The Importance of PWC Warning Labels

Manufacturers include warning labels on their products to keep consumers safe. Personal watercraft builders are no different.
PWC safety labels
Warning labels help keep safe operation top of mind. Tim Bower

Well, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration nailed our long-range winter-weather forecast. Thanks to Señor El Niño, we’ve been experiencing above-average temperatures in the North Woods, which means 40s and rain instead of subzero and snow, a worst-case scenario for the sports gathering at the Lake View Inn. With no safe ice for fishing and no snow for sledding, there’s not much to do.

“This winter has been like a perpetual hangover,” said my good friend Chuck Larson as he, without irony, nursed an old fashioned at the bar. “I’m running out of things to do. Last night I went down to the basement and put new line on all my reels. I’m ready to go fishing, but opening day is still five months away.”

Then a lightbulb went off.

“Why don’t we take the girls to Minneapolis for the boat show?” I offered. “Dinner and a nice hotel, and a barn full of new boats. A little nautical daydreaming might improve our outlook.” That is how we found ourselves in the Twin Cities at the boat show, standing in a display of new Sea-Doo watercraft.

“These are so cool,” Chuck said. “Maybe Marge would go for one if I said it was for the grandkids.” Chuck straddled the seat, twisting the handlebar and making engine noises. “How fast is this sucker, anyway?”

“It can go almost 70,” I said. “I think you no longer have the reflexes for this one, Chuck.”

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“I could get a couple of grandkids on the back,” Chuck said as he twisted around to check the seat room. “Say, what does this mean? The little picture of the girl in a green bikini.” Chuck pointed to the warning label printed on the aft seat bolster depicting a cartoon bikini-clad woman with a slash, and next to it the same female form in black shorts and a PFD.

“That’s to encourage you to wear neoprene shorts, like wetsuit bottoms,” I said, “and of course your life jacket.”

“The life jacket I get,” Chuck said, “but why the rubber shorts?”

“I think the message is mostly aimed at women,” I said. “This used to be on a sticker on the boarding platform, but now it’s right on the seat so you can’t miss it.”

“And can’t peel it off,” Chuck said. “I always peel off all the safety stickers when I get something new. But I still don’t get the message.”

“Chuck, you knucklehead,” Marge said as she punched him in the arm. “Remember the time you went down that giant slide at the water park, the one the kids call ‘the enema?’ Imagine that same situation, only with a 300 hp jet pump aimed at your crotch.”

“Now imagine the girl in the green bikini reboarding, and she’s halfway up, and her boyfriend thinks it would be funny if he took off and flipped her off the back,” I said, “only his timing is off a little.”

“Do we need to get more explicit, Chuck?” Marge asked. “This is not the water jet in the hot tub, buddy.”

Chuck’s face turned bright red with embarrassment. “You mean…this has really happened?”

“Often enough to have the lawyers put this big sticker on the seat,” I said.

And that is why if they get a new Sea-Doo, Marge will do all the driving.