Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Personal Watercraft Hot Topic

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Personal Watercraft Hot Topic

Article excerpt

Personal Watercraft, like it or not, are the hot test item

in boating right now. And the small, speedy one-, two- or

three-person craft are also a topic of hot debate because of

a plan by the soon-to-open Jacksonville Hilton Hotel to rent

PWC, as well as pontoon boats, to guests.

The hotel, of course, is just east of the Main Street bridge,

right smack in the middle of what is arguably the most dangerous

part of the St. Johns River because of fierce currents and heavy

vessel traffic.

Spokesmen for the hotel appeared before the Jacksonville

Waterways Commission last Wednesday on a sort of courtesy call

to explain the establishment's plans.

But though the commission took no action pro or con, one member

expressed grave concern about the plan.

"My kids use those things all the time," Carter Bryan said.

"They konk out or stall out all the time. When that happens on

an incoming tide, those people are going to be carried right

into the [Main Street] bridge. Somebody can get killed. This is

not going to work."

The Hilton spokesmen stressed that the hotel was well aware of

the possible hazards and would take every effort to make sure

the PWCs were operated responsibly.

That includes placing governors on their engines that would

reduce their speed from about 45 to 25 mph.

He added that the hotel chain operated such liveries at other

sites in Florida, notably Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

But boaters using the river aren't likely to welcome the PWC

base, and Pete Ison, the city dockmaster who's responsible for

all Jacksonville's public docks, including the Southbank

Riverwalk where the six PWCs and pontoon boats would be based,

said there was another reason the plan might run into trouble.

A manatee zone extends 300 feet out into the river from both

banks in the entire downtown area. …

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