If there is a segment of the recreational boating market that has really taken off in Queensland over the last ten years or so it is that of personal watercraft (PWC).
A quick look at registered numbers tells the story. In 2007 there were 9,977 PWC registered in Queensland comprising 4.9% of our recreational fleet.
By 2016 there were 23,435, or 9.2% of the fleet.
Registered numbers of PWC have more than doubled in ten years and are growing at twice the pace of conventional boats.
While the growth has occurred throughout the state it has been most pronounced in southeast Queensland, where 16,633 PWC were registered to people resident in either the Brisbane or Gold Coast areas in 2016 (up from 7,109 in 2007).
The popularity of PWC is explainable by a couple of prominent factors. Importantly, they are competitively priced in comparison with conventional boats and therefore provide an affordable way for many people to get out on the water who might not otherwise be able to do so.
PWC also offer a highly manoeuvrable, responsive way for their riders to achieve an adrenalin rush. They are a way to feel the wind in your face while being in contact with the cool water, a way to banish everyday frustrations while enjoying the outdoors in Queensland’s warm climate. For many people that’s a version of paradise.
We get that. We also appreciate that, much like being on a motorbike, the feeling of personal freedom achieved from being on a PWC is balanced by an increased risk of damage to life and limb if things go wrong.
Chances are, large numbers of our 23,000 registered PWC owners will take to the water over the summer holidays. We’d like to think they’ll keep in mind a few observations from our Area Manager (Gold Coast), Greg Turner, to avoid needless grief when they do. Greg has seen or investigated more than his fair share of PWC mishaps.
“Many incidents happen when PWC jump the wash of large vessels, especially when the PWC skipper and passenger fall off in close proximity to other vessels,” Greg says.
“A PWC skipper’s vision is limited when coming up on a larger vessel to jump wash. That means there’s potential to collide with another vessel coming in the other direction.
“On the Gold Coast we have a high rate of injury to PWC passengers in choppy offshore waters or in the surf zone. Many passengers are injured wave jumping when they lose their footing. They often suffer lower back injuries as a result of coming into hard contact with the back end of the seat on landing.
“There’s also incidents where PWC skippers, thinking their draught is so shallow they can go anywhere, hit a submerged object or a sandbar at speed. The consequences of that can be quite frightening.
“Also, we have found that many PWC incidents involve people who know each other and are out on the water together for the day. A bit of risky or show-off behaviour intended to last a moment can have consequences that last a lifetime.
“While PWC are very manoeuvrable they must still abide by the Collision Regulations. They are a great way to get out on the water, but don’t leave your brains at the boat ramp!”
Nor should PWC riders leave their required safety equipment at home or fail to have correct navigation lights displayed when operating at night or in poor visibility.
And, while we are on the subject of required safety equipment, we’d like to remind you that carrying a Personal Locator Beacon with you while you ride your PWC, rather than an EPIRB, is now acceptable, provided it complies with certain criteria explained here.