The “waterjet” was invented in 1953 by Sir Charles William Fielden Hamilton (1899-1978), (Commonly known as Bill Hamilton) in New Zealand’s South Island.
Bill Hamilton spent his younger years canoeing the rivers of the South Islands high country and the jet boat was born of his dream to create a boat that could travel fast against the current and travel safely in very shallow water.
Hamilton always insisted that the inventor of the “waterjet” was not him but “Archimedes, a chap who lived some time ago”.
No matter who gets the credit the jet boat has changed the navigation of our world’s rivers forever.
The many critic’s of the jet boat were silenced forever when a team including Bill’s son Jon successfully navigated the Grand Canyon in 1960, and in the following years there were successful expeditions up the Ganges, Zaire and Amazon rivers sealing the success of the invention worldwide.
Now days the jet boat is enjoyed by thousands of people, all over the world in many ways.
There are commercial jet boat operator on most of our major rivers offering trips that range from passive sight seeing and historic educational trips through to adrenaline pumping, thrill seeking speed rides through some of the most spectacular scenery the world has to offer.
Jet boat racing is a popular worldwide sport raced in many different classes, some of these machines are monster V8 powered vessels capable of 0 – 90 MPH in around 3 seconds, and are raced over set courses of waterways in timed competitions. It’s a loud and fast experience, these boats sometimes appear to be on rails when cornering and it’s a spectacular spectator sport.
If you’re looking to get into jet boating there are many affordable options available on and off line, I would suggest a novice to join a club or get some formal river navigation training before tackling anything to challenging. These boats are fast and they travel in shallow water’s with many obstacles close by so you need to know what you’re doing to ensure a safe adventure. Having said that once you’re up to operational speed and you know the waterway your travelling on there is little to match the excitement of flying up a river, navigating rapids and doing the occasional Hamilton turn (360).
A river boat with a very shallow v hull and jet propulsion however do not make for stable sea craft and I advise against using this type of boat on the open sea, at the very least you will have a very uncomfortable ride and due to the instability of the hull you may end up in greater danger, remember always make sure your vessel is suitable to the task at hand.
Jet propulsion is however not just confined to the freshwater; in the right hull jet propulsion can be very efficient at sea. I have even seen large vessels of 100 feet or more with jet propulsion, carrying tonnes of cargo, travelling at good speed.
Remember folks be careful out there and enjoy your adventures, in safety.
Play hard and play safe.