I had never heard of a jet boat before Jimmy sent me a video of a guy flying down a river in a small extremely fast aluminum boat. In this episode, Jimmy joins me to tell how he built a jet boat from a jet ski.
We go through a few steps:
- Finding the right jet ski with the correct motor
- Getting the jet ski motor rebuilt
- Taking apart the jet ski
- Driving the parts to RiverRat Jet Boats in Ohio
- Working with David at RiverRat
- Test driving the boat
- Future modifications and things learned
Listen to more of Jimmy and I on this episode of GF Radio.
Jimmy first heard of the Jet Boat from an AquaChigger Video
Find David of RiverRat Jet Boats in Tiffin, Ohio on Instagram https://instagram.com/riverratjetboat
Eric: Hey, welcome to GardenFork Radio. Thanks for downloading the show. My name is Eric. I’m your host. I have this podcast and a YouTube channel. It’s all about eclectic DIY it’s fixing stuff or building stuff or cooking stuff. And me and my friends talk about what we think are interesting, and I hope that you will find it interesting as well. Today. I’m here with the executive producer and longtime friend of garden, fork radio, Jimmy. Welcome, Jimmy.
Jimmy: They welcome. I love that intro music. I tell you what, every time I hear that I can’t wait to see what’s in store and this time it’s me. How are you doing here?
Eric: I’m great. It’s , I’m S I got a big smile on my face, cause we don’t talk often enough. We text a lot, with your great knowledge and influence on the podcast. but we don’t talk as much as we should know.
Jimmy: And it’s still funny. Cause when I hear your voice, I get, I still get starstruck.
Eric: Well, I’m star struck today because you sent me a text of you standing next to what looked like an aluminum UFO. And I’m like, what’s that? And you said, it’s my new jet boat. And then you sent me a link to a YouTube channel and I went down a rabbit hole.
Jimmy: Yeah, you might have to brush up on your welding skills. If you want to put one, you get, you can buy a kit and put it together, but it all just got more overwhelming. I may want one of these things for like four, five years. I just saw a video one time, this a guy named Thomas Hewitt and he’s in, New Zealand. And I think that’s where they kind of started. , yeah. And if you just Google or go on YouTube and put in a jet boat, New Zealand or mini jet boat, you’ll see them. And they do look like UFO’s as funny or, you know, some people say it looks like, , it looks like James Bond’s boats.
Eric: Yes. Yes. So let’s just dial back for a minute. And what is a jet boat?
Jimmy: Well, , I’m sure everyone knows what a jet ski is. And this is, a tiny little two seat, even though I’ve seen them now, they’re making them for seat and they, they, they even make them that are 50 feet long where they take people up giant rivers on excursions and whatnot. But, , this thing is 11 feet long. It has two seats and it has the engine out of a jet ski sitting right behind you. And instead of riding over top of it, it’s in the back. And so it sucks water up from underneath of the boat and shoots it out the back. That’s what propels you. And you can buy this kit and weld all these flat pieces together, bend it, weld it. And then you put a jet ski engine in it. And there’s a whole lot of complicated stuff involved with it, but that’s essentially it it’s, it weighs less than a jet ski it’s it looks much bigger, but it weighs less. Cause it’s not all fiberglass.
Eric: Well, the video you sent me, I was like, Holy cow, it was two guys in a jet ski with what looked like a GoPro. And the one guy is driving and steering the other guy’s holding on with a rope.
Jimmy: Yes. Like the rope idea.
Eric: And they’re skimming over the water and able to fly across really shallow, shallow. They looked like they were in a river and really shallow parts of a river to the point at the bottom was scraping.
Jimmy: Yeah. So the bottom is covered. I mean, this is something that you can add if you’re just going to get one and put it in a Lake. I mean, you’re, you’re kind of an idiot because if there’s one other boat on the Lake, this thing is going to just beat you to death because it’s not really meant to take, , any kind of sideward wave action and stuff. I mean, if you want to go hit some stuff, you can jump over a big wake. Absolutely. But, , it’s not meant to be out there with a bunch of other boats. It’s, it’s semi flat bottom with like a V hall front where it goes from a V to a flat bottom, and it’s got a little swim deck on the back where you can climb in and out. And it’s real basic. But essentially what you do is you take a jet ski and you just tear everything out of it.
Jimmy: The engine, the, , all of the electronics, the steering cables, the gas tank, the, , the muffler, which actually water runs through. Just take everything out of the Jessie. I paid my, my jet ski mechanic guy a hundred dollars and he just tore everything out of it, put it all in my, back of my wife’s little Subaru. And then I drove it up to this guy in Ohio, , David, a river rat jet boats. And, he helped me put the whole thing together. So it was kind of a one-stop deal. I knew that me and my dad could weld the thing together, but then I’m not going to be able to tear the ski apart where I could tear it. I could tear anything apart, right. That wasn’t going to behave with it. Put it in here. Yeah. There’s, there’s like the intake part where it sucks up out and goes into the engine.
Jimmy: You can’t take that out of the jet ski. you have to, that has like it’s specialized. So depending on what motor you have, if it’s a two stroke or a four stroke or Dave and a half four strokes supercharged Rotax is out of some of these big Polaris ones are 300 and 320 horsepower, just insane. people put like 20 or 40 gallon gas tanks in them so that they can go a long ways. But the way I went with mine, it’s it’s from a 1998, Cal Saki 1100, STX, which is, was like the Cadillac of a jet skis in 1998. They made a smaller version with the same engine, which is faster, but this is the big one that you can put three people on, but I just pretty much bought it for the engine. And it had, that was it. I got it for like $800 with a trailer that would hold two jets skis.
Jimmy: Oh, wow. So, so I paid this guy, , my boat mechanic, you know, hundreds of dollars to rebuild the engine and just kind of refresh it because you know, it was 21 years old and then he kept the shell and he’s using parts of that. And he might says he might turn it back into one cause he’s got all these other parts, but, it was a fun process. I bought that jet ski in the summer of 2019 and rode the jet ski around that summer and made sure that the engine was all going right and got everything ironed out. And I learned a lot about two-stroke motors
Eric: Cause the, the Kawasaki you had is a two stroke. It is. So for everyone listening, a two-stroke engine will burn a gas, oil mixture, and four stroke burns, just gas, four stroke engines are like your, , car is a four stroke engine. And two stroke is like a chain saw engine
Jimmy: Motorcycle. Yeah. So older, you know, dirt motorcycle, everything is really lately going to four strokes because, , number one, they’re they’re cleaner. And, but they tend to be a little, have to be a little bigger and a little heavier. and they’re more expensive. But the, this, this motor was when I was researching and I talked to all these different people that make the boats like people at mini jet and people at jet stream, adventure, boats, the big people who really do them all up in Canada. And so what kind of jet ski shot I’ll be looking for? And they say either, a Rotax or one of these Cal sockies. So the Rotax when they, when they break, they break bad and they’re expensive and they’re finicky. But he said, this one here, this 1100 cow Saki is just, it’s small, it’s light, it’s simple and they’ll run forever. And I liked the sound of all that. And they were cheap. So these people who were building these ones with superchargers and all these gizmos and gadgets and huge gas tanks, if they get stuck, they’re not going to be able to get behind it and slide this thing off of the rock and they’re stuck on. Right. So I just figured it goes small light, nimble, you know, like Bruce Lee,
Eric: Do you shop on Amazon? I shop locally and also on Amazon and other line line stores. If I need something very specific light seat covers for the new used car we just bought, I will go online and sometimes use Amazon and GardenFork happens to have a dedicated shopping page on the Amazon site now, which is very cool. It is an affiliate linked page. We do get a finder’s fee for anything that you buy when you start shopping from that page. But I list their interesting items that I think are worthy of the GardenFork, DIY person, it’s amazon.com/shop/GardenFork. If you would start your Amazon shopping experience, no matter what you’re looking for on Amazon started at GardenFork. And that would be great. It’s amazon.com/shop/GardenFork. That’s amazon.com/shop/GardenFork. So you brought all this up to, , the gentlemen up in Ohio and it took them like weeks or a couple of months to put it all together for you.
Jimmy: Yeah, it took about cause you know, with Christmas, , it took about five or six weeks. I got kind of lucky because when I was the first person after watching this video on YouTube, this guy is channels called Aqua chigger. Like the bug C H I G G E R. And he just showed up with one, one day he’s goes metal detecting and venturing and goes in caves. And he had a, a kayak that had a built-in motor that he would use to get all these places. He wanted to go on these rivers in Maryland. And then one day he shows up with this jet boat and I was just like, Oh my God, that’s one of the boats I want. And he said, he bought it from this guy in Ohio. And I was excited because it was so close to North Carolina. I said, I can drive up and talk to this guy.
Jimmy: So I was the first person to email him. And then I got him on Instagram and we were talking that night and I got first in line and it wasn’t just a week later he was booked up until March with the owners. But I got super lucky because he had already built this boat and it was built for the engine that I had because he already, as a matter of fact, he had two of those engines sitting in a shop just like mine. They’re like teal blue. You can’t miss it. And he had built this boat for, and it was for this motor. And then he just decided all of a sudden he wanted to have a four stroke, but the boat wasn’t built and designed for it. So he sold me the one that he built for himself. So I kind of thought if you’re building it for yourself, you know, you’re, you’re probably doing a really good job cause it’s for you.
Jimmy: So I got that boat and then he started, he’s building his own. I’m watching him on Instagram as he goes through building. Is that a, what was that? I was going to say earlier, you talked about the, how the boat can go in shallow water. You can run it through zero water if there’s like a huge sandbar or like a tree that’s halfway submerged across the water. The whole bottom of it is covered in this half inch thick, , U H M w plastic. And that stands for ultra high molecular weight. It’s really danced. I mean, you can take the super sharp hunting knife and just jab into it and like pull backwards on it and just going to leave a tiny little scratch. And it’s almost semi self healing. So I’ve seen people that will they jump them over, over a bank and into another body of water or, or they’ll run it right up onto the bank, in the snow, , and just, and go like a hundred yards and we’re looped back into another bit of water. So all that really had me excited for five years. I haven’t done any of that yet. I’ve only had it on the Lake because, , , all the river’s been kind of swollen and the places where you can go put them in are still muddy. They have went and got them ready for spring yet, but it is it’s, it might be the funniest thing I’ve ever owned.
Eric: So you sent me a picture, a little video or a picture of you with it, , on the Lake. And there were two guys in a fishing boat, Jon boat, and they, they looked a little concerned. Was there, , where they actually were they just curious about the boat or they really didn’t want the boat near them?
Jimmy: I think it was mostly curiosity if they were, they were, it was right by the dock. So they weren’t going out, you know, a hundred yards from the dock and fishing. They were either on their way in, or on their way out, but you know what? I didn’t care. I just got a new toy and I just went, just went to rip. And that was the day that I got it. And the guy was out there showing me how to do everything. But I mean, it, it turns a lot of heads. I’ve, I’d never seen one in person and boy, when they got back off the water and we’re pulling it out, it’s a whole crowd gathered around with questions, wanting to see what it was, how much are they? Where’d you get this? W what is this thing? They were like asking questions out of order that they all wanted to see the engine. And yeah, even the, that runs the Marine that came out there and he’s like, what is that thing? He was like, what, what propels that thing? And he says, you were throwing like a 30 foot rooster tail behind you. What’s
Eric: Going on. Wow. So
Jimmy: He’s got adjustable trim. Oh, wow. So you can, it’s just three positions backs and the center where you’re going to run it most of the time. But if you, if you put the trim forward, it sort of dips the backend down. Yep. And it drags them in swimming. You could, you can go by and just sink someone in a canoe, which I plan on doing to my buddies on the river trip.
Eric: I like canoes.
Jimmy: Oh, I, I have a canoe. I need two boats. I have, I usually have two canoes and I’ve got, you know, trolling motor set up on, on my canoe. And that’s what I’ve done for years. I love to go up river because you can go by yourself. Yep. And then you come back down, there’s your truck. Well, this thing here, you can go up wherever, but, , you can get where you’re going a little bit faster. Anyway, if you see like a little side channel coming off the river, you can just, if you scouted a little bit, you can just go through. I mean, if you’re sitting still, you can probably get away with being in like six inches of water. Yeah. But if you’re just ripping, you can go through three inches of water. Wow. Cause it sort of lifts itself up and mine’s got this built in thing, the grade in the bottom, I dunno.
Jimmy: It’s about the size of a, like a tray from McDonald’s that you get your food on, maybe a few inches more narrow. And it’s just these metal slats where it sucks the water up then. And the slats are there to keep from sucking up rocks and sticks and leaves and things. But if that gets clogged, the performance really drops off fast. So this has, this has another set of grapes that are located directly above those. And there’s, there’s this little platform in the back with two little pipes that spring loaded. And you step on that and it drives that top series of plates through the bottom ones. Like you put your fingers out, facing each other and just sort of, you know, weave them up and down through it just sort of cleans everything out. But what I’ve found out is if you don’t turn the engine off, the suction won’t let anything loose.
Jimmy: So, , yeah, I learned that I got back into some leaves, , displace at the end of the Lake and the whole bottom just got clogged and it was freezing cold. And I was stuck in a sandbar. I had to take off my boots and my socks and roll my pants all the way up. And I finally got the thing off, but it, it, it wasn’t running very good. It was just very sluggish. So it was just like bla bla, bla bla bla. So I’m motored that way for 20, 25 minutes, which if the boat was running I’ve would have been able to go that far in about, I don’t know, 90 seconds. So that fouled the plugs. Cause I took it out again. The week later after I got the big gob of goo out from underneath of it. So that was jumping on the stomp grape, but I wasn’t turning the engine off. So it was sort of keeping everything stuck. So I’m trying to learn all this stuff before for spring come. So yeah, the guy replaced the plugs and he said, Oh yeah, they’re filed. They were just black because he said, where you idle in it for a long time. And I said about a half hour. There you go. Yeah, that’ll do it.
Eric: No, it’s, it’s David of RiverRat Jet Boats is the guy in Ohio.
Jimmy: That’s it? Yeah. David, you can, if you look at up, I think, I think he has a Facebook page. I don’t use Facebook, but I know he has an Instagram and you can contact him through that. Cause you can buy a kit. He actually, he has a license through, mini jet and they had this original design and this new design is built different. , the rear end is different. It’s sort of, the backend has more flotation built into it. And the bottom of it has these things I can think of. They’re called. Strafes sorta like when you have a canoe, that’s got those rails on the bottom that helps the boat track better.
Eric: Yes. it’s called a Skeg.
Jimmy: All right. So this has got those built into it. So it allows you to make a little bit more precise turns and the boat just tracks better. So they, he was building these, the old style boats, but they didn’t want to let him build the new ones. Well, they finally relented and now he has to, he pays them a certain amount of money for everyone that he builds.
Eric: He has a license,
Jimmy: A license. Yeah. And that’s all aluminum. That’s cut on a CNC machine. Ben folded and they’ll ship them to you on a big pallet and you can weld it all together yourself. There’s lots of YouTube videos. You can watch guys going from the beginning to the end. There’s one guy. I think his YouTube channel is local host. It’s weird, but he doesn’t get a lot of views, but him and his buddies showing him unpack in the crate, in a burning, a burning the crate up, out in the yard and start starting to weld on the thing. And you know, not the best looking welds, but , you know, welding aluminum takes an art.
Eric: Oh, it’s hard. It’s hard. All right. So I’ll link to all that. cause I see the video here of Aqua Aqua chigger with his, , jet boat. So I’ll have to watch that.
Jimmy: So that’s it. And well, he said there in that thing, which got me super excited that if you get a hold of David, a river rat and you ended buying a boat, which I had pretty much already decided, he said, he’ll send you a two hats. And I just got my Aqua chigger hats yesterday. I was so excited. I’m part of cigs army.
Eric: Yeah. You’re the, you’re the head, the head of the GardenFork army. But , you don’t have a hat.
Jimmy: I do have a, I’ve got two hoodies
Jimmy: And , I got a G-Fork sticker on the back of my truck. Yeah. Yeah. Never been asked about that. I think people are a little afraid. They ask more, more often they ask about this, this jug that I have on the back that has a huge magnet in it that I always have sitting on the side of the bed. It’ll stay on there going like 70 miles an hour. People will stop at a red light and they’re like, you see them tapping on the glass or honking the horn or rolling down the window. And they’re like, Hey, Hey, Hey man, you got that thing on there. I’m like, Oh, thanks. Sometimes I’ll even jump out and pull it off and like stick it right to the side of the truck. And they’re like, Oh, okay. You gotta be good. But it’s a no, it’s fun. It’s a good, it’s a good little advertisement for my business
Eric: Garden. Fork radio is produced by GardenFork media, LLC in Brooklyn, New York, executive producer, Jimmy Coots. If you’d like to learn more about Jimmy and the custom hollow books, he makes you can visit hollowbooks.com. The music for our show is licensed from audio blocks.com and unique tracks.com.