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Jet Boat Talk with Vic Carrao

Top 11 things on my list plus a few tips.

Each winter I spend a considerable amount of time repairing and tinkering on boats. Although most of this work is necessary I do find myself looking for ways to improve the interior storage, performance and overall looks of my boats. I just spent 5 days down on the Snake River in Idaho with good friend and Snake River legend Ernie Heimgartner. Ernie is 76 and has been jet boating since the beginning of this great sport. His boat is something else, a camperized jet boat is probably the best way to describe it. Everything is custom built by Ernie, retractable awnings, pop up tent on the roof for guests, chilli cooker for those cold winter days steelhead fishing, custom bar fully stocked, and the list goes on. I sometimes wonder how this boat floats as every inch has been filled or customized to fit something that Ernie might need while out on a trip.

Here a couple pics from my recent trip to Idaho Look real close, that is only a fraction of what this boat holds

Here a couple pics from my recent trip, look real close at the picture on the far right, that is only a fraction of what this boat holds.

In this article I will try to cover some basics, pet peeves and maintaining your jet boat performance. If you find yourself customizing your own boat, please feel free to share your ideas, I love hearing them.

#1 – Winter Storage (jet boat basics).

If you’re one of the many jet boat owners who put away the boat for the winter there are a few things you need to know before you tie the tarp down.

  • Add fuel stabilizer – although winters in the Fraser Valley are not as harsh as Alberta or back east, many jet boaters will put away the boat in exchange for the snow skis or sleds, when we store our jet boats will fill the fuel tank and add stabilizer. This will reduce the amount of condensation and give you a quick and easy start up come spring.
  • Drain sand trap and intake hose – Almost every boater I know has at least once, forgot to drain their sand trap, resulting in damage the first time it freezes. Not only do you need to drain the sand trap but also your intake hose coming from trap leading into your intake manifold. There should be a “t” connection in the line somewhere between your trap and intake. If you don’t put your boat away for the winter be sure to drain both sand trap and hose after each use.
  • Fogging your cylinders is something many boaters do, although I don’t do this to my engines, it is recommended by many manufactures, especially if the storage time in greater than a few months. You might want to talk to a local mechanic before you do this.
  • Empty out all compartments – unless your lucky enough to have indoor heated storage you should be removing everything from inside your boat. There is nothing worse than finding all your life jackets ,waders and fishing tackle covered in mold.

#2 – Corrosion & Mold

I probably could have put this paragraph above winter storage as this is something everyone should probably do before they put away their jet boats for the winter. I am guilty of the same but this year it is # 1 on my list of things to do before I store my boats.

Dry out your carpet and dry storage areas, even if it takes using your wifes blow dryer. Seriously, there is nothing worse than mold in your boat. Take the time to remove mold, I suggest steam cleaning any carpet then drying with a good commercial floor heater. This year I also replaced all the wood floors and vinyl cover in my 22ft HCM. After 5 seasons of hard use it was time. I found it quite easy to do and was surprised at how inexpensive it was.

  • Corrosion is something that needs to be dealt with on a ongoing basis. If your jet boat is like mine, most of your main breakers and battery connections are located near the engine or rear of the boat. No matter how water proof or sealed your engine compartment is, moister will find its way in.
  • Tip – if you keep blowing fuses, there is a good chance that you have either a corrosion problem or one of your main breaker fuses is either cracked or corroded.

#3 – Pump Performance

Each and every time you put your jet boat in the water, parts are wearing out. Sounds bad but it’ the reality of owning a boat. Ever hear the expression Bring Out Another Thousand or (B.O.A.T). Your pump is probably the single most important piece of the performance puzzle. It controls load or carrying capacity, hole shot or how quickly your boat comes to plain, fuel economy and cruising speed. The overall performance of your jet boat is dependent on how well your pump is tuned.

On rivers that run clear, pump wear is minimal compared to silt rivers like the Fraser River. Rivers like the Fraser are constantly wearing at the impeller which in turn, reduces performance. The impeller rotates at high speed inside a wear ring, in layman terms, the distance between the impeller and wear ring determines your load capacity, fuel economy and overall performance.

How to tell if your pump needs work.

If you are:
burning more fuel, cruising at higher rpm, slow out of the hole, sluggish at full load, feel like you are running hard all the time. Any of the above, there is a good chance that your impeller needs work.

Tip – know your top RPM, each time you take your boat out, place the throttle in the full on position, yes I mean open it up, balls to the wall. I usually do this at the end of the day on my way back to the launch. ( not in front of the Marina) When my pump is in prime condition my top RPM is 3900, as the impeller begins to wear my RPM will increase. If I have not done any major damage by the end of the season my top RPM will have increased by 100 to 150 RPM, if I chew some rocks or gravel through my pump I will notice a increase in RPM on same day as the damage is done. Knowing your top RPM is knowing your boat at peak performance. As a general rule, 100-150 RPM increase is about all you can take before you begin to notice reduced performance. Once your RPM has increased above that you should be looking at repairs.

Notice how tight the impeller is to the sleeve These are from a Sportjet pump

Notice on the left picture how tight the impeller is to the sleeve, these are from a Sportjet pump.

Tip – Local repair shops are very expensive ranging from $800- $1500 for a Impeller re-build. I take mine down to Jetco in Clarkston Washington and get it done for less than $400. You can even ship the bowl and Impeller down yourself and still save money. These guys are experts in pump repairs and tuning.

#4 – Pump maintenance – bearings

In the past 15 or so years of running jet boats I have not once had an issue with a pump bearing. Why, probably because of my due diligence following manufactures greasing recommendations. Each pump manufacture is a bit different but with my Hamilton I grease the main bearing every 15 hours. If you use your boat on weekends or once or twice a month, I would grease every second time I take it out.

Tip – don’t over grease, with Hamilton’s all you need is 3 to 4 pumps each time. If you are running AT pumps, there is two grease locations, one inside and one outside in the nozzle.

Custom– If you’re like me and want the best possible performance from your boat, there is a little simple performance upgrade that you can do to make your steering improve significantly. We have added two grease nipples to the pump nozzle, one at the top fitting, the other at the bottom. These grease locations are not greasing any bearings but they do make the nozzle turn with ease. Once you have installed these two grease nipples, grease it each time before you put the boat in the water.

#5 – Tightening Reverse Bucket Bolts

This past year we have has some issues with bolts coming loose. The common one seems to be the two large bolts holding the reverse bucket to pump. One of our Customweld jet boats had the port side bolt come off and damage the pump, when I pulled my boat out of the water next day I just thought I would have a look and sure enough, one of my bolts were coming loose. I am not sure how common this is but it is something that we all need to keep an eye on.

There are two bolts holding the reverse bucket in place, one on each side. These two bolts should be checked occasionally to ensure they are tight, if you decide to tighten, I would suggest taking them off , give them a good cleaning then put back on using red or blue Lock Tight.

#6 – Bench Seat Upgrades

I know you’re going to agree with me on this one. Every jet boat I have ever owned has passenger bench seats. The seats are great, they provide lots of storage space but my issue is access to fishing tackle. Every time I need something I have to lift up a bench and search for whatever it is I am trying to find. It is not so bad if I am the only person in the boat but how often is that? Never.

Custom – Build two drawers in one of the bench seats that can hold tackle and smaller items. This would eliminate the need to constantly lift the bench seats and not use up all the space. Once I get this done I will post some pics.

#7 – Battery Booster / 1000 watt inverter

If you camp in your boat like we do, you will need both of these items.. The 1000 watt inverter will keep the wife happy as she will be able to use accessories like coffee maker and blow dryer, The battery booster will get your boat going once your wife has completely drained all of your batteries.

Custom– I had a compartment made for easy access to my inverter.

#8 – Transducers

Some of the new side imaging fish finders are coming out with quite large transducers, The Humminbird Side Imaging series is a good example. I was having some issues with the bracket holding the transducer in place so I built a aluminum box to protect it and keep it from flipping up or breaking off.

This Aluminum box protects the transducer and keeps the transducer is correct position This Aluminum box protects the transducer and keeps the transducer is correct position

This Aluminum box protects the transducer and keeps the transducer is correct position

#9 – Back Drop Curtains

Back Drop Curtains are one of my pet peeves, they get very scratched and can be hard to clean if you don’t use the correct products. Believe it or not, I have the secret cleaner that will make your old scratched plastic look like new again. Lemon Pledge furniture polish is without a doubt the best product to use on your back drop curtain. It not only cleans but also fills all the scratches with was and makes your curtain look like new.

#10 – Bow Damage

Bow Damage due to anchore or rocks is something we just can’t avoid, each and everytime you lift your anchore it hits the bow causing scratches and dents. When going into shore i often find myself looking for a sandy beach so I don’t scratch the bow and keel. Last year i had Jamie from High Caliber put a sheet of 1/2 teflon from my bow to start of the keel and wow, what a difference. Not only do I slide on and off shore easier but I don’t worry about the anchore hitting the bow.

Jamie at high caliber does a great job, check out his website at

#11 – Seminar

Last but not least, if you’re like me and spend as much time as possible on the water, you should join our 2012 river seminar. We run from Mission to Hells Gate which is over 200 river kilometres. Even if you are an experienced boater, this is a great trip with lots of interesting jet boating including some big white-water in the Fraser Canyon. More information is available at

If you have any comments or would like to contribute to our next Jet Boating Talk, please feel free to e-mail us. Until next time, keep those turns tight and keep off the rocks.
Vic Carrao
STS Guiding Service

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