Outboard Jet Boating 101- Safety & Maintenance

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Outboard Jet Boating 101 – Photo: Louis Cahill

Every year I see more and more outboard jet boats on the water. I can’t say it really surprises me though, I totally get why anglers are drawn to them. In my opinion, jet sleds are one of the coolest boats anyone can drive or fish out of. They can run in just about any kind of water, they offer anglers the ability to re-run and fish sections of water at the drop of a hat, and they are quite affordable and easy to drive. A lot of guys these days are dropping coin and converting their two and four stroke outboard props to jets. It can be done fairly easy if you are mechanically inclined and can follow directions. There’s also quite a few first-time boat purchasers out there that have chosen to go the jet motor route and many more anglers presently riding the fence, about to pull the trigger.

Problem is, the majority of the salespeople selling these jet motors don’t regularly provide the buyer with the most important piece of the puzzle; common sense jet boating safety guidelines and troubleshooting on the water. Any veteran outboard jet boat owner will tell you it’s only a matter of time until you screw up and have an accident on the water or have engine mechanical problems. Understanding how to run safely and perform on-the-water maintenance is critical if you want to avoid accidents, bodily injury and consistently bring your jet boat back to trailer in tip top shape.

My goal for this post is to provide a jet boating 101 quick read, for those anglers out there who have recently purchased a jet outboard or for those considering purchasing one in the near future. My hopes is that it will keep some of you from making some of the same rookie mistakes I did, and you’ll learn how important it is to be prepared and drive safely when running jet outboards. Below are some things I’ve learned from my time running a jet sled in Alaska, but most of the information I learned, came from hanging out with veterans that run jets every day. I’ll attempt to give you the meat and potatoes but I’m depending on the followers of G&G that are the experts on this subject to voice their thoughts.

Pre-Trip Equipment & Back-up Gear Check

It’s important that you’re religious about doing a thorough pre-trip boat equipment check before you head out on the water each trip with your jet sled. You should always take the time to look over the motor to make sure everything is in proper working order. If you have a 2-stroke motor, make sure you have filled your oil reservoir, check to make sure the fuel lines are connected snugly to your motor and running gas can, grease your motor to push out any water in the engine and check to make sure your foot is clear of any debris. Visually check and touch your main nuts and bolts to confirm they are tight. They can loosen up from gravel road trailering and during use. Last, check to make sure you have your anchor and tool box.

Backup Gear & Safety Equipment

Don’t even think about making your first trip out with your new jet boat until you have acquired critical backup gear/and maintenance equipment. We all want to keep our boat light as possible so it performs at it’s best, but it’s far more important you have the back up gear on hand in case you run into any problems on the water. Doing so, you’ll avoid finding yourself stranded out on the water. Below is a recommended backup gear list all jet boat operators should have on board with them at all times.

1. Small backup running can of gas

I’ll never forget the time I got stranded in Alaska out in the middle of Lake Aleknagik in nasty weather for four hours, because I failed to pack a secondary gas supply on board the boat. All it takes is a little water in your gas and it can keep your motor from running properly or even starting. Contaminated fuel is a common cause for boaters getting stranded, particularly when boaters are out on multi-day trips, and running cans are out in the elements. Top your fuel off after trips if you can, and always carry a small running can with fresh fuel in case you need it.

2. Always pack extra oil if you’re running a 2-stroke motor

If you have a two-stroke motor you should always have extra oil on board with you at all times. Oil is just as important as having back up fuel. Without it you’re 2-stroke motor can’t run and you’ll be up a creek without a paddle. I was just out the other day with a friend who admitted he never carries extra oil with him. I quickly let him no how ignorant that was. Don’t be that guy.

3.  Back up Fuel line

Another common reason boaters get stranded is when they encounter a problem with their fuel line and connectors.  Most of the time your problem is one of your connectors has become loose and needs to be snugged up. But every once in a while, you’ll have a faulty nipple or get a crack in the hose which can stop you dead in your tracks. Always carry a back up fuel line with you when you’re boat requires the use of running cans.

4. Backup Pull-Cord

Fancy four-strokes have turn-key starters, but the old school 2-strokes require pull cords to start the engine. Sometimes they become brittle over time and will break on you. Having a back up pull cord or some extra para-cord on hand makes for a quick fix. Learn how to replace a broken pull-cord.

5. Backup Kill-Switch running key and Lanyard

Without a running key, your boat motor will not start. All boaters are encouraged to use a kill-switch running key on a lanyard at all times for safety. What happens if your key breaks or you misplace your lanyard? A perfect functioning motor is useless without one. Having an extra stored in the boat is a good idea, and something veterans always have with them. Where to purchase a backup kill-switch running key lanyard.

6. Satisfactory Tool Kit for outboard engine maintenance

Before you head out for your maiden voyage you should first put together a nice tool box kit with essentials for on-the-water maintenance for your outboard jet motor. You don’t need a full set of mechanics tools, just pack the critical stuff. For example, pack back up bolts and nuts for primary areas of the engine. It’s very easy to drop one in the water when doing maintenance. Pack only the wrenches and sockets needed and always back a pair of needle nose pliers and a flat head and philips screwdriver. A roll of duck tape is a must as well as some cheap screw clamps. An extra long and stout screw driver is worth its weight in gold for clearing debris out of your jet foot or shoe. And a back up impeller and file are great additions to round out your tool kit. I’m sure I’m leaving some things off the list, but my point is to stress you should alway double-check you have this on board the boat before you head out. You’re virtually helpless when you have mechanical issues without a good tool kit.

7. Boat Distress Signal Kit

In the event of a catastrophic accident or mechanical engine failure you should always have on board a boat distress signal kit to attract help if needed.  This can be flares, whistle, horn, distress flag, ect.

8. Rechargeable Hand-Held Spot-Light

Have you ever fished a little too long on unfamiliar water and found yourself dangerously navigating in low light conditions? I always pack a rechargeable hand-held spot-light to get me off the water safely in this situation. Choose one that comes with a red cover lens so it won’t impede your night vision.

Common Sense Outboard Jet Boat Navigation

1. Always wear your kill-switch lanyard when operation your jet boat. I don’t care how familiar you are with your water or how novice the water it, you aren’t running your boat safely without wearing one at all times.

2. Always keep your motor in the unlocked position when running. This way it will pop up and minimize damage if you hit something unexpectedly. It also will allow you to quickly pull up your motor if you know you’re about to enter water too shallow to run. This will avoid sucking up debris that could damage our clog your intake.

3. Take extra caution when running downstream with your boat. It requires more time to maneuver your boat and stop if needed. Plan your routes well in advance and be ready to steer well ahead of your obstructions to give you enough time to avoid them.

4. Always navigate rapids, or converging currents head on with the boat to maintain your highest level of control and steady footing. Always give the right of way to vessels traveling downstream.

5. Navigate bends in the river by taking wide lines so you can see around the bends for other boat traffic. On heavy boat traffic rivers, pull up to the bends and turn off the engine and listen for oncoming traffic.

6. Take the time to learn the water you’re going to be fishing thoroughly before you run full speed. Conditions can change from one day to the next and new obstructions can pop up over night.

7. When in doubt about a sketchy spot, let off the throttle. You would be surprised how many people say the hell with it, continue on and crash, when all they had to do to avoid a bad situation is let off the gas. Another mistake rookie jet boaters make is they think they have to run full speed to stay on plane and keep their foot from sucking up sand and rocks. All you need is a little over a foot of water and you can run at slow speeds and not suck up bottom debris.

8. Don’t run your tiller with the wrong hand. For the most part tillers are designed to be run and operated with the left hand so you can use the throttle and put the boat in neutral, forward and reverse. Today, you can get tillers that can be used either way safely.

9. Be extra cautious when your reversing the boat in shallow water. This is the #1 reason foot and intakes get clogged. Pick up your motor slightly in reverse until you get to deep enough water.

10. Perform annual overall maintenance on your outboard jet if you use it frequently. Perform maintenance on your impeller if it needs it and make sure your foot slats are aligned properly for efficiency and performance.

links to useful Outboard Jet Boating Information

FAQ for Outboard Jet Boat Maintenance

On The Water Jet Boat Repairs

Jet Boat Troubleshooting Tips

3 Tips for Improving Jet Performance

How to Install Wire Mess on Foot for Running Water with Vegetation

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
www.ginkandgasoline.com
hookups@ginkandgasoline.com
 
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6 thoughts on “Outboard Jet Boating 101- Safety & Maintenance

  1. One thing that’s saved my day more than once is extra fuses, if you have anything like a jack plate. Also, don’t forget spare AA batteries for things like handheld GPS systems. A can of Corrosion X can come in real handy too. there’s a whole list of safety equipment you ought to consider, but that’s probably another post.

    JB

  2. Hey Kent
    Have you ever heard of using a shower cap (over the intake), when transporting your jet sled, it will prevent stones etc. from being kicked up and lodge in the fins. A friend of mine has been doing this for years.

    • Thanks Jon,

      I learned a lot of those the hard way when I was first introduced to jet sleds. Figured I’d pass the 101 Jet info on to people thinking about getting on or who had recently purchased one. No one likes to mess up a brand new boat or motor.

      Kent

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