mentioned before PWC riding is an exerting sport so even when its not hot & sunny the possibility of dehydration is very real so take water afloat & regular breaks to drink it ! (oh and some snacks are always a pleasant bonus too.. nom nom.. 

Is my jetski (PWC) up to the task?

  • Maintenance / reliability? - When was your PWC last serviced? Have you checked the battery, oil etc? Getting 2 + miles offshore and breaking down is not an amusing place to be.. so do your best to check over your engine before you depart and make sure you carry a tow line so at least your fellow riders can assist you in getting home or to a safe haven. 
  • How much fuel do I need? Is there a refuelling point on route? 
  • Work on a rule of 3rds.. 1/3 out, 1/3 back and 1/3 in reserve.. you never know when you might need it ! (towing another PWC, if the weather / sea conditions changes etc)
  • PWC Safety Equipment - see recommended list HERE (in addition to the items at the top of this page)
  • Consider completing the RYA VHF Marine Radio Online Course - See HERE

Always Ride in Company - Is there someone else I can do the trip with (Powerboat or PWC)?

  • Its not only more fun to go with others, but travelling with another PWC or a powerboat offers the reassurance of immediate assistance if required

Tell someone !

Image ©www.boaterexam.com
Image ©www.boaterexam.com
  • Give a copy of your route plan to a shore contact along with an ETA at both your intended destination and back at your launch/recovery point
  • Use RYA SafeTrx it's free !

learn more ! :

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