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What Is a Personal Watercraft?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

A personal watercraft, or PWC, is a vessel designed for use on a body of water; this vessel is designed for transporting one person, or two people at most, and instead of sitting in the craft the way one would sit in a boat, the person will ride on top of the personal watercraft instead. The PWC usually features some sort of engine for propulsion, and the rider can steer the vessel using a handlebar mounted toward the front of the craft. Some PWCs will require the rider to stand up while operating the vessel, while others feature seats on which a user can sit.

Recreational activities are the most common uses for personal watercraft, though they can be used for other purposes as well. PWCs are light, fast, nimble, and far less expensive than boats in many cases, so they are preferred by lifeguards on large bodies of water for performing rescues and monitoring. The motor used to propel the craft forward is inboard, and it features no propeller, which makes the personal watercraft safer for humans, animals, and plant life nearby the vessel when it is in motion.

A personal watercraft is designed to transport one to two people.
A personal watercraft is designed to transport one to two people.

The size of a personal watercraft can vary. The smallest versions allow only one person to ride on the PWC at a time, while some of the largest versions can carry up to four people. The overall size of the PWC will vary according to its purpose, and the motor size will vary accordingly as well. Larger PWCs will not be as nimble or fast as other models, especially when loaded down with additional passengers, but they will still be faster and more nimble than full size boats in most cases. Even the largest PWCs are fairly lightweight, which means they are easy to load and unload from trailers. The PWCs can be transported on trailers towed by cars or trucks fairly easily as a result.

Like other types of motorized vehicles, personal watercraft will emit various levels of pollution. The type of engine can affect how much emissions are created; a four stroke engine is generally cleaner burning, resulting in less emissions, while a two stroke engine will emit more harmful gases. Two stroke engines do tend to be more powerful than four stroke engines, however, so they are preferred by racers and some recreational riders over four stroke engines. Some regions of the world will have laws regulating what types of engines can be used for such PWCs.

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    • A personal watercraft is designed to transport one to two people.
      By: Dmytro Kravets
      A personal watercraft is designed to transport one to two people.