Story by Troy Buzalsky
Heavy-gauge all-welded aluminum jet boats have always been near and dear to my heart. It might be because the first ankle-deep riffle I ever ran was achieved in an 18-foot inboard jet. It might be because the first Class IV whitewater I ever ran was in a 20-foot inboard jet. It might be because my first Chinook salmon and steelhead were caught in a 14-foot jet boat. It could be because I navigated my son 30-plus miles through an upriver canyon to bag his first mule deer from an inboard jet. Or it could be because the first real boat I ever owned was a 21-foot inboard jet boat.
Regardless, it’s fair to say jet-boating is my nirvana.
Today’s boating marketplace has changed. A decade ago if you went to your local boat show or dealer you would find a full lineup of jet boats, both inboard and outboard. Things have changed, today the jet boat has taken the backseat to the outboard prop boat, and although still built from all-welded heavy-gauge aluminum, they are different boats, great for certain water, but not the water less traveled—the water I prefer to spend my time running, sightseeing, fishing and even thrill-seeking. For these waters a jet boat is essential.
This boat column is going to explore two tried-and-true jet boats that have unique and practical application for the Alaska waters we enjoy.
If you hear the words “jon boat” you probably envision a small, lightweight, flat-bottomed boat that is perfectly adept for calm-water recreation. You also think of words like sparse, utilitarian and no-frills, yet functional for the attended purpose. Take one look at the SeaArk jon boats and you will quickly realize the company has revolutionized the jon-boat industry, building an all-welded heavy-gauge jon boat that raises the bar completely—with some models capable of crossing the bar.
SeaArk is no newcomer in the boating industry, emerging in 1958 as a pioneer in the all-welded aluminum boating world. In 1992 the family-owned company became SeaArk Boats, concentrating on all-welded, heavy-duty aluminum jon boats. After a few years of focusing on creating the best jon boat possible, SeaArk unveiled the “world’s largest jon boat” at 24 feet long with a 72-inch bottom. Recently, SeaArk upped the ante, engineering the Jon Modified V 2672, which is a whopping 26 feet in length.
SeaArk has 17 different models in a variety of lengths and widths, so finding your ideal boat is easy. Boaters have plenty of options to set-up these boats any way they prefer, helping make your new fishing craft as efficient as possible for your angling needs. © Sam Amato
All SeaArk Boats are U.S.-made in Arkansas, and yes, the “Ark” in SeaArk is for Arkansas, not Noah’s Ark! When looking at SeaArk Boats, you need to view the product as an artist would, the Jon Boat hull as the canvas, and the various options the artistry. Seating, consoles, windshield, live-wells, boxes…the list is endless to help you design not only the boat of your dreams, but a boat built to last your lifetime.
SeaArk has 17 different models in a variety of lengths and widths, so finding your ideal boat is easy. For jet-boat enthusiasts, SeaArk created the Jon Modified V Jet Tunnel (MVJT) series, available from 16- to 24 feet in length. The MV stands for Modified V—there is no flat-bottom design on SeaArk jon boats. All jon boats have a 3-degree V along with full-length lifting strakes and chines. The JT in the model name stands for jet tunnel. SeaArk’s jet tunnel hull is designed to be used with a jet and should not be confused with their outboardtunnel hull that is designed for a conventional prop-driven engine.
The jet tunnel design includes a flat roof in the tunnel to direct water back to the intake of the jet. The thrust of a jet outboard is approximately 70% of an equal-sized engine with a prop. This fact and the fact that a jet uses water for propulsion instead of a metal prop means that the operator loses some speed, directional control and performance. What is gained with a jet is the ability to operate in extreme shallow-water conditions without the fear of ruining a prop or damaging the venerable jet shoe. There’s also a huge safety factor with a jet, as you no longer have that twirling prop that can not only injure people and animals, but it can also play hell with fishing line, bow lines and tow ropes.
When it comes to designing your ultimate SeaArk, the options are endless. You can architect your design build with the available SeaArk options or you can do what many Alaskan’s do and have Dewey’s Cook Inlet make the modifications you desire.
Alaskan Sam Amato recently took delivery of his fourth SeaArk, each one different, and each perfect for his attended use. His last SeaArK, a Predator, was designed specifically for moose hunting. Designed with an inboard Mercury 200 Optimax motor, rear welded windshield with soft top and huge bow storage, Sam proudly boasts of his boat, “What 22-foot jon boat have you ever seen that could haul 260 gallons of fuel, gear and four guys 800 miles into the Yukon?” Sam recently changed directions with his boating needs, this time opting for the 2272 MVJT with center console, 105HP outboard jet and transom-mounted float pods for even better performance in shallow waters. Sam’s pretty confident the only boat that may run shallower would be an air boat.
Dewey’s Cook Inlet in Anchorage is one place to go to get started building your ultimate SeaArk, tailor-made for your Alaska recreation needs.
© Sam Amato
Dewey’s is one of four Alaska SeaArk dealers and is SeaArk’s number-one dealer in the United States. Ordering boats by the dozen, Dewey’s keeps an inventory of SeaArks on site and provides modification services that include mild installations to wild fabrications. With the assistance of Greatland Welding and Machine, Dewey’s can modify your SeaArk jon boat to fit your needs. Weld-n windshields, extra-large fuel tanks, hardtops, custom consoles…imagination is the architect of this limitless list.
If you fish or play on any Pacific Northwest waters, including Alaska’s rivers, lakes and estuaries, SeaArk just might be the jon boat of your dreams. They can handle running shallow waterways and over gravel bars, bounce off boulders and run over logs and beaver dams with relative ease. They can carry a fully-dressed bull moose while being equally adept hauling lodge equipment, ATVs, camping supplies or any other large load. And for serious anglers, the SeaArk can get you to waters few can experience, making a day on the water a much better experience.
A SeaArk loaded down with enough equipment and supplies for an extended Alaska bush adventure. © Sam Amato
SeaArk Boats have a national dealer network that includes the following Alaska dealers: Dewey’s Cook Inlet, Inc. in Anchorage.Compeau’s in Fairbanks. Rocky’s Marine in Petersburg. The Bay Company in Wrangell. For more information go to www.seaarkboats.com.
The other day I was enjoying the first day of sunshine in a long time, after one of the coldest and wettest winters ever. Living on the river, I was relishing my first cup of morning coffee and riverfront view when I heard a sound I seldom hear in my backyard, the sound of a big-block engine throttling up the boulder-infested waters that make up my landscape. As the sound grew closer I saw the local fire department was on the river training a new jet-boat driver. The crew waved as they navigated upriver. It was my first viewing of their new Rogue Jet Fire Rescue Boat, part of the regional water-rescue response team.
Bruce Wassom, the President and CEO of Rogue Jet Boatworks has been immersed in the all-aluminum heavy-gauge boat-building arena for more than 40 years. Bruce was the founding father of Jetcraft Boats in the early 1980s, and under his leadership, the company built more than 4,000 boats before being sold in 2001. Shortly thereafter he started Rogue Jet Boatworks, manufacturing custom all-welded heavy-gauge jet- and outboard-configured boats out of White City, OR. Today Rogue Jet builds approximately 80 boats per year and employs 24 skilled craftsmen with the intent to create “The Ultimate Jet Boat Experience.”
Rogue Jets are no ordinary boats. © Rogue Jet Boatworks
Rogue Jet is no ordinary boat, and although building 70% outboard applications to meet today’s market demand, they are one of the few manufacturers who actually specialize in jet boats. Starting with all marine-grade aluminum, each boat is assembled utilizing a series of custom extrusions while employing jig assembly techniques for precision accuracy. The typical 20- to 26-foot boats are manufactured with ⅛-inch 5086 sides and ¼-inch 5086 bottoms and incorporate an exclusive Rogue Jet Tapered Radius Performance Bottom that has been field-tested in the most difficult waters. Creating this bottom is no simple task and requires 14 precision folds, as it tapers forward to form a rounded keel. This technology creates a boat bottom that achieves better handling and performance while enjoying greater fuel economy.
The Rogue Valley is steep in history when it comes to aluminum boats, especially jet boats. From the early days of Glen Wooldridge to today, Bruce has chronicled four generations of jet boats. Today’s fourth-generation jet boats add state-of-the-art hydraulics that include Hamilton, Scott, American Turbine, Kodiak and Mercury pump outdrives. These newer pumps deliver over 90% efficiency and excel in pumping aeriated water, common in whitewater conditions.
Fourth-generation power-plants have improved dramatically, utilizing multi-port tuned sequential fuel injections, performance camshafts with variable valve timing, superchargers and highly-efficient computerized performance management systems. Chevy and Ford engines are commonplace in the jet-boat industry. Rogue Jet has developed a fondness for the Ford 6.2 Raptor, which develops 440 HP, and the fire-breathing Ford 6.2L 575 HP Roushcharged Raptor by Indmar Marine Engines.
The hulls of fourth-generation jet boats have also improved, with technology and manufacturing enhancements paving the way. Utilizing aerodynamic science, a new hull requires massive tooling and robotic computerized equipment in the manufacturing process. Utilizing a single sheet of aluminum, a 25-foot brake press forms complex shapes in the sheet aluminum, creating the hull sides and bottom. This process not only createsthe flagship Tapered Radius Bottom, it also increases strength and reduces extra seams, joints and brackets. This, plus the performance engineering that includes a tapered radius keel, reverse chines, matched lifting strakes and a variable-degree dead-rise, gives you the magic that makes Rogue Jet boats perform like no other boat on the water. The Rogue Jet hull is also backed by a lifetime hull warranty.
Today’s fourth-generation jet boats add state-of-the-art hydraulics as well as an exclusive Rogue Jet Tapered Radius Performance Bottom and dramatically improved power-plants. © Troy Buzalsky
Being a custom builder, Rogue Jet showcases 10 different models in their lineup, with endless options. Open sleds and windshield boats. Hardtops and soft-tops. Tiller-steer, helm-steer or center-console; it’s only a matter of choice. Gas or diesel, single or twin power-plant options are available. Paint or powder coat, vinyl or raw aluminum—again, there are a myriad of available choices in designing the last boat you will ever need.
Rogue Jets are built to last, and to perform in some of the toughest situations boaters can encounter. © Rogue Jet Boatworks
Over the last few years, 44% of Rogue Jet’s sales have been to fire and rescue, sheriff and other law enforcement agencies, search and rescue, and other government applications, where mission-critical performance is job number one. If you’re looking for a boat that’s field-tested by the best in the industry, check out Rogue Jet at www.roguejet.com.
Troy A. Buzalsky is a contributing editor for Fish Alaska magazine and pens the Boats Column monthly.