Factors PWC Riders Must Consider In Spring High Water Conditions…
Melting snow and seasonal rains often result in spring high water advisories and sometimes, flood warnings. Sea Doo, jet ski and Waverunner personal watercraft operators prepared and eager to get out for their first ride of the season need to be aware of how these conditions may affect their riding and take appropriate precautions. Not the least of these is to avoid operating your personal watercraft in water over flooded land.
Generally, spring high water level is a good thing. Water tables rise, ground water gets replenished, waterways become more navigable, and more water’s available for everyone’s use and enjoyment throughout the summer and fall.
But as with most anything in life, too much of even a good thing can cause problems. In this case, the flooding can cause considerable property damage, significant business losses, massive dislocation of peoples’ lives, and lingering economic effects. For jet ski riders, the impacts can also be very real, immediate, unexpected – and even dangerous.
Spring High Water Navigation
When spring high water becomes flooding, the normal shoreline can disappear. Gone are most of the visual landmarks and cues usually used from the water to judge where you are and where you are going. Existing channels may also be obliterated and new false ones might appear as waters rise. Judging water depth in higher water is a crapshoot at best because everything under the surface is different, and depth uncertainty is one good reason to avoid newly flooded areas.
Permanent markers and buoys traditionally in place to guide the way for marine craft may be underwater or moved or swept away by the powerful currents generated by the tonnes of fast moving water. The placement of seasonal markers, frequently put in each spring by locals, may be delayed (or inaccurately located). Currents and undertows will likely be stronger, more unpredictable, and could even be in different locations. Especially during peak water level, the force of surging water can quickly and suddenly overpower, overturn or overwhelm even the most experienced jet ski rider – a definite danger to both watercraft and any operator (or passenger) who gets knocked overboard, with and most particularly without a PFD.
Spring High Water Obstacles
Spring high water also changes waterway obstacles. Along the shoreline, docks, retaining walls, breakwaters and water lines may be submerged, no longer obvious. Anywhere on the waterway, previously exposed rock and shoals may now be underwater – unmarked, invisible and waiting just below the surface for an unsuspecting PWC rider to hit. Moving, churning water carries all kinds of debris, from tree limbs to washed away shoreline wreckage. All this suspended flotsam and jetsam can be a potential hazard to unwary personal watercraft operators, either by way of collision or a jammed impeller. In either case, repairs are next.
Spring High Water Infrastructure
Jet ski riders need to exercise caution because spring high water can also make permanent marine structures difficult or risky to approach. Water at or near the top of docks makes parking your personal watercraft more of a challenge, especially where the PWC is floating with the rub rail or fenders at or above the dock edge. Going through a lock may require a different approach or technique. A boat ramp that is more partially submerged than normal might necessitate a change in your typical launch or load procedure. In some cases, bridge abutments may be underwater or increased water height may leave less headroom for passing underneath the overpass than usual.
The good news about spring high water is that the worst of it usually peaks and abates before summer officially starts on the May long weekend. However, it still pays to keep a special eagle eye out for unexpected waterway changes and anomalies that may be the residual effect of spring high water. After all, there’s nothing more annoying than coming home from your first jet ski ride with damage to yourself or your PWC!
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The tips and advice in this article are the opinions of the author, may not work in every situation and are intended only for the convenience and interest of the reader, who has the personal responsibility to confirm the validity, accuracy and relevancy of this information prior to putting it to their own use.