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Thread: good little jet boat for the Big or Little Su?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Fish Hook

    Default good little jet boat for the Big or Little Su?

    I am kinda new to power boating and am looking for a nice small jet boat to use with the wife or kids on the rivers in the Valley. Maybe like a 18 ft lowe or something similar and plan on spending around 5-6 grand. One with a small canopy would keep the misses happy. Any advise as what to look for as far as size or width or motor size or make. Or what to steer clear of a a newbie? Also where are some nice places to boat to and maybe spend the night camping. Never been on either of the Su's but they are close and it seems they are accessible. Would like to just have a boat to do a little exploring and fishing and hunting with without spending too much just starting out. Any advise is appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2008


    Welcome to the club.
    Things to look for in a jet boat:

    Types of Jet Boats:
    John boat
    Windshield models outboard
    Windshield models inboard
    Sport john
    Big Inboards

    John Boat:
    Function as a flat bottom, shallow water, no frills boat. Do not take as much motor to get them on step. Can haul a heavy load. Not very comfortable, and not much of a way to get out of the weather. They are riveted or all welded. Riveted boats are cheaper, but tend to start leaking at bit after a while and are not as durable. They are light weight and are easier to drag off a sand bar when you stick it.

    Windshield jet boats:
    Lots of variables from flat bottom, 9 degree dead rise up to 14 degrees. The more deadrise or V in the hull the more comfortable the ride, but the less shallow it will go and more power to get it on step. Some windshields are thin metal (like on some old Almar boats) and some are thick aluminum. They are more expensive. Outboards give you more room inside the boat, and inboards give you more performance and load hauling.

    Sport john type boats:
    Flat bottom or close to it, and wide. They can be inboard or out board. They can haul serious loads, are shallow running, and are reasonably comfortable. There is a lot of aluminum so they are expensive. They have windshields and a canopy.

    Big inboards are more comfortable, take waves better and can be used in the ocean near shore. Expensive.

    The Motor is where you will be eating a lot of your money. An eighteen foot windshield and canopied boat with an outboard will likely have a 115hp or more jet. Good luck getting a reliable motor for under 6k let alone the boat. If you are set on the 6k price tag, and want something reliable, you probably will be looking at used john boats with and older 90 or less jet, probably two stoke.

    If you want a boat that will hunt, fish, be reliable and comfortable, you probably need to double your expected investment. Just my .02

    Hopefully there will be a jet boat gathering this spring and you can hop on a bunch different boats and talk with people about their learning curves.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2008


    good sum-up Dave!

    I would add:

    Don't go much larger than an 18' +/- jon boat for the little Sue. That little river starts out really shallow @ the landing and never really gets much wider than about 50-70". A big boat out there is a target for all the other boats to hit and a liability as you manuever and attempt NOT to hit others.

    That same size boat will get you around the Big sue (distances w/in reason) just fine. You'll just be out in the wx more than the guys in the thunderjets. (but ya won't see (many) thunderjets on the litl sue either).... (just like you won't see many 18' jons @ Valdez or Seward)

    I think you're on the right track looking for a 18'-ish Lowe. I think 1860 is the size (18'L x 60"W) (look for a welded one NOT riveted), you can set those up w/ a small canopy. watch C.L. for a good-used 100+/- hp 4 stroke or e-tek. You WANT a good RELIABLE motor! I would stay away from those old 2 strokes (they're already outlawed on the Kenai and I think it's only a matter of time before the rest of AK follows suit)

    plan on parting w/ 10 - 16K for your rig.

    BTW, LOTS of camping spots on the Littl sue, and on the Deshka, Big Sue etc.

    Good luck

  4. #4
    Member 907pride's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2011


    Stormy, I have to agree with the other guys. You may want to make your investment a little larger. You can find a good Jon boat for 5-6 grand but if you want a little more comfort and a boat that is a bit more flexible then you should maybe send a little more money.

    I have a 20' Jetcraft w/hardtop that is perfect for my wife and I. It also allows us to stay out of the weather and invite some friends along. I've had it for about 4 years now and absolutely love it. I had to buy during the winter to get a good deal but it was well worth it. It has an inboard v-6 that has not given me any issues. I paid only $13,500 for this boat and trailer with only 50 hours on it. It gets good gas mileage and I can run the Big Su, Little Su, and I even run about 90 miles out of Valdez and Whittier all of the time. Like one of the other guys said, you could never hit up the ocean in a flat bottom. I just thought I would give you something else to think about. Even though this is more than you wanted to spend you will be allot more comfortable and have more flexibility to use it for different purposes.

    Happy boat hunting.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2006


    The price range you quoted pretty much limits you to finding something used. For 5-6k, you should be able to find a fairly decent used 18' riveted boat/motor/trailer. Buy something you can afford to run and get out on the river and enjoy it. Since you said you are new to power boats, I don't think I'd go much bigger than an 18 ft lowe or similar. It will be an easier boat to learn river running with than something bigger. And when you eventually stick it on a bar it will be alot easier to get unstuck.

  6. #6
    Member KelvinG's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Talkeetna, AK


    Dave covered it pretty well.

    I ran an 18 Alumacraft tunnel hull Jon boat with an 80hp Mercury jet for years. I loved it. It was light and yet could carry quite a load. The tunnel kept the jet foot out of the gravel and I could run quite shallow. With a light load I could horse it off of a sand bar by myself.

    If I were to do it again the only Id change from a 2 cycle engine to a 4 cycle engine. (When I bought this 4 cycles jet outboards were just coming out and there was a concern about continually running 4 cycles at the higher RPMs a jet requires. Turns out its not a problem). 4 cycles get a lot better gallon per hour burn rate and you are not continually burning oil.

    I did a lot of exploring. When you are out in the sticks running a boat is kind of like flying an airplane. Reliability and the ability to make field repairs are key to avoiding those dreaded Alaskan Adventures. If you buy used Id pay to have a good shop go through the engine. Afterwards Id run it in a lake or up stream of the boat launch for several hours just to make sure. Along with the Coast Guard stuff, have good oars, good anchor, rope come along, rope, tools, & consumable parts, (filters, spark plugs, shear pins, nuts, bolts, etc.) on board.

    As far as weather and the wife and kids go Id carry a good tarp and blankets. If things got nasty they could wrap in blankets and Id cover them with the tarp, snug as bugs in a rug. At that time the boat was for recreation so Id rarely take them out when it was nasty.

    When we moved remote I upgraded to a SportJon for all the reasons Dave mentioned. Otherwise Id still be exploring the creeks and sloughs in my little tunnel hull.



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