Story by Troy A Buzalsky photos curtesy of MiniJet and MotoJet
Jet boating has been an evolutionary process over the years, and today’s jet boats are nothing like the jet boats pioneered by Sir William Hamilton in 1954, whose goal was to navigate the fast-flowing waters of New Zealand that were too shallow for a prop-driven outdrive. I imagine he would have loved to pilot a Mini-Jet Boat back in his day.
The Hanley Hydrojet was the first waterjet on the market, and the pioneering spirit of Hamilton built upon the jet-propulsion concept. His first design netted an unimpressive 11 mph, but once he raised the Jetstream exit above the waterline, he was able to garner 17 mph and more importantly, eliminate the underwater components which were exposed and easily damaged in the shallow New Zealand waters. He named his initial jet the “Quinnat” which consisted of a vertical shaft and a right-angle gear box, not unlike today’s outboard jets or the Mercury SportJet series (hamiltonjet.com/global/waterjet-history, Waterjet History). Hamilton efforts have certainly shaped the jet-boat industry.
Early renditions of jet boats included wooden skiffs, fiberglass dinghies, and later, the aluminum sled. Creativity, material availability, and manufacturing capability shaped these early vessels. Most were smaller in design to match the available power plants. In my early days of jet boating, it was not uncommon to see 14- to 18-foot sleds, with a host of power and drive systems which even included snowmobile motors driving laminar-flow pumps.
Education, engineering, and evolution continued to shape the jet-boat industry which included outboard jet drives, compact jet units like the OMC TurboJet and the Mercury SportJet, and the inboard drive unit that included big-block applications.
Kawasaki introduced the “Jet Ski” in 1973, creating the personal-watercraft (PWC) industry. The initial two-stroke, 400 cc powerplant produced 24.5 HP respectively and was designed as a “stand-up” one-person watercraft. Today the personal-watercraft industry has evolved greatly, and today’s PWCs are built with performance as a cornerstone. Today’s newest and most powerful “Jet Skis” produce more than 300 HP and speeds up to 83 mph, and have opened the door for a new, growing, and exciting niche industry, the “mini jet.”
Imagine crawling into the cockpit of a two-seater aluminum jet boat, complete with windshield, steering wheel, and fire-breathing horsepower designed to navigate in inches of water and capable of getting you into locations to which few can travel. Narrow creeks and channels, shallow riffles, powerful whitewater and all are possible with this capable craft, proving, as Uncle Grumpy used to always say, “Dynamite comes in small packages.”
Today’s mini-jet industry is quickly evolving, and the adept craft are available in precut kits or welded kits, and custom made from kits or as one-off masterpieces. There are a number of noteworthy manufacturers building mini jet boats, and as such, we will present this topic in two parts. The second installment will be featured in the August/September 21 boats column. In this first installment, we will cover MiniJet INC, Jetstream Adventure Boats and MotoJet. In Part 2 in the August/September issue, we will cover Atom Boats, FineLine Jetboats, Torch Craft and Class 5 Boatworks.
MiniJet INC offers mini-jet-boat kits, welded hulls, and turn-key boats out of its Ottawa location. They also have four other partnering fabricators located in Montreal, QC, Vancouver, BC, and Lacombe, AB, Canada, and one in Tiffin, Ohio, that offers kits. © MiniJet
When we talk about true innovators in the mini-jet field, Jamie Greenfield’s name consistently tops the list. Greenfield owns and operates MiniJet INC, located in Berwick, Ontario Canada, a small town just outside Ottawa. Greenfield’s early days in the boat industry included working on Americas Cup-style race boats with carbon-fiber fabrication and a stint at FireFish Industries, serving as a rigger and painter.
In 2011 Jamie became interested in building himself a mini jet boat after watching some YouTube videos from his homeland, New Zealand. After an exhaustive search and spending much time chatting with folks in New Zealand, he started a build with his own crafted CAD plans and posted a thread project, “Which was a huge hit,” explains Greenfield. Over the next several years, he was involved in a number of hobby builds for himself and a few friends. He also offered online support to many mini-jet projects. The relationships he built during this time would prove instrumental in the growth of the sport.
MiniJet INC offers mini-jet-boat kits, welded hulls, and turn-key boats out of its Berwick location. They also have four other partnering fabricators: one in Montreal, QC offering turn-key boats; one in Vancouver, BC; one in Lacombe, AB, both offering kits and welded MiniJet hulls; and one in Tiffin, Ohio that offers kits. The US location greatly helps in shipping and customs expenses for American purchasers.
MiniJet also serves as a one-stop shop for all the other parts needed to build a mini jet boat. Parts include die-cast intakes, shortened drive shafts, trimmable nozzles, trim levers and throttle controls, reverse buckets, specialty cables, steering wheels, heat exchangers, sand filters …You name it, if you need it to build a mini, MiniJet INC likely has it.
The MiniJet hull hit is built from 1/8” 5052 marine aluminum with the exception of the boat’s keel. You can order a keel in 1/4” or 3/8” 6061 super strength marine aluminum. They also offer ½” UHMW skid plates. You can order a keel in 1/4” or 3/8” 6061 super-strength marine aluminum. They also offer a keel section in 3/8” aluminum and UHMW skid plates. The kits come complete with all sheet material precut and pre-folded with everything needed except the pump intake. They also offer an extrusion kit that provides chine caps, lifting strakes, pump guard, and windscreen bullnose.
MiniJet boats are also available in a camo pattern, useful for hunters.
Greenfield says that most boat hulls can be welded by a novice or experienced welder and they supply the support you may need during the process. The boat kits can be assembled by one person but there are steps that are easier with a second person. All MiniJet hulls are adaptable for almost any engine application up to 300 horsepower.
If you are the do-it-yourselfer type, you can’t go wrong checking out the kits and weld hulls from MiniJet INC. And if you are looking for the ultimate in performance, MiniJet has you covered with a turn-key solution. Check out minijetboatbuilder.com.
Last summer I was mowing my yard when I heard a distant echo that drew my attention. As I turned off the mower the sound grew near. Looking downstream I saw two mini jet boats screaming up the river that makes up my backyard landscape. Amazed, these mini-jets navigated the boulder-infested river that is never navigated at summer levels. Twenty minutes later the boats came back down, and I made out the name “Jetstream” on the boats’ sides.
Jetstream is a Canadian-based company that manufactures CNC-cut, “ready-to-be-welded” mini-jet-boat kits and Lexan windows. The designs offer compatibility with most personal-watercraft propulsion systems and the possibilities to add personal touches are endless. Jetstream also offers welded hulls.
Jetstream offers three hull configurations: the 10’ Headwater, 12’ Buccaneer, and soon-to-be-released Diamondback. Kits are available as a basic hull, basic hull with stringers, and complete kit which includes boxed stringers, bulkhead, engine cover, cover brace, and compartment side lips. They also offer a host of options including grab rails, windshield kits, and UHMW, to name a few.
To help with your DIY build, Jetstream also offers the necessary parts and accessories to fully dial in your project. These include pump-intake housings, steering kits, filtration, battery trays, and even fuel-tank kits.
Being one of the first in North America to master the mini-jet kits, Jetstream is on the leading edge of the aluminum mini-jet-boat scene. Jetstream Boats have been tested and sculpted after years of abuse from the powerful British Columbia rivers, and are guaranteed to get your adrenaline churning. See more at jetstreamboats.com.
MotoJet is a site-build jet-boat manufacturer. They don’t buy third-party kits; everything is shop designed and built, utilizing the highest technologies of CAD drafting, CNC cutting and shaping, and MIG and TIG welding. The trusted name and legacy of Riddle is in every MotoJet. © MotoJet
“We can build their boat, or we can build your boat,” were words once echoed by Norm Riddle, founder of Weldcraft Boats, circa 1968. Prior to starting Weldcraft, Norm was building boats for large corporations and government agencies, but his true passion transpired the first time he laid his eyes on the Snake River. His awe was shared with his son Doug. By the late 1960s an interest in a boat for recreation purposes was bourgeoning in Norm’s soul, which led to the founding of the original Weldcraft Boats.
A true industry pioneer, Riddle set out to revolutionize a boat that could maneuver the extreme shallows and wild rapids that were prevalent on the Snake and Clearwater rivers. The Weldcraft company was built from the ground up, later ran by Doug, and later sold. This led to the formation of Riddle Marine, which was sold in 2017, opening yet another door for Doug, and now Patrick Riddle’s next venture…MotoJet, maker of world-class mini jet boats.
Mini jet boats are not a new concept for the Riddle boating family, having built 21 mini-jets for the fabled James Bond films Quantum of Solace and The World is Not Enough. Directors of the Bond films wanted a jet boat because they can take corners, slide, and do other spectacular maneuvers that were impossible for boats with propellers They looked no further than Doug Riddle to build their “Ultimate Jet Boat.” Today, one of the “Bond Boats” sits in the Lewiston, Idaho, showroom of MotoJet.
In 2012, Doug Riddle and his son Patrick were getting itchy, wanting back in the jet-boat world. Doug had been following the New Zealanders, who had been building “Wee Mini Jets” for quite some time, and figured what was good for New Zealand, the home to Sir William Hamilton, was probably ideal for the Pacific Northwest and beyond, and right in the Riddle-family wheelhouse. Enter the MotoJet prototype, a one-off mini-jet powered with an 1100 cc, 2-stroke Kawasaki personal-watercraft powerplant.
Since their first mini-jet, MotoJet has built over 200 of these amazing watercraft, having sold them across the United States, into Canada, and shipping two boats to Mongolia. In fact, at presrt-1s time, the next boat to leave the MotoJet assembly line will be shipped to Alaska’s Delta Junction. It’s the second boat delivered to this group; a 165 Hunter Center Console that will serve as a moose and bear hunting remote-access boat.
MotoJet is a site-build jet-boat manufacturer. They don’t buy third-party kits. Everything is shop designed and built, utilizing the most advanced technologies of CAD drafting, CNC cutting and shaping, and MIG and TIG welding.
Their model list includes their 115 Pioneer, 145 Sport, 145 North American, 150/165 Hunter, 165 Sport, and 165 North American. All completed boats are USCG compliant, all hulls are 100% custom, and your options are limited to your imagination and/or pocketbook.
MotoJet hulls are unique to the mini-jet industry and are worth noting. The five- piece bottom is manufactured with 3/16” full-length reverse chines made from 5086 marine aluminum. The two-sided keel is made from 3/16” 5086 marine aluminum, and the delta pad is made from 3/8” 6061 marine aluminum. Ask yourself, who uses 6061 aluminum? Almost nobody, but for these go-fast, rough-and-tough-tested watercraft, the Riddles insist on the strongest material possible. Also, the thick bottom is much better for the attachment of a 3/8” to 1/2” UHMW skid-plate and bottom covering.
The MotoJet has much in the way of performance and boat bling, and its list of options are endless. Fully custom-vinyl wrapped, ultra-premium non-skid flooring and decking, custom PRP Seats, Air Wave suspension seating, LED lighting including underwater lighting, marine electronics including high-end audio, and even an air-actuated stomp grate…No more stomp, just push a button.
MotoJet can adapt their boats to a host of powerplants, but they prefer the Yamaha line of personal watercraft engine-and-pump combos, up to the 1800 cc, 250 HP supercharged powerplant found on the top-of-the-line WaveRunner FX Limited SVHO. They also offer power tuning through Riva Racing, to get the absolute most out of these high-performance fire-breathing machines.
Steeped in tradition, deep in knowledge and capability, it’s no surprise that MotoJet has excelled in the mini-jet arena. Visit motojetusa.com to learn more.
Stay tuned for the August/September ‘21 issue where we will cover four other mini-jet-boat manufacturers, several of which operate in southcentral Alaska.
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.