Just like driving on the road, there is a code of conduct when driving on water. For the sea, these rules are outlined in the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea (COLREGs).
Rules may differ for inland bodies of water, but there is an effort to bring these as close to the COLREGs as possible.
The most important rules to remember are:
- As a jet ski driver, you’ll likely be the smallest and most manoeuvrable boat on the water. This means you must give way to every other kind of vessel, including windsurfers, canoes and pedalos, besides larger fishing vessels or ships.
- You always give way to your right (starboard).
- When near the shore, you might see a channel marked by green buoys on the right and red buoys on the left. These are to show the routes in and out of the harbour. Keep the green buoys on your right going in and left coming out. Whichever way you’re going, keep right just as you keep left when driving on the road.
Do I need a jet ski licence?
The short answer is no – you don’t need a licence to drive a jet ski in the UK. If you intend to rent one abroad, however, it’s worth checking local laws to see if any qualifications are required. Regardless, it’s always a good idea to take lessons first.
Although you don’t need a licence to simply use a jet ski, it’s worth noting that landowners will often charge you a launching fee. How much this fee is and whether it applies depends on where you intend to jet ski. Wherever you intend to jet ski, be sure to do your own research on how you’re allowed to launch and how much it costs beforehand.
The only thing you do need a jet ski licence for in the UK is racing. This is awarded by the Jet Sport Racing Association of Great Britain (JRSA). The JRSA also makes several other stipulations, such as wearing a wetsuit or drysuit, a life vest, a back protector, a full-face helmet, footwear and leg guards.
How fast can I drive my jet ski?
Speed limits vary and are typically set by local authorities, so it’s your responsibility to find out before you arrive.
Usually, your speed will be drastically limited when near the shore or within a certain range of it, with limits easing beyond it. Make sure you look out for speed limit signage.
Organised races will always take place in a restricted area of water and, such is the nature of a race, speed limits won’t apply.
What safety equipment do I need when driving a jet ski?
When driving your jet ski, you need:
- A wet suit – surprisingly, you might get cold riding a jet ski. If you fall in the water and then start riding again, you could catch a chill from the wind. A wet suit will keep you insulated.
- A life-jacket – no matter how good a swimmer you are, you need to wear a life-jacket. As stated by the RYA, “it will turn an unconscious person into a safe position and requires no subsequent action by the user to maintain this position.”
- A safety lanyard – this will kill the jet ski’s engine if unplugged, so make sure it’s attached to you. If you come off, the lanyard will come off with you and the jet ski’s engine will cut out.
- A flare – these are the best way to attract attention and alert surrounding boats to an emergency at sea.
- An air horn – if your jet ski doesn’t have a horn, this is a good substitute.
- A jet ski toolkit – it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with basic jet ski repairs. This way, you’re not stranded out in the water over basic problems, should they occur.
Other important information
Jet ski rules and regulations are as much about understanding watercraft laws and customs as they are about acknowledging your own legal liabilities.
You have to share the water with countless other vessels, so it’s imperative to know how to interact with them, whatever the circumstances.
- Though you shouldn’t ride your jet ski at night or in fog anyway, if you find yourself in either situation, you must have green and red sidelights and a raised white light lit to show the direction in which you’re moving.
- If you’re unlucky enough to encounter fog or poor visibility, you should give a long blast of your horn every two minutes to alert other vessels to your presence.
- Going anywhere near larger ships is incredibly dangerous but, even if you think they’re far away, they might be trying to communicate with you. Listen out for their foghorn if you enter their vicinity. As a rule of thumb:
- One blast means they’re altering course to starboard
- Two blasts mean they’re altering course to port
- Three blasts mean they’re going astern
- Five blasts mean your intentions are unclear and you should leave the area or give way
Do I need jet ski insurance?
In short – yes. Jet ski insurance is essential. Accidents and theft are a real risk, whether you’re towing your jet ski to your favourite bit of coastline or out on the water already.
With Insure4Boats, you can cover your jet ski up to the value of £20,000 against theft, accidental damage, malicious damage, salvation charges and a further £1 million in third party liability.
We automatically include cover for your trailer as well, so you’ll be covered at home, to the water and on the water.