Jetseeker Ranger 440

By: Paul Smith

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Emirates Team New Zealand is one of the world’s hottest sailing teams, so you’d be excused for not picking its chief – Grant Dalton – as something of a petrol-head

Jetseeker Ranger 440
Jetseeker Ranger 440

In recent times, Dalton and his family have elected to spend much more of their precious leisure time at a holiday home in Queenstown. As a natural extension of this, they intend to immerse themselves in the stunning outdoor environment on offer around Central Otago.

One of the ways they intend to accomplish this is through the use of their own jet boat. And when it came to making that purchasing decision, a recommendation from a close friend saw Dalton making contact with Lindsay Munro of Christchurch’s Jetseeker Boats.

As this is Dalton’s first-ever jet boat, it was quite a leap of trust but the process has proved enjoyable and successful, with Lindsay’s "nothing is too much trouble" attitude and his enthusiasm for his product being central to the timely delivery of a new boat.

We caught up with the pair during a familiarisation run on the lower reaches of the Waimakariri River, where Dalton kindly allowed us access to his new pride and joy – a Jetseeker Ranger 440.

Construction and design
While it has a similar length to most recreational river-going jet boats, the Ranger 440 has a wider beam (1.95m overall) and 1.575m on the chine. In theory this should endow the boat with a greater load carrying capacity, the ability to hold plane at slower speeds and, in conjunction with the moderate deadrise of 15 degrees, exceptional shallow water planing ability. Especially since the deadrise is constant over the entire planing area (as a monohedron design).

A major benefit of the wider than usual beam is a spacious cockpit for the length of the boat – in this case, 2.750m from the dashboard to the transom and a cockpit width of 1.580m.

The boat’s constructed entirely of marine grade alloy – the 10mm delta keel plate is formed in 5083, as are the 5mm thick hull outer bottoms. The 3mm topsides and transom are 5052 as is the 2.5mm topdeck.

The cockpit sole is carpeted marine plywood. The hull is reinforced with two full-length engine bearers formed in 5mm alloy and these are supplemented with two full-length outer bearers that are also braced back to the engine bearers. These are fully-welded. A 4mm wear strip is welded ahead of the keel plate to reinforce the outer bottoms around the stem.

While the 440’s layout can be customised to suit the purchaser’s requirements, most conform to the popular cockpit layout featuring two front bucket seats complemented by a full-width, extended rear bucket seat providing seating for up to five passengers. With the wider beam and greater cockpit space, the front seats have been placed slightly towards the centre line, allowing room to move between seats and cockpit coaming.

Front seats are mounted on alloy bases (with storage under), while the rear seat is mounted on the 112-litre alloy fuel tank located just for’d of the engine. A treadplate alloy kickplate is securely located under the dashboard to assist front seat passengers and provides a stop for the storage of items such as lifejackets, which may be kept out of harm’s way in the cavernous dry area under the foredeck.

The entire cockpit area has been lined in marine fabrics. A full-width engine cover gives a measure of water shedding protection in the unlikely event of a wave being taken over the transom, and also secures water-tight alloy storage boxes located either side of the engine bay.

Engine instrumentation is located in a central binnacle on the dashboard and includes tach and gauges monitoring oil pressure, water temperature, fuel, volts and an engine hour clock. A lockable glovebox is located beneath the instrument binnacle, while a stainless steel grab rail is bolted through the dashboard on the starboard side.

Fit and finish is to a high standard and on the water the vessel feels tight, solid and strong.

Engineering and propulsion
The boat can be optioned with a variety of different engine and waterjet combinations according to the customer’s requirements and intended use of the vessel. In Dalton’s case, there was never going to be anything other than a healthy V8 slotted between the engine bearers.

A Kodiak Marine engine based on the ever-popular Chevrolet 350ci (5.7-litre) small block was selected. Featuring multi-point electronic fuel injection, electronic ignition and a closed loop cooling system, this well proven marine engine delivers peak power of 330hp. The exhaust song is delivered via twin 3" diameter outlets and is moderated by a balance pipe between the twin stainless steel exhaust pipes.

The Kodiak’s close coupled to a HamiltonJet HJ 212 waterjet fitted with a 2.4kW rated ‘turbo’ style stainless steel impeller. The engine – while still brand new – turned the jet to 4400rpm at wide open throttle. An alloy trim/bash plate has been fitted beneath the waterjet to provide a measure of protection to the steering nozzle when the going gets tough.

Performance and handling
We had a limited window of opportunity to drive the Ranger 440 before it headed south to Queenstown. The lower Waimakariri river was running high with heavily discoloured water and pressure waves aplenty. And a low barometric pressure (985hPa) did not help the naturally-aspirated engine make its best power either.

Nevertheless, we were pleasantly surprised at the performance levels we achieved in these unfavourable conditions (see the boat speed v. engine speed data in the table on the right).
The Ranger 440’s handling was predictable and sure in all conditions, and while the nature of the design delivers a firm ride in the rough conditions, we could see how it would excel in typical shallow water environments and would also give plenty of lift for’d when negotiating white water rapids.

Being quite beamy, the Ranger 440 is able to hold plane at a slow speed – she has a minimum planing speed of 12mph. As the table shows, the boat’s also capable of delivering a handy turn of speed when the taps are opened.

The Jetseeker Ranger 440 is a competent and well finished jet boat that would suit the requirements of most jet boaters. Every boat is built to suit the intentions/specifications of the purchaser, and can be supplied with a range of powerplants and waterjets.

The boats are delivered on Watercraft trailers built to a Jetseeker design and are fully adjustable to suit the design of the hull. Constructed of galvanised C section steel, they are durable enough to withstand the rigours of cross-riverbed towing to which many jet boats are subjected.

Special thanks to Grant Dalton for making his boat available for review.

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