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Jetcraft / Evinrude Project Boat - May 30, 2002
by Chuck Maas

Those of you who spend any time around this site know how much I enjoy a project. Here’s another one.

In 2001 Harbercraft acquired Jetcraft. Both companies have built good boats and are familiar to many here in Alaska. With the melding of the companies has come some new models that blend lines and features from both. An example is the new 1825 SK Kokanee.

This is an 18’ boat of strong, yet lightweight, all-welded construction and a good hull design that comes about as close to an all-around boat as you can get. Deeps sides, internal fuel tank, a modest “V”, light enough to work well with a 35HP outboard on the Kenai, and priced so it will fit within a lot of budgets, this was the best selling boat at our February 2002 boat show. And with a delta keel (a flat pad or shoe at the stern keel) it works very well with a jet unit as well. The more you look the more you like.

Earlier this year Ken Baehr and I had decided we’d go together and build a small riverboat. At first it was going to be a Roughneck with a small jet outboard, but you know how things work – bigger is better, faster is better, a little shelter is better, etc., etc. Then we saw the Kokanee.

To add to the mix, I had the opportunity in January to visit the new Bombardier factory where they are now producing all the new Johnson and Evinrude outboard motors. That visit reaffirmed my faith in Bombardier, and in the Johnson and Evinrude brands. They’ve gone through every single motor design and refined and improved it, and the manufacture is state-of-the-art. The fuel injected 2-strokes are especially interesting. RAM injection works, resulting in much greater efficiency and fewer emissions while retaining the light comparative weight and rapid acceleration for which 2-strokes are famous. What a setup for a jet outboard.

The only problem is that Evinrude doesn’t package motors with jets. Not to be deterred, Ken and I decided we’d put one together ourselves and have the best of both worlds. So with Evinrude's blessing, and Jetcraft’s assistance, we’ve spec’d out a boat we believe will work exceedingly well, have high performance with good economy, and be just about the best craft for two guys ratting around the Susitna River drainage that we can imagine. Here’s what it will be like.

Jetcraft / Evinrude Project Boat
Jetcraft / Evinrude Project Boat

To the basic good qualities of the Jetcraft 1825SK Kokanee, we added a little more fuel capacity (45 gallons instead of the standard 35), put a bow roller on the front, and had the transom welded at 25’ height to accommodate the jet outboard. To that we’ll add a custom canvas top built by Kevin’s Upholstery, and power it with a 2002 Evinrude 115 to which we will add a jet unit. For electronics we’ll use Garmin GPS and depth sounder, portable VHF radio, and CB radio for along the river. The really important additional instrument is a FloScan fuel flow gauge. The FloScan will allow us to keep careful and accurate performance records and let you all know how this package really works.

The boat should arrive any day now and as soon as we can get it together we’ll be running it on the Big Su, the Deshka, and the Talkeetna. For those seriously interested in a demonstration, we just might be able to work that out. Since Ken’s semi-retired, chances are he’ll spend more time on the water than I will this summer, but between the two of us I know we’ll catch plenty of fish and see lots of the river. It’s a great place to spend time and enjoy some of the best Alaska has to offer.

Stay tuned for future ride reports and test results. And for those of you who like the concept, I’ll plant the seed right now; it just might be that a couple of very similar boats will be made available later this summer for discriminating customers. Keep in mind this is a limited edition, but that’s what makes it fun.

Jetcraft / Evinrude Project Boat - June 23, 2002
by Chuck Maas

We have a boat! Our joint project boat – a special Jetcraft 1825SK Kokanee – arrived at AMDS on Saturday, June 8, and the work began in earnest. With the summer season moving fast, we needed to get this boat in the water as soon as possible.

First up was a top. Kevin Arseneau of Kevin’s Upholstery does a superb job with canvas. He’s an artist. We wanted a top that was well proportioned, sturdy, and tall enough to be comfortable fishing from beneath it. He met all our goals. Note the distinctive three-stripe logo on the side that color-coordinates perfectly. I like this guy’s work so much I’d almost forego a hardtop even if I had the choice.

Then to the rigging. This took some time. Not only did we need to pull the lower unit off the engine and install a jet unit, we took the time to put in two batteries, full instrumentation including a FloScan fuel flow gauge. The electronics suit consists of a Garmin GPSMAP 176, Garmin Fishfinder 240 Blue, and Uniden CB radio. Gary Miller runs the Rigging Department at AMDS. Dennis Shelley is his able assistant, and they showed their stuff on this setup. In the interest of learning more about the boat and speeding up assembly, Ken Baehr also pitched in. Funny how things happen, but in the process he enjoyed himself so much he hired back on part time as a mechanic to work for Gary. Guess that will cut into his fishing time a little.

New Jetcraft Boat At Launch      Evinrude 115 Jet Motor
New Jetcraft Boat At Launch, and Evinrude 115 Jet Motor

With Ken’s help we had the boat ready for its initial voyage on Tuesday, June 18. The only place to test boats in Anchorage is in Cook Inlet, putting in at the public boat launch near the Port of Anchorage. A quiet fresh water lake would be nice, but sometimes you’ve got to take what’s available. Timing the tide to ensure reasonable launch and recovery, we put it in the water for about an hour of easy break-in and a check of all the systems.

Right away we knew we had a winner. At 3500 RPM the boat would easily plane at 11-12 MPH. The boat handles very well too, even in light chop. Steering pressure for the big Evinrude 115 is minimal – no assist required here. In turns, the hull responds immediately and with precision, and it’s an easy boat to drive.

Due to schedules, our first real outing had to be delayed until Sunday the 23rd when we took the boat to Big Lake north of Anchorage. To ensure we were both in top shape to conduct this important test outing we stopped at the Windbreak for late breakfast and a second cup of coffee. Then a fuel top-off, and we pressed on to the lake and got the boat in the water.

This was the first opportunity to run the engine up and see how the combo would perform. After getting everything warm, we started gathering data. With two aboard and about 40 gallons of fuel, initial figures are as follows.

From a dead stop, the boat planes in under 4 seconds at around 10 to 12 MPH. The transition is very smooth. Once on step, it will stay on step at around 3200 RPM and 14-15 MPH. Other data points:

4000 RPM – 20.2 MPH - 4.8 GPH

4300 RPM – 23.1 MPH – 6.0 GPH

4500 RPM – 25.2 MPH – 7.0 GPH

4800 RPM – 27.0 MPH – 9.0 GPH

5000 RPM – 29.2 MPH – 10.0 GPH

Wide Open Throttle (WOT) 5200 RPM – 29.5 MPH – 10.5 GPH

At present, WOT is just slightly below the manufacturer’s recommended range of 5250-5750 RPM. We’ll be looking at this to see whether some minor adjustment is in order or whether the max RPM will rise a little as break-in is completed. Experimenting with trim will also no doubt achieve a bit more speed. At present we’re running a standard 3-blade aluminum impeller to establish a performance baseline. In the future we’ll be going to stainless (probably a 4-blade) both for durability and to eek just a little more out of the system.

Comfortable cruise seems to be around 4300-4500 RPM. The motor feels happy there, noise level is modest, velocity is a consistent 24-25 MPH, and fuel consumption is modest.

Jetcraft/Evinrude Project Boat
Jetcraft/Evinrude Project Boat

So, what’s the verdict? We’re very pleased. The boat is stable, handles very well, is reasonably swift, and is easy on fuel. All this with an engine still in the initial break-in period. For those not aware, Evinrude Direct Injection motors automatically supply additional injection oil for the first five hours above 2000 RPM. This helps protect the motor, but will logically keep it from being as efficient as it will be after it’s fully broken in.



Chuck Maas

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