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Doug60

Jet Boat Safety

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I bought my first jet,  well actually first boat which happens to be a jet a year and a half ago.  I bought a blazer 1852 with a mercury 60/40. I usually only have one other person with me on boat so that is more than enough motor to get around. If you will have several people it is doable but would be better with more power. As far as safety is concerned it takes time learning the river and how to read it. Gravel and logs do not scare me. Its the big boulders that can put you to a stop at 30 mph while tearing your boat open like a beer can that concern me the most.  Some are obvious but in a section of the Meramec i frequently boat there is one half the size of a car right in the middle of the channel. If the water is up half a foot to a foot above normal levels it is completely submerged with no riffles above it. If one were to go over it in those conditions then they would definitely hit it and serious damage would occur. If i am going to a new section of river i prefer to do it when the water is down.  It would be easier with high water but the high water can hide a lot of things and obstacles that you can see when water is down and clear. 

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Kinda like learning to ride a dirt bike.  You're gonna crash a few times, but it won't be severe unless you leave all of your common sense back at the truck.   

I'm gonna advise against running with an experienced guy much before hopping in your own boat (as Gavin suggested) because it might give you the impression that you can do stuff that you can't.....not right away anyway.   When I took my first jetboat run on my own I had been a passenger in several before and thought I knew what I was capable of doing before I actually was.   If I had started blowing through stuff at a more gradual pace I would have saved myself several dents, rivets, and impellers. 😊

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If you know how to read water already it will be somewhat easier.  Having floated Ozark rivers for a LONG time, I knew how to read water and pick lines to run.  What I had to learn was how shallow I could go, and how to turn at speed.  Making a turn in a jetboat is totally different from doing it with a prop motor.  It's kinda like driving on snow, you have to know how sharp you can turn at whatever speed you're going, and how to steer into your turns when you start to skid out.  You WILL skid out in a jetboat, because there is very little to keep you from it...no prop or rudder in the water.

I bought my 1652 Blazer with 40/32 Evinrude from Ernie's in Ellington, and he took me out on Clearwater Lake when I bought it to give it a test run, where I first got a feel for steering it.  Then, the first time I took it on a river, the middle Meramec, I quickly found a slick log that was across part of the river and barely underwater, from 12 inches deep to 2 inches deep, and ran over it several times, each time at a shallower point, until I felt the boat tick the log, then I knew how shallow I could run by myself.  Having one or two other people in the boat, as it turned out, didn't really make much difference in how shallow it would run.

I've had mishaps, and the worst ones are always hitting big rocks.  I've had two bad ones.  The first happened when I was running up a narrow line, and when I got to the top of the riffle I cut toward the middle just a little too early, and caught a big rock which stopped the boat dead, and put a big dent in the bottom.  The second was when I tried to turn into a very narrow run along a rocky bank, and the boat skidded sideways on the turn just a bit too much and the back corner hit the rocks, putting a nice hole in it.  Other than that, I've run up on gravel bars once or twice when I couldn't make a turn sharply enough, and a couple times I've picked the wrong channel on split riffles and had to try to skim over short spots that were only a couple inches deep.  I've had to dig out the gravel under the back end of the boat once in order to get it to float high enough to drag it off the gravel.  Only bad thing about hitting gravel like that is that it sucks the gravel up into the impellor and wears it.

Also...I believe that your first jetboat should not be a big, go-fast one.  The faster it runs, the faster you get into trouble and the less time you have to get out of it.  Jetboats hold value fairly well, so my advice would be to buy a smaller, less powerful one to begin with, and later if you think you need to go faster and/or carry more people and gear, then upgrade.  I bought my boat in 2007, and have not yet seen a need for anything bigger.

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I get 8-10 jet rigs brought in every year because "the motor just locked up".   The issue is almost always the result of slowing down in very shallow water which causes small bits of gravel to get stuck between the impeller and the liner, seizing things up and killing the motor,  then the starter doesn't have enough torque to spin the crank and restart it.  

I love to see their happy faces when they learn they haven't blown a powerhead and they are back in business for less than 100 bucks.  😊

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