Given that some of us have been riding since the early 1990’s, we have thousands of hours of riding experience to draw from, especially riding in groups. This experience has guided us with regards to riding styles, equipment choices and general guidelines to make rides fun and safe for all involved. We have found that when everyone follows our guidelines, we all have a better and safer trip.
This year will be the first year that we actually publish rules to follow if you are to join our group for one or all rides. Should you decide that some or all of our rules are too restrictive for your style of riding, there are a number of other riding groups that are more relaxed when it comes to their rules. We are a small group on purpose, and only want to have fun, relaxing rides in as safe an environment as possible. While we cannot eliminate all risk due to the nature of riding in unpredictable waters, we try our best to remove as much risk as reasonably possible through thoughtful route planning, weather observation and prediction, and smart group riding rules. As some of our group rides have become larger and the machines have become more powerful, this is a dangerous combination which requires some degree of control.
I hope you will read and become familiar with our riding rules before coming out to join a group ride. In more than 20 years of group riding we have only had 1 minor incident with some riders who were new to group riding. The incident only resulted in some minor hull damage which didn’t stop us from completing the ride. It was the result of not following some basic rules of group riding. Collisions of any kind are expensive and potentially life threatening.
1) Situational awareness. Since we are riding in a group, you must keep the safety and comfort of those around you as your priority over everything else.
2) Ride in a straight line when riding ahead of other riders. Refrain from weaving back and forth. Maintain the same amount of distance from the person next to you. If you must change your “lane”, slow down and go behind the person using your mirrors and shoulder checks to ensure you are not cutting anyone else off. Keep a safe distance from the person ahead of you. This is a major rule – don’t break it unless your safety is at risk. Breaking this rule one will get you uninvited to all future trips.
3) If you wish to horse around, wave jump or do some big carving back and forth, do it at the back of the group or far off to one side so as to not interfere with another rider in their “lane.” Breaking this rule one will get you uninvited to all future trips.
4) Do not ride ahead or beside your guides unless you are extremely familiar with the route. Many areas have a narrow area to ride despite looking wide open. We have designed these routes to avoid underwater obstacles that are invisible without a chartplotter or marine GPS. If you ride beside a guide, you may stop the guide from turning at the designated turn points making everyone stop riding in order to regroup.
5) Single file riding in narrow channels. This should be a given but still needs to be stated. When riding in narrow channels, there are four main reasons for riding single file. A) comfort – if people ride side by side, the turbulent water of two or more wakes meeting makes it uncomfortable for those behind you. B) Obstacles – some of the channels have shallow areas and rocks just under the surface on one side or another. This part falls under rule 4 as well. C) Your guides may need to turn sharply at any time to stay on the designated route (sometimes to within a 4 metre tolerance) or to avoid new obstacles that were not encountered the previous time. D) Having multiple wakes may throw your machine off course into the side of the channel hitting underwater or above water obstacles.
6) You are not required to follow us through a designated speed zones travelling more than the legal limit. While some of us may proceed faster than we should by accident or on purpose, we do so at our own risk. The police have no sense of humour when it comes to speeding PWCs – even a couple miles an hour over the limit. If you are on plane, then you are speeding – there are no marine radar traps. We will wait for you to catch up. These violations can happen accidentally if we miss a sign. It is up to you to watch for the signs and obey or disobey at your own peril.
7) Follow the person ahead of you at a safe braking distance. Again, this is a major safety rule. These machines do not stop well – even with the advanced braking systems. Stay far enough behind to ensure the safety of the person ahead of you. If you are not sure of the proper distance, please ask your guide but braking is something you should practice ahead of time on your own in a wide-open space at different speeds.
8) The Bay Rule. When a group of riders enter a bay when riding along a shoreline, follow the nearest shoreline around the bay. For example, if we are generally riding with the shore on our starboard (right) side, then we ALL ride in a counterclockwise direction around any bay that we enter.
9) Shallow angle rule. When rejoining the group after stopping or shortcutting a bay loop, rejoin the group riding pattern at a shallow angle – preferably at an angle less than 30o. If you approach the group at a steeper angle such as 45o or more, the riders you are approaching get very nervous about your approach. This is a comfort rule and would be greatly appreciated.
10) Splashing. Unless you have an understanding with another member of the group that its ok to do this, please stay far enough away from other riders to avoid directly splashing them or “misting” them as you go by. This can be really irritating when you are trying to stay dry. This is very true of the hole shot when starting out from a slow pace or a dead stop. Jet wash to the face is unpleasant at the best of times and can knock some riders off their machines at the worst of times. This is a big no-no if you want to get invited back for another ride. Speed up gently if there are people behind you or go off to the side where there will be no-one behind you to get wet while you see what 215-300hp can do from a standing start.
11) Reliability. If your machine has a history of unreliability, please leave that machine at home. A group ride is no place for unreliable machines. If it breaks down many miles from our launch point, it can be a big hassle to deal with it and can spoil the ride for the rest of the group. While breakdowns happen, repeated breakdowns are too hard to deal with on long rides. No one will tow that machine 20 miles.
12) Racing. If we are in a situation where we are racing to get back to the launch point or racing for fun in a relatively narrow river, please do so in pairs only. In wider areas, keep a large safe distance from each other sideways and in front. 1000lb machines doing 68mph or more are dangerous.
13) Police. Please be very respectful of any police officers that decide to stop us for any reason. Talking back doesn’t help the group get through unscathed. Have your boater’s card, whistle and flashlight handy in your kit. For a routine check, they usually see the guides approach their boat first with all the extra chartplotters and equipment attached and see that we are not the people they are looking for and send us on our way. In those cases we try to get a selfie with them and post a thank-you for ensuring boater safety. Its up to us to help change the negative attitudes towards PWCs.
14) Time restrictions. If you have a specific time that you must be back at the launch point by, please check with us ahead of time to see if one of the guides can go with you. We generally do not have a finish time set in stone but have a general idea. We may or may not make that timing. We don’t want to find out the morning of the ride at the launch point that we have to finish early. Don’t expect a guide to bring you back early, cutting short their ride. Many people drive hours to come to a ride and don’t want it cut short. The only true time restrictions we have are to do with being on time for the last lock of the day or the sun setting.
15) Don’t stray. While you may know the route we take fairly well, if you take a different route around a big island or a different channel that may lead to the same place, the main guide(s) can’t see you and assume you are lost. We don’t want to waste time looking for you. If you take a different route with one of the designated guides then this is fine because we will assume that we will meet up shortly or if near the end of a ride, we’ll see you at the launch point.
16) If you fall behind or get lost somehow. Stay where you are – will we find you by backtracking. This is especially true in remote areas such as Georgian Bay. If timing does not permit a reasonable search, you will be left behind in order to get the main group back to safety. This is true for last-lock time restrictions or sunset. You should be aware of our lunch, turn around point and initial launch locations in case you need the assistance of someone else on the water. In these cases, you should have your GPS and means of communication and the guides phone number. While this has never happened in all of our years of riding, it is always a possibility that you need to take into account when going on our longer rides or in in remote areas.
17) The Yamaha Rule. We certainly welcome all makes and models of PWC to join us. One thing that Yamaha owners will have to modify is their visibility spout. There is a simple “fix” for it with a knife, two clamps and a ½” shutoff valve so that you don’t get the rest of us wet. The spout a great thing to have when riding in big waves when everyone is already wet but we travel long distances on generally flat waters, those travelling with us prefer to stay dry for the most part. This is an extension of rule #10. The fix is fully reversible using the valve so you can still use your spout at the cottage.
18) At speeds over 10 km, always stay at least 30 meters from shore (that’s the law) but 100 meters is better. Don’t annoy the cottage owners. It just makes them anti-PWC and you can see the shore from 100 m as well as 10 m. There are some narrow channels where this isn’t possible so exercise caution especially looking for swimmers.
1) You must carry some type of communication device on your PWC such as a cell phone or VHF radio. Should you get lost or left behind, you need a way to communicate. Please ensure that the guides have your cell phone number before we launch.
2) You must have some sort of GPS device. In many cases, a smart phone will do if you have marine charts on them to help you navigate if you get lost or separated from the group. This, combined with your cell phone are a must have combination. It is preferable however to have a waterproof GPS navigation unit with marine charts which has the “breadcrumb” trail to follow. A Garmin GPSMAPS 78 would be suitable, and economical option. A larger screen Chartplotter is the way to go, but is more expensive and harder to mount. Since these devices can help you avoid underwater obstacles, it is cheap insurance against an expensive hull repair.
3) You must carry the legally required items for PWC safety such as a PFD, whistle, waterproof flashlight, magnetic compass (if beyond sight of navigation marks) and your boater’s card. If you don’t wear your PFD, there are other items you must have on board however on our rides you are required to wear your PFD.
4) Appropriate clothing for warmth and for rain are required if indicated on our ride posting that there is a chance of rain. Should we encounter rain, we may push through it a full speed which is rather uncomfortable without the proper attire and face/head protection. As far as being warm, remember that it is always colder on the water and wind chill at 45mph is significant.
5) Spare fuel. While this is not a hard and fast rule, some of our basic tours push the limits of your fuel tank. While many of us are confident in our ability to reach our destination with the fuel we have on in a single tank, newer riders get nervous and want to top up. This is an understandable stress. It does however, add more time to the ride than is truly necessary and so for the nervous types, please bring extra fuel in a can that is properly attached to your machine. You can look for guidance from the more experienced riders, use the linQ system from Seadoo to add 15 litres, put a 10 litre can inside your machine (properly secured) or just get an external fuel rack made. Some of our upcoming rides will require you to carry an extra 60 litres of fuel as there will not be marina stops (in some cases because there are no marinas with fuel). These rides will be announced specifically warning you to bring the extra 65 litres of fuel. In these cases, you must have a proper rack in order to carry the fuel safely or you will not be permitted to join the ride.
6) Tow ropes. While it’s a good idea to have rope on board for a variety or reasons, towing your machine, when it fails, is the major one. From battery issues when starting, steering link breaks, motor failures, sinking and jet pump clogs, we have seen pretty much everything happen and long, strong ropes are a big deal. 15 metres or 50 ft is a decent minimum length.