Keelow Craft River Wild 480

By: Paul Smith

Keelow Craft Boats’ new River Wild 480 is a smaller sibling to its River Wild 560 – a longer than usual jet boat designed for both river and lake work. Like its bigger sister, the smaller vessel is every inch the performer.

Keelow Craft River Wild 480
Keelow Craft River Wild 480
Untitled Document We recently took the opportunity to drive the River Wild 480 on our "home" waters of the lower Waimakariri when the river was in low flow conditions providing an ideal testing ground for the shallow water capabilities of the boat.

In terms of styling, the "family" resemblance between the boats is immediately apparent. The 480 has been scaled down in terms of length overall, beam and chine beam and freeboard although both craft shared a 15 degree deadrise when measured at the transom. Construction of the 480 is all marine grade alloy with the topdeck and hull welded to form a strong monocoque.

The 6mm alloy keel can be reinforced with a 6mm "Bisalloy" keel plate that gives not only significantly improved impact resistance, but also being harder, is less prone to gripping when the boat slides across shingle fans as an option, or alternatively, a 10mm thick alloy keel plate can be specified.

The rugged construction and unpainted finish of the River Wild 480 appeals to jet boaters who put their craft to hard work – hunting, fishing or white water adventure boating. The provision of optional alloy grab rails around the foredeck and the full width engine cover cater to this type of use providing useful tie down points for packs, carcasses etc, while the spacious cockpit allows for carriage of up to five passengers in comfort, six at a pinch. Other options on the review boat included carpeted interior, waterjet protection plate, decktread, and glovebox.

The 120-litre fuel tank is centrally mounted beneath the rear seat and allows for storage bins either side, while the optional 160-litre full width tank dispenses with the storage provisions.

The 480 we drove had been sold to a North Island buyer and had been fitted with a secondhand Chevrolet 350 ci V8 engine. The new Hamilton Jet HJ212 waterjet was fitted with a 2.4kW "turbo" style impeller that absorbs around 195hp at 4000rpm wide open throttle delivered by the Chevrolet. Such a combination offers a comfortable and economical cruise of around 25 knots at 3000rpm with plenty of acceleration in reserve. Maximum speed is in the vicinity of 40 knots.

The handling of the 480 in the tight, twisting and shallow braids of the lower Waimakariri was precise and surefooted while the moderate deadrise allowed the boat to traverse very shallow fans without touching even with four passengers aboard. This example had been set up for general purpose boating and load carrying in mind with the nozzle set down and as such tended to steer slightly on the nose.

Such handling is the norm these days with the popularity of variable deadrise hull designs offering a softer ride in choppy water. The balance of the 480 is good so the bow does not tend to take over and she responds quickly to helm inputs.

The review boat was supplied on a single axle, unbraked, galvanised steel framed trailer and, with the secondhand engine fitted had a price of $45,000 including GST. A similarly specified boat fitted with a new marinised Chevrolet 350 V8 engine would sell for around $52,000 inc. GST. Basic bare hull/deck/screen assemblies are also available from $9995 inc. GST.

Avon Engineering (Gore) Ltd produce a good, general purpose jet boat in the River Wild 480 that can be specified to suit the intended use of the customer.

For more information contact Avon Engineering (Gore), tel (03) 208 9995 or email

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