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Thread: Tips & Tricks For Driving A Jetboat

  1. #1

    Default Tips & Tricks For Driving A Jetboat

    This is my first summer in a jetboat and I have learned a great deal. I have been running boats ever since I was a small boy but this entire jetboat thing is a new and exciting experience. I had no one to guide me but I feel I learned through trial and error the best I could. I have taken my 16 tunnel jet to Copper River, Kenai River, Knik River, Jim Creek, The Big Su, Deshka River, Lil Willow Creek, 20 Mile River, Glacier River, and a few others. I feel I am very compitent in this boat but I can still learn from others. Here's some thoughts I have picked up on this year.

    If I am in shallow water, around six inches or less and have no other choice but to get on step I will have the people sitting in front of me sit more towards the bow. This lifts the stern and more often gives me enough wiggle room to evoid rocks in grill. This worked beautifully on 20 Mile and Jim Creek.

    When the channel becomes puckeringly (Im adding to the english language tonight) narrow I will take a corner just a tad early. It may seem odd but if timed properly the jet unit will stay right in the deeper channel.

    This may seem obvious but the best skill I have ever learned while running boats is to judge water. How deep it is, what is causing the water to move and rise the way it does, and what is underneith the surface. It seems petty and I didn't worry about it so much driving airboats but in a boat that requires so much water to go forward the water judging thing is critical.

    I am hoping you guys/gals can teach me a thing or two that has wouldn't have crossed my mind unless I posted this thread.

  2. #2
    Member mod elan's Avatar
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    I was new to the jetboating thing last year too. Being able to read the water is one of the best advantages you have against making a bad mistake. One thing I can say is the size of the boat will also change the way you drive. It's nice to run the smaller boats or a shallow draft inboard, but step into a big inboard and the first time it sticks on a gravel bar will be a learning experience for sure.
    Sounds like you are well on your way to being a good jetboater. Another forum member told me something that will always be in my head. "I believe a good airboater makes a good jetboater but not necessarily the other way around." Anyone who has run airboats will understand. Have fun and keep learning!

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    Member propgrinder's Avatar
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    I'm curious what a new or old jet boat driver does when he's going like hell in a small stream, leads the corner, and finds a boat coming down the river in the same deep channel?

    The safe thing to do would be to go slower but how do you do that in a jet boat and still have control?

  4. #4
    Member AKRoadkill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by propgrinder View Post
    I'm curious what a new or old jet boat driver does when he's going like hell in a small stream, leads the corner, and finds a boat coming down the river in the same deep channel?

    The safe thing to do would be to go slower but how do you do that in a jet boat and still have control?

    Been there...not "going like hell", though. About 18-20 mph tops, on the Little Su a few months ago. Holding to my side of the river, which was also the channel side. A boat coming upstream was also in the channel on my side and didn't seem to be getting out of the way. Instead of doing the smart thing and hitting reverse, I waited for him to get to his side, but it didn't look like he was going to, so I cut to the shallow side. About the same time, the other boat also cut to the shallow side, and T-boned me.

    Now I go just fast enough to plane and if there's another boat in my channel, I stop and let him go by. Stitches hurt and hull straightening is expensive. Would be nice if folks would always hug their side of the river on blind curves, but it don't always happen that way.

    I had run smaller outboard jets when I was up in the Interior; now I have a 21 ft SportJon, which is a whole lot different as far as steering and handling.

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    Member mod elan's Avatar
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    The first thing you learn in any boat is never cruise wide open throttle. Use enough throttle to stay on step and leave the rest for when you need it most. As for myself, I have no problem going aground rather than colliding with another boat. I just hope the other boater doesn't panic and let off the throttle leaving him with no steering to hammer into me.
    There are many narrow creeks and sloughs we all run where the safest thing is to stop at tight corners and switchbacks to listen for other boats. Some areas even post signs where to stop and listen.
    A valuable addition to your boating gear would be a set of good polarized sunglasses.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by propgrinder
    I'm curious what a new or old jet boat driver does when he's going like hell in a small stream, leads the corner, and finds a boat coming down the river in the same deep channel?

    The safe thing to do would be to go slower but how do you do that in a jet boat and still have control?
    Personally, if it's a guide or a small boat I just scoot over a little and reduce speed a little. If it's a huge inboard that just has to have the channel and is doing 35mph, I'll cut the power and pull over. But always to the right. Thankfully those are few and far between on the little su.


    Quote Originally Posted by AKRoadkill View Post
    Been there...not "going like hell", though. About 18-20 mph tops, on the Little Su a few months ago. Holding to my side of the river, which was also the channel side. A boat coming upstream was also in the channel on my side and didn't seem to be getting out of the way. Instead of doing the smart thing and hitting reverse, I waited for him to get to his side, but it didn't look like he was going to, so I cut to the shallow side. About the same time, the other boat also cut to the shallow side, and T-boned me.
    How close was the other boat when you cut across to the left?

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    Member emartens123's Avatar
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    Hey AKROADKILL, how do you like your Sportjon, does that boat handle as well as they claim and what about the payload. Just curious as I am considering replacing my old boat with a new one and that sportjon with the open front looks good, being able to load and unload a quad that easy will sure be nice. Please let me know on any likes and dislikes.
    Thanks
    Eric

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    My tug background really beat the "rules of the road" into me, so I tend to give the guy going downriver the right of way, if I turn to avoid someone it's always to the right unless it's not (airboat on the gravel, too tight corner, too late). No matter which side it is, I always show enough of the side of my boat so the other driver knows where I'm heading (another throwback to tugs). There's always a little power left in reserve for when it's needed, but if it's too late I'll go high & dry if needed. Haven't had to do it to avoid a boat yet, but last fall I hugged a corner too close & did it to avoid a large tree stump in my way.

  9. #9

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    That reminds me of a trip I took up the Deshka with a buddy. We are coming down a narrow section of the river with a very defined channel. I was hugging the right side of the bank at the time. Coming around the corner I see a large inboard coming head on, I back off the throttle just enough to stay on step while hugging the right bank as much as possible. After a couple seconds, which seemed like forever he stuck to his path directly towards us. I couldn't go right any further, my only option was to go left. I begin to steer my boat to the left, he mirrors me mili-seconds after I head for the left side of the river. I imediately came off step, brought the boat to an idle, and went directly back to the right side of the river and stayed their for good until we passed seconds later. That was an intense moment.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Water_Gremlin View Post
    That reminds me of a trip I took up the Deshka with a buddy. We are coming down a narrow section of the river with a very defined channel. I was hugging the right side of the bank at the time. Coming around the corner I see a large inboard coming head on, I back off the throttle just enough to stay on step while hugging the right bank as much as possible. After a couple seconds, which seemed like forever he stuck to his path directly towards us. I couldn't go right any further, my only option was to go left. I begin to steer my boat to the left, he mirrors me mili-seconds after I head for the left side of the river. I imediately came off step, brought the boat to an idle, and went directly back to the right side of the river and stayed their for good until we passed seconds later. That was an intense moment.
    I was going to say this to AKRoadkill and since you bring it up as well here I go. The times when the channel is narrowest and most defined is almost always around a corner. When two boats are approaching each other on a corner there will be moments when they are both pointed directly at each other. The characteristics of the river and the turn will determine how long this period is. You can either trust the other captain, or you can stop and pull to the right against the bank. But please, please never go left at the last moment.

  11. #11
    Member lab man's Avatar
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    Also, it is much easier to handle a boat going upriver than down, so to restate some advice, give the boat going downriver the right of way.

    I've been in many situations where I just pray I don't meet another boat. So far those prayers have been answered.

    -Eric

  12. #12

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    But please, please never go left at the last moment.
    The stay right plan is great if everyone is on the same page but I felt like my last and only available option was to go left, unless I wanted to take a path directly under a boat that dwarfed my boat. The other boat had plenty of time and water to react to the situation, but didn't eventhough we locked eyes. The right side of the bank was vertical and left me no room to beach my boat if need be. It's a tricky situation and I was also responsible for the other person in my boat, the decision was on my back. Thankfully we passed each other without contact. And to top it off I had not one but two more up close and personal experiences with other boats on the Big Su eventhough I hugged the right bank while heading up river. You'd figure the channels of the Big Su are big enough for all of us, well I guessed wrong. Basically I do not trust the instinct of others on the river, I have to do what I feel will keep people on my boat safe. Sometimes my instincts are right and sometimes they are wrong. That will probably be my last run to the Deshka. I'll stay to my more confined and less populated areas next year.

  13. #13

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    Yeah I hear you man. I'm not trying to point fingers at all. It seems like every year I run the little su I find myself more and more nervous motoring up and down. This year my boat has been out of commission almost every weekend and I was forced to walk up and downstream. You know what? It was extremely peaceful and relaxing. Granted I didn't catch a tenth of the fish I would have in my boat, but I didn't find myself complaining once.

  14. #14

    Default lots of good stuff

    I have ran a prop all my life and then graduated to a phantom 20-06. Two totally different boats! Jets obviously have a lot more slide in turns and you must make the boat bite other wise, you are on the bank. A big learning curve just like anything else. Water to me is much easier to read going up river than down. The sportjon does handle incredibly with a load or without! I am not sure if there is a limit on what you can load in one of those things! They jump right up on step and handle like a dream. I know I learn something new to driving the boat each and every time out. Don't take anything for granted as that is when you will get in trouble! Have fun! Not many things better than being on some skinny water!

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    I don't know if it is in writing, but the typical rule of the river that I've always known is "if your heading downstream, you have the right-a-way". It's easier to come off step going upstream and hold off to a side, instead of coming off step going downstream and hold or spin around and hold. As others have mentioned, there's usually very little reaction time on skinny streams, if any at all.

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    Member AKRoadkill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom View Post
    I was going to say this to AKRoadkill and since you bring it up as well here I go. The times when the channel is narrowest and most defined is almost always around a corner. When two boats are approaching each other on a corner there will be moments when they are both pointed directly at each other. The characteristics of the river and the turn will determine how long this period is. You can either trust the other captain, or you can stop and pull to the right against the bank. But please, please never go left at the last moment.
    Yup, I figgered that out in a hurry. The channel wasn't too narrow, and the shallows weren't too shallow on that particular corner, but the guy was on my side of the river and I had 3 options: stay the course, stop, or try to get out of the way. I went with the one that seemed like a good idea at the time--won't try that one again! Now I stoop and let 'em do what they will, even if it means I come off step and get planted on gravel.

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    Member AKRoadkill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom View Post
    Personally, if it's a guide or a small boat I just scoot over a little and reduce speed a little. If it's a huge inboard that just has to have the channel and is doing 35mph, I'll cut the power and pull over. But always to the right. Thankfully those are few and far between on the little su.




    How close was the other boat when you cut across to the left?
    No more than a couple boatlengths...I think he might have slid into me, even if I'd stayed up against the bank and he cut to his side. His evasive action was too late, and mine was the wrong way...got T-boned instead of the head-on it was looking like. I understand boats will look like they're coming right at you while they're actualy sliding into a turn...not the case this time, which is why I changed the plan. No more.

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    Member AKRoadkill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by emartens123 View Post
    Hey AKROADKILL, how do you like your Sportjon, does that boat handle as well as they claim and what about the payload. Just curious as I am considering replacing my old boat with a new one and that sportjon with the open front looks good, being able to load and unload a quad that easy will sure be nice. Please let me know on any likes and dislikes.
    Thanks
    Eric
    I haven't loaded it up too much yet. It does run shallow, though. I've scraped gravel without sucking rocks or coming off step. And in bigger, straighter water, I've GPS'd it at 46mph! I've taken it out to Compass Rose out of Homer and limited out on halibut...definitely NOT an ocean boat, but it works when the water's calm...Not much fun in even a little chop, though!

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    Hey AKRoadKill
    I also have a Phantom, just got it this year. What do you do to winterize it?
    They are not lying when they say it will run in some skinny water.

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