A PWC Capsizes. What is the Best Way to Roll the PWC to Turn It Upright?

a pwc capsizes what is the best way to roll the pwc to turn it upright

Imagine this: you’re enjoying a day on the waves, and you’re a ways out from the nearest dock. You anchor your boat to enjoy a big lunch, and you fall asleep. All of a sudden, you wake up to the sound of large crashing waves - a storm is brewing. And as you try to recover your anchor and make your way back to the dock, you witness a terrible sight.

Not too far away, a PWC capsizes. What is the best way to roll the PWC to turn it upright? Hold on to your composure and stay alert - here’s what you need to do.

How to Right a PWC

The ultimate goal of any personal watercraft owner would be to prevent capsizing in the first place. But that’s not something everyone can guarantee, given the unpredictable conditions on the water. In the event that your PWC does capsize, the first place you’ll want to look would be under the vessel.

Manufactures will often place a decal at the bottom of the PWC that provides instructions on how to right the vessel. In most cases, you should find this near the stern. The main takeaway from the instructions should be the direction in which you should right the PWC.

The Righting Process

It’s important to look for these instructions because they prevent you from introducing water into the engine compartment, causing irreparable damage to your watercraft. If there are no instructions stuck to the bottom of your boat, your hull should be rotated so that the exhaust always stays down.

Although PWC designs vary, the best way to do this would be to rotate the vessel clockwise if you’re facing the stern. To do that, you can push down on the portside with your foot and grab the ride plate with your right hand and pull.

If the PWC is too heavy, you can try putting both your feet on the portside and then grabbing on the starboard side to pull. Make sure that you practice extra caution with this alternative since you’re going to flip the PWC in your direction.

Once the PWC is righted, get back on board and try to get it to start. If it does, then it would be wise to get your boat planing. Continue to travel in a straight line at above planing speed to get rid of any water that might have entered the engine compartment or exhaust.

A Few Reminders


There’s a lot more to righting a capsized PWC than just flipping it over. Here are a few important reminders to make sure you don’t end up damaging your PWC and that no one in injured along the way:

Don't be Afraid to Fall Overboard

You might be tempted to struggle to stay on board as your PWC capsizes, but experts strongly recommend against it. Refusing to leave your PWC could cause you to be crushed under its weight. Avoid clinging to the watercraft and try to jump or swim away as far as possible to avoid potential injury as it flips over.

Check for Your Passengers

If you weren’t alone on your PWC, the first thing you should check would be your passengers. Swim your way to anyone who isn’t wearing a life vest to minimize the risk of drowning. If anyone is unconscious, see to it that you don’t leave them alone. If there aren’t any passengers in danger, you can proceed to righting your PWC.

Stop the Engine

It’s very likely that your engine is still running even after being flipped over. Turn off the engine and do not attempt to right the watercraft while it’s running. Doing so could damage the engine, short any electrical components, or cause potentially injurious accidents.

What If You Can’t Right Your PWC?

What happens if you’re unable to right your PWC? Well, the best thing to do would be to board it even while it’s turned upside down. Most PWC’s are designed to float even when they’re upside down. This should help you conserve energy and prevent hypothermia as you wait for rescue.

If you have an EPIRB on board, then now would be the perfect time to turn it on. But if you don’t, then your float plan (which should have been left at the marina or with reliable people you trust) should be enough to let people know that something’s amiss.

If you happened to put your mobile phone in a waterproof case, then you should still be able to use it while you’re out on the water given that you’re not too far away from the cell tower.

And while you might be tempted to just swim for the shore, your eyes can play tricks on you, making distances seem shorter than they actually are. Your best chance of rescue would be to stay with your PWC. As the largest thing in the water, it maintains your visibility, making it easier for rescuers to see where you are.

Alternatively, you can try to gently paddle your way closer to shore. Although it would be impossible to reach dry land by padding a capsized vessel with your arms and legs, simply closing in the distance by whatever measure you can should significantly improve your chances of getting rescued much sooner.

Don’t Panic

A PWC capsizes. What is the best way to roll the PWC to turn it upright? Well, that ultimately depends on what the manufacturer says. Look for the sticker and follow the directions. If there isn’t anything stuck to the bottom of your PWC, your best bet would be to roll it over clockwise.

But if you just don’t have the strength to do it, don’t panic, account for your passengers, and board the capsized vessel. Conserve your energy and wait for rescue, doing what you can to stay with your watercraft and maintain visibility while you wait for help to come.

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