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Chopper Waters : WHO CAN RIDE

August 30, 1995|RUSS LOAR

Users must be at least 12 to operate a personal watercraft, but if someone at least 18 years old is on board, there are no age restrictions on drivers.

Past legislation to raise the minimum age of operators to 16 years old was vetoed by Gov. George Deukmejian, and there are no legislative proposals in the works to changes the regulations, according to David Johnson, spokesman for the state Department of Boating and Waterways.

SAFETY

While not required, it is widely recommended that all watercraft users learn about general boating safety. As with other watercraft, there must be life vests on board. Some manufacturers offer incentives such as gift certificates to purchasers who sign up for classes.

WHERE TO FIND CLASSES

* U.S. Foundation boating course hot line: (800) 336-2628

* U.S. Power Squadron Safe Boating Classes: (800) 732-7545

* Home study: The state Department of Boating and Waterways offers a free 56-page textbook and newsletter. Write to the department, care of Home-Study Boating Course, 1629 S. St., Sacramento, CA 95814.

COSTS

New watercraft are generally priced from $4,000 ti $7,600. Here are a few examples

* Yamaha WaveRunner VXR

Suggested retail: $4,999

Engine: 650cc, 50 horsepower

Top speed: low 40's

Features: oil-level gauge

* Polaris SL 750

Suggested retail: $6,100

Engine: 750cc, 80 horsepower

Top speed: low 52 m.p.h.

Features: Electric trim adjustment; speed, fuel, oil gauge with clock

* Kawasaki ZXI 900

Suggested retail: $7,299

Engine: 900cc, 100 horsepower, three cylinder engine

Top speed: 60 m.p.h.

Features: Anti-theft device; electric trim system; fuel and trim gauges, tachometer, speedometer, low oil and overhead warning lights.

Used watercraft run anywhere from $800 to $5,000.

Registration: The machines must be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles just like an automobile or motorcycle, with annual renewals. Dealers will issue buyers a temporary registration enabling them to immediately operate the watercraft.

Initial registration fee is $9; annual renewal is $5.

ON THE JOB

Lifeguards and marine-safety personnel throughout California are beginning to use personal watercraft on the job.

In Newport Beach, lifeguards have five personal watercraft to assist stranded boaters when rescue boats are not available.. Each watercraft tows a large rescue sled. They also use the watercraft for training.

Marine-safety officers who use the vehicles include those in San Diego and Ventura harbors and at Folsom Lake near Sacramento.

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