Several years back I penned a story for Boating titled â€śNatureâ€™s Favorite Boat.â€ť At the time the magazineâ€™s choice â€” a personal watercraft â€” was probably meant to stir up just a little bit of controversy. But it was also meant to point out that, despite their sometimes less than stellar past reputation, today’s personal watercraft were in reality at the forefront of many issues.
And in truth, deserving of that bold title.
Noise? Manufacturers had licked it long ago, muffling the buzz of two-strokes before enjoying the natural quiet operation of the four-strokes that were to follow. Emissions? By necessity, PWC manufacturers were forced to work overtime on solutions, and the results were some of the cleaner marine engines on the market. Safety? From off-throttle steering solutions to Sea-Dooâ€™s braking system, perhaps no other segment of the marine industry has taken this issue more to heart.
And thatâ€™s not even mentioning a PWCâ€™s â€śeco-friendlyâ€ť givens, like minimal draft, enclosed jet pump propulsion, and fuel-efficient engine technologies.
One aspect of the story that made a lasting impression on me was how ideal PWC were for getting up close and personal with nature. I offered proof â€” the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found the craft had no more impact on waterfowl than other motorized boats; no marine mammal injuries of fatalities had been attributable to PWC; tests in the Florida Keys found PWC did not affect seagrass beds or water turbidity when operated in accordance with manufacturer guidelines. But I also offered other proof, like the fact that Florida’s renowned Mote Marine Laboratory relied on PWC for rescuing stranded dolphins. The reason? They could get up close and personal with the wildlife in ways few other boats could.
Although it didnâ€™t make it into the story, I could have offered my own proof as well. Over the years Iâ€™ve had the good fortune to run across everything from sea lions to alligators to turtles to sharks and, yes, dolphins while out riding. And just by the very nature of a personal watercraft’s design, each experience was more intimate than it would have been on something like a center-console or deckboat.
All of this came back to me recently when I was forwarded a video of Ken Gore riding near the Sunshine Skyway Brige in Tampa Bay. Aboard a WaveRunner, he encountered some dolphins doing what these magnificent creatures do best â€” just having fun. But in the process he also reinforced the argument behind that feature years ago. PWC truly are a great means to interact with nature, while also doing your best to preserve it.
Watch the clip, or fast forward to the 2:30 mark for the highlight. And then take a moment to appreciate just how personal a personal watercraft can be…