Story by Troy A. Buzalsky
Photos courtesy of Rogue Jet Boatworks
In the world of whitewater innovators and navigational experts the list of names is, quite frankly, few and far between, with much water under the bridge. Names like Glen Wooldridge, Prince Helfrich, Darryl Benz, Willie Illingworth, and even Sir William Hamilton certainly shaped the foundation of whitewater-capable watercraft. Add to the list Bruce Wassom of Rogue Jet Boatworks. He is one of the last true veterans of the industry not only still standing, but still leading and exploring like a true pioneer, that brings us to the Chinook XL Mid-Engine Jet Boat, but first a brief history on how this boat came to be.
Over 40 years ago Bruce Wassom emerged in the boating industry, owning and operating River Marine, whose focus was to deliver boats made for the Rogue River and surrounding waters. During this time, he earned the reputation as an expert in river navigation, teaching beginner boaters and hardcore professionals the craft of reading water and boat navigation whether on the sticks in a drift boat or at the helm in a jet boat.
Rogue Jet Boatworks is the first aluminum-boat builder to incorporate the Indmar 2.3L Ecoboost into their lineup, and performance indicators show the Chinook Mid-Engine XL to perfectly complement its performance into the center-console design.
In the early ‘90s Wassom sold River Marine and took a two-year sabbatical, spending his time in Nepal and Patagonia, running boats and teaching jet-boat navigation in some of the world’s most-fierce waters, including the Gandaki, Arun, and Rio Puelo, just to name a few. He also was the first jet-boat pilot to successfully run Big Ike Falls on the Klamath River, and has carved the waters of Mongolia, New Zealand, and Ireland. Of course, in his Pacific Northwest backyard he has spent countless hours running whitewater that few would consider. It’s fair to say, Wassom is a true expert in the field with an indelible reputation.
Returning to the Rogue Valley, Wassom founded Jetcraft Boats in the early ‘90s and grew the company into a multinational boat brand with an excellent reputation. He sold Jetcraft in 2000 to Harbercraft/Eagle out of British Columbia, Canada, which unbeknownst to him, uprooted and relocated the company. Feeling betrayed and frustrated with the impacts to the community and the industry, Wassom formed Rogue Jet Boatworks, in the original Jetcraft facility.
Fast forward almost twenty years and there is no looking back. Rogue Jet Boatworks manufactures heavy-gauge, all-welded aluminum boats made on location. They specialize in inboard jet boats, outboard aluminum boats, custom aluminum trailers, commercial law-enforcement boats, search-and-rescue boats, water-resource boats, National Park Service boats, and fire-and-rescue boats. Our local fire department runs a Rogue Jet and as a 37-year veteran in the fire service I can attest that the quality and performance of a rescue platform is mission critical!
The American Turbine SD 203 AF pushes water through the pump efficiently as the Chinook XL Mid-Engine effortlessly skims through a current seam.
Rogue Jet offers a complete line of all-welded aluminum boats, including the wide-beamed Yukon, the utilitarian lodge-favorite Landing Craft Series, the shallow-water Stealth, the Chinook XL-XXL ultimate fishing machine, the near and offshore Coastal series, the Whitewater Fastwater series, and the newest model that’s making many a head turn, the Chinook XL Mid-Engine. Today, Rogue Jet Boatworks sits on a rock-solid foundation, employing 23 area craftsmen while delivering approximately 75 boats per year out of its facility in White City, Oregon. They continue to be one of the last, true, custom-boat builders.
Evolution is a necessity of survival and the building process today has evolved into a state-of-the-art system utilizing CAD-engineered drawings, CNC processing, precision jig assembly, along with gas precision tungsten arc welding (TIG), and gas metal arc welding (MIG). Evolution has also occurred in the style and design of today’s boat and the center-console design is reemerging as a popular and practical trend with anglers, guides, and outfitters alike. Enter the Rogue Jet Chinook XL Mid-Engine, and hold on tight!
Rogue Jet’s mission and vision is to build boats “For the water less traveled,” and the Chinook XL Mid-Engine, with its industry-leading technology, exemplifies this quest. The Chinook’s mid-engine application provides 360 degrees of usable area around the boat while also providing an unmatched, evenly balanced draft that equals unsurpassed performance and shallow-water capability. Excellent hole shot, fast planing, easy slow-water navigation, and go-cart-like handling are just a few of the benefits found in this cutting-edge design.
The center-console Chinook provides anglers with plenty of dance floor to fight fish from, and the ease of use of having a center console from which to drive the boat.
Available in 20- to 24 feet in length, with a 78” floor width, 102” beam and 30” sides, the Chinook offers a wide-open platform for the most-serious outdoorsman. The hull is available in either a shallow-running 8° deadrise, or a choppy-water 14° deadrise. All Rogue Jet boats are backed with a 100% lifetime hull warranty. The bulletproof construction includes a 5086 marine-grade aluminum .250” bottom, with 5086 aluminum .125” sides, and a .190” transom. In addition, Rogue Jet uses an additional overlay of .250” aluminum near the pump intake in the impact zone. The hull is assembled with full-length, box-girder floor construction coupled with proprietary slotted extrusions that allow for continuous welding throughout the hull…no stitch welding.
The inside of the Rogue Jet is taking shape. The full-length box girders are spot-welded in place, ready for their 100% continuous weld.
Unique to Rogue Jet and utilized on the Chinook XL Mid-Engine is their fourth-generation radiused bottom that incorporates six extruded T-bar lifting strakes and exclusive surfboard keel-plate and laminar-flow intake. The radius keel area provides a smoother rough-water ride, increases the available speed, increases cornering capability, and increases fuel efficiency.
Manufacturing an aluminum boat requires thousands of precise steps. The fourth-generation radiused bottom that incorporates six extruded T-bar lifting strakes and exclusive surfboard keel-plate and laminar-flow intake is unique to Rogue Jet.
The challenge with most inboard jets is that the engine sits in the aft part of the boat, requiring a doghouse-type concealment that takes up precious space in the key fish-fighting location. I can’t tell you how many times I have crawled over an engine doghouse chasing a fish around the boat. Another factor is that when you place a big-block engine and mated pump in the boat’s aft space, it weighs a lot, causing “aft sag,” which is a killer for a clean hole-shot and overall performance. It also requires additional depth as the venerable pump intake drops deep into the water, especially at low speeds.
The Chinook XL Mid-Engine moves the engine forward using a 60” driveline. This places the engine mid-ship, just in front of the functional center-mounted navigational console. The engine doghouse then becomes a functional element, either being used as a seat base or a tackle tray, and the design allows for 360-degree angling without interference.
The center-console Chinook showcases an absolute 360-degree walk-around configuration, and the engine box smartly conceals the Indmar 2.3L EcoBoost engine. This turbocharged powerplant is perfect for a mid-engine configuration.
Innovation sits front and center in the Chinook XL Mid-Engine. Rogue Jet was the first aluminum boat manufacturer to utilize the new Indmar aluminum-block 2.3L EcoBoost marine engine that was unveiled in 2019, and earned the Miami International Boat Show Innovation Award. The 2.3L EcoBoost is a gasoline, turbocharged, direct-injection (GTDI) engine that incorporates three fuel-saving and performance-enhancing technologies into one engine design—forced air induction via turbo charging, power-maximizing direct fuel injection and variable cam timing.
Not only is the Indmar 2.3L loaded with innovative technologies, the lightweight, compact package delivers a big punch, touting 350 foot-pounds of torque and 310 horsepower. That’s better performance than the typical marine Chevy 350 in a much lighter and more-compact platform. It is also the only turbocharged marine engine in its segment and it’s the most powerful inboard marine engine per liter, packing 135 horsepower per liter. This kind of performance comes standard with a dose of adrenaline and confirms that the 2.3L EcoBoost by Indmar may be small in stature, but it’s fierce in power!
Although Indmar offers a matching pump-propulsion system, Rogue Jet incorporates the time-tested American Turbine SD 203 AF jet pump which is ideally designed for boats up to 330 HP. The SD 203 is much lighter than other pumps and features a stainless impeller and wear ring. The SD nomenclature stands for Split Duct, which provides excellent reverse operations. The pump utilizes an axial-flow design that passes sticks and stones, and operates well in aerated water. The intake is “stomp-grate ready” and the nozzle has tunable inserts. For easy pump-service access, the SD 203 also features a hand-hole cover that’s accessed outside the boat’s transom, so you can gain access inside the pump and not fill your boat to the water line while doing so (don’t ask me why I know this).
Not only does the center console make for an ideal fishing platform, the swim step, complete with stomp grate and pump access, protects the pump, is an ideal location for a cooler, or better yet, to stand upon while fighting a fish in calm water.
Center-console jet boats are not new to the industry, but they fell out of favor years ago, and have only recently regained traction…and for good reason. When running a river and reading water, visibility is a key factor. The center-console position puts the driver in full control, with centerline sight and easy frontal view. Although many can navigate well using a tiller, there is little doubt that a steering wheel is more intuitive, and the Rogue Jet’s custom billet rack-and-pinion steering provides ¾-turn, lock-to-lock steering. Add to the center-console design a mid-engine application and you now have 360 degrees of usable area around the boat while also providing an unmatched, evenly balanced draft that equals matchless performance and shallow-water capability. I call this a win-win.
All Rogue Jet boats receive tremendous attention to detail with highly scrutinized fit and finish. Boats receive a full-interior, hammer-tone powder coating including the diamond plate, and a full 3M marine wrap on the boat’s sides. The Chinook XL Mid-Engine can be configured with two- to four front-mounted seats, and the captain’s station is set up with a moveable four-legged seat, although a fixed seat is optional.
This Rogue Jet has a non-radiused bottom. Note the continuous welds on the stout, full-length box girders.
The Chinook’s step-up bow is fully diamond plated and offers a large fish box and separate, oversized anchor locker. For fishing convenience, a full-length, rubber-covered rail system wraps the inside gunnel for endless rod-holder placement. Under-gunnel trays run fore to aft, and to reduce clutter, flush-mounted, pop-up mooring cleats grace the gunnel.
Rogue Jet boats are 100% made for the customer, and the list of options and possibilities are endless. A popular option with center-console boats includes the addition of a T-top, which can be designed with or without a windscreen. Finally, you can add a full standing-height sunshade and get the customized fisher-friendly setup you’ve been dreaming of, while adding an appealing design element.
The Guardian Trailer Division at Rogue Jet builds boat-specific trailers for every boat they manufacture. All Guardian Trailers are built with uncompromising quality and relentless durability utilizing their proprietary D-tube design, full-length welds, overlay gussets at stress points, diamond-plate fenders and Torflex axles with surge brakes. Standard equipment includes waterproof LED lights, oil-bath hubs, with UHMW-covered bunks and side guides. Guardian trailers are available with custom wheels, a swing-away tongue, and an electric-over-hydraulic brake system. The Guardian Trailer looks as good as it performs. For more information go to: roguejetboats.com.
The 22’ Chinook XL Mid-Engine sits perfectly on the all-welded, all-aluminum Guardian Trailer.
Troy Buzalsky is the Boats columnist for Fish Alaska magazine, and when not writing about boats or working his career in the fire service, Troy can likely be found chasing fish in the Pacific Northwest and the 49th state and writing about those adventures. Troy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.