Jet Drive vs. Sterndrive
Boating Magazine, February 2012
Muscling their way onto the market in the early â€™90s, â€śsport jetsâ€ť were dismissed as little more than toys, quick and agile playthings, scoffed at by serious boaters. They peaked quickly and then vanished just as fast.
But a funny thing happened on the way to obscurity. Sea-Doo and Yamaha developed bigger, more versatile offerings. Today jet-powered runabouts are the best-selling models in the 24- and 21-foot segments.
To find out why jets are giving sterndrives a run for their money, and to determine if jets are suitable propulsion for experienced boaters, we pitted a Sea-Doo 210Â ChallengerS featuring a single 255 hp supercharged high-output Rotax jet drive against a Chaparral H2O 19 Sport with a 220 hp MerCruiser sterndrive and put them through their paces.
Video Boat Reviews
Boating Magazine, June 2008 – 3rd Place, 2008 Boating Writers International Annual Writing Contest
Wakeboarders aren’t easily satisfied. To placate their aerial cravings, they need the right hull to shape the wake, ballast to increase its height, a tower to raise the towrope high above the water, and a speed control system to compensate for dear ol’ Dad’s lousy driving. And while you’re at it, toss in some extra room to accommodate a crowd and racks to hold the boards.
Until recently, the only boats that fit the bill were V-drives produced by skiboat manufacturers, which makes sense. After all, who best understands what people on the other end of the towrope are looking for? What they gave us became the standard, the dream machines of aspiring riders everywhere.
But as the market grew, mainstream boatbuilders wanted in on the action. With wakeboarding soaring in popularity, soon towers, ballast, and even speed controls were showing up on everything from your generic stern drive to speedy sport jets. But can these pretenders to the throne live up to the standard set by the V-drive?
We grabbed an experienced rider, rounded up a trio of boats, and set out in search of answers.
Who Needs Water
Boating Magazine, June 2003 – Award Winner, 2003 Boating Writers International Annual Writing Contest
Ronnie Thibodaux, the “Cajun Airboat God,” has gotten us stuck. Not the get-out-the-paddle-and-push kind of stuck but more the fully-aground-in-a-field-of-mud variety.
We’re along the shores of Louisiana’s isolated Bayou Teche, and the last thing I feel like doing is tromping through gator-infested muck back to the launch ramp just because the Swamp King decided to take his hot-dogging too far. Maybe his airboat would do fine in this predicament, but we’re in a real boat, the kind that I’m about to remind Thibodaux needs at least a little water in which to float. Nice going, your holiness.
“Now hold on a minute, boy,” Thibodaux says, sporting a Cheshire Cat grin. With that he hits the trim, burying what looks like an industrial-strength surface drive with an oddly designed ventilation plate into the dense brown soup. He nudges the craft into reverse-nothing. Then the boat slowly starts to ease itself backward, literally digging a hole. Miraculously, water begins to slowly seep in around the prop. The process continues until we’ve dug a trench about the length of the boat. Thibodaux shifts into forward, and with a punch of the throttle, we’re up and out, skidding across the mud with a rooster tail of muck spewing from the prop as the speedometer nears 25 mph.
The Super Mud Boat lives to float another day.
Old Friends Rediscover America
Watercraft World, May 2004
At 62 years of age, Firman Beckwith isnâ€™t the most logical face that comes to mind when you envision someone calling up his buds and screaming â€śroad trip!â€ť
Of course, Beckwithâ€™s â€śbudsâ€ť arenâ€™t exactly young turks, either. Al Swope, a one-time Marine fighter pilot and now retired airline captain from Gainesville, Georgia, is 71; Luck Gravett, a retired business owner from Peta Luma, California, has also reached the big 7-0; Tom Beckwith, a retired manager from Roswell, Georgia, is 67. And then thereâ€™s the spring chicken of the group, Beckwith himself, a retired CFO, dramatically pulling the curve southward at a mere 62 years of age.
If you believe the hype, all should be prime candidates for Geritol, Denture Grip, and the AARP discount at McDonalds. Instead, all four headed out on a road trip last summer that would test the mettle of a college frat boy, heading from coast to coast on a PWC odyssey that most of us can only dream about.
Who says we all have to get old?
Watercraft World, December 2003
From the parking lot, Thomas Horrell looks like your average skateboard junkie. Heâ€™s totally at one with the grip-tape-covered board at his feet, kicking it through flips, jumping it over obstacles, then â€śgrindingâ€ť it over a four-foot high rail before catching air and riding away. The skinny, blond-haired Horrell even looks the part, with a carefree riding style, shorts hanging well past the knee, and a pair of black DVS skate shoes on his feet.
Just like you see on the X Games, or in that Tony Hawk video game. Except Horrell is doing his skating up close, personal â€¦
â€¦ and nowhere near terra firma.
Boating Magazine, March 2004 – 1st Place, 2004 Boating Writers International Annual Writing Contest
I feign brushing back my hair in the hope of hiding the crackle of insults spewing from my earpiece. For 45 minutes, I’ve been doing the new-boat buying tango with not one partner, but two-the sales guy in the showroom, and the one barking in my ear, a 15-year pro whom I’ve assigned the task of getting me through this in one financial piece. Thanks to the miracles of hidden microphones and videocameras, earpieces that would make the Secret Service proud, and an unmarked van in the dealer’s lot that has half the inventory of Circuit City, my undercover pro has been coaching me in how to get the best deal possible. He tells me just what-and what not-to say. I’m like a ventriloquist’s dummy; I open my mouth, but it’s his words that come out.
Thanks to the voice in my ear I call “Oz”-as in the great and powerful wizard behind the curtain-I’m going to prove that anyone can walk out of a dealership with both the boat he wants and a little cash left over. Oz knows all the tricks and gimmicks. He understands just how easily a person like me can be overwhelmed. No, we don’t intend to bleed the dealer dry. Like you and me, a dealer has to make a living. What we don’t care to do, however, is unnecessarily pad a salesperson’s wallet.
Yeah, it’s funny at times, even comical: You try carrying on one conversation while another plays out in your ear. It took a few tries to get it right. But in the end, it worked.
What To Look For: Wakeboards
Boating Magazine, January 2010
Wakeboard/binding combinations can be found for as little as $200, or as much as $1,000. The difference? Low-end boards are perfect to throw on the boat for a weekend because theyâ€™re forgiving enough to accommodate a wide range of abilities and body types. Higher-end boards are more customized to fit specific riding styles. Hereâ€™s what to look for in either case.
Review: Sea-Doo 210 Challenger SE
Boating Magazine, January 2010
Most 21-foot bowriders sacrifice considerable cockpit space. The reason? Itâ€™s the engine, and the typically massive sun-pad enclosure that contains it. Sea-Dooâ€™s 210 Challenger SE uses twin, low-profile jet drives, allowing much of that cockpit space to be reclaimed. Mix some mainstream bowrider attributes with unique takes on both the swim platform area and electronic throttle control, and youâ€™ve got a jet that is far removed from the water pistols of the past â€” and a legitimate contender in this popular size range.
Secrets of the Back Office
Boating Magazine, October 2008
The sign on the door says “Finance.” To me, it might as well be the gates of Hell. I’ve walked out of the showroom with a good deal on a boat and into the dreaded back office — a place full of money-grabbing ghouls ready to play trick or treat with my dreams.
That’s when I hear him. “Pssst, over here, kid,” from an odd character lurking behind a nearby cruiser, voice weakened by time. “Trust me, you don’t want to go in there until you’ve seen this.”
I’m worried he wants to show me a lot more than financial figures, so I tense when he reaches into the depths of his overcoat. Lucky for me, the only thing he pulls out is a well-worn calculator. With relief I look up, and then step back in shock. “Hey, aren’t you Alan Greenspa…” But he cuts me off. “Nah, we just look alike. Call me, uh, Murray,” he says while ushering me out of the showroom. “Listen, I want you to forget what you think you know about boat loans. You’re about to get a crash course in modern finance.”
Suddenly my mother’s voice is warning me not to talk to strangers. “Sorry, Mom,” I mumble to myself, but this weirdo — who is already well into his lecture — might get me a boat.
Boating Magazine, June 2007
Speed is intoxicating. It’s visceral. A kind of thrill that appeals to your senses at the most primitive level. Once you’ve experienced it, there’s no turning back. Like any other rush, it’s a fix you want againâ€¦and againâ€¦and again.
No problem. Except speed doesn’t come cheap. Especially on the water. To put yourself into the magic 70-mph-plus echelon, expect to pay about $100,000 for a 26′ single-engine offshore-style go-fast. That’s about $1,429 for every mile per hour you want to fly. Is high price the necessary consequence of high performance? Maybe. Then again, maybe not.
If the boat has to be big, be prepared to pay big. But if you’re a true velocity junkie, if the gut-level thrill of speed is simply the result of how fast you can rocket across the water – and you don’t care how you get there – we have your ticket to ride. You’ll not only go fast, you’ll feel as if you’re approaching Mach 1. Plus, accelerating to that top speed will be like driving a nitro dragster, leaving you with a wind-stretched grin for the few seconds it takes for the speedometer to register those magic digits of 70…and beyond. The best part is that you get all this for the price of a blue-light special. How does paying only around $170 for each mph sound to you?
Want speed for less? Here’s the ultimate bang for the buck.
Boating Magazine, January 2001
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING THIS SUMMER?”
The voice belonged to BOATING’s original rambling man and Senior Editor David Seidman. From his tone, I knew he already had the answer: “How would you like to take a Toyota 22′ Epic and a Tundra pickup from L.A. to New York? Find some funky spots along the way, do a lot of boating, and write about it?”
God, I love my job.
Some time later I walked into Toyota headquarters and picked up a small fortune in hardware. Accompanied by my wife, Kris, friends Gary and Selena Holmes, and enough water toys from industry leader O’Brien to while away the summer on the water, our two-car, one-trailer caravan set out in search of America.
Not the chichi destinations in glamour-puss travel brochures, but the places you can only discover by getting in your car and hitting the open road. What we gleefully found is something we’re calling BOATING’s America – wacky and wonderful sites best experienced with a boat in tow. From a fish worth a million dollars to a battleship with a bow full of grass, we show you where and how to escape the confines of your local watering hole.
So take a cue from our travel journal and get lost with us as we go coast to coast-BOATING-style.