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Collisions occur between PWC and larger boats because the PWC is following the wake. Why don’t they turn away to avoid the collision? If a PWC crosses the wake at a slight angle, once across, the PWC exceeds its average speed from the suction of the wake, losses control and slams into the vessel.

Crossing a wake can create unusual circumstances. When a PWC enters the center of the wake from directly behind, then turns to jump from the inside to the outside, the PWC encounters three changing forces in quick succession.

1. The suction of the vessel ahead increases the PWC speed.

2. As the PWC turns to exit the wake, it encounters a hill of water that slows the PWC considerably.

3. As the PWC overcomes the wake, it meets the breaking force of the
wave, which quickly pulls the PWC over and the front down, taking control away from the operator.

The PWC, having lost control, smashes into or is drawn into the propeller of the boat ahead. The law states the boat ahead is the privileged vessel and the vessel overtaking is the burdened vessel. Plainly spoken, the PWC approaching from behind would be at fault in the case of a collision.

These findings, coupled with other natural forces such as wind, current and waves, point out the great need for training and experience before taking a PWC for a ride. The operator must be ready for and able to handle extreme changes in a split second.

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