Jet boat business remains buoyant

Jet boat business remains buoyant

Gore-based jet boat manufacturer KeelowCraft Boats continues to build on its decades of success, based on a reputation which has attracted significant commercial clients.
Co-owner Paul Cross says forward orders over the next year are very strong on the back of another good year in 2018.
KeelowCraft’s most popular recreational boat re-mains the popular Riverwild series from 4.2 metres to 4.8 metres long and are typically customised to suit clients’ individual requirements, from the fit-out to engine preferences.
“We offer lots of different options, we also offer training for anyone that hasn’t been jet boating before. We will build a boat to whatever specifications people require.”
The most popular engines are Chevrolet V8 marine units, but anything from turbocharged four cylinder engines and upwards are available.
“The Chev engine in its small block and the later LS series is still very popular for its power to weight ratio and its reliability.”
Last December, KeelowCraft delivered two jet boats to the internationally renowned tourist operator, Shotover Jet.
The company has a long-standing relationship with Shotover Jet and Dart River Safaris, owned by Ngai Tahu Tourism.
The latest boats, powered by twin 350 cubic inch V8 Chevrolet engines with twin Hamilton Jet units, are six metres in length and have a capacity to seat 14, excluding the driver.
Build time for each boat is 1000 hours, which equates to six months work for two staff.
Shotover Jet are trialling a different engine to what has been previously used in its boats.

Jet boat business remains buoyant
KeelowCraft’s most popular recreational boat remains the Riverwild series.

 
“They are trialling, at the moment, a later model direct injected LS series; it’s the new generation of the engine.”
While the boats are supplied complete to Shotover Jet, they are built to a hull-only specification because a full sign-off to marine survey standards is required by Shotover Jet staff before they can be commissioned.
As well as manufacturing new boats, KeelowCraft also undertake repairs and maintenance, including on Ngai Tahu Tourism’s fleet.
The high profile of Shotover Jet has been great for KeelowCraft’s business, Paul says.
The company is presently building a Riverwild 480 for the Department of Conservation for use in South Westland.
It will feature a removable back seat to allow equipment, including pest traps to be carried.
KeelowCraft’s first order this year was also for a 480 Riverwild, for a client in Cambodia.
“It’s for a businessman whose got two or three different businesses on a river.
“The day we got back from [Christmas] holiday he was standing at the door; we gave him a demonstration and he signed the papers.”
The client discovered KeelowCraft on its website and on Facebook after looking at options in Canada.
“He just liked our product and he was sold. It was a great coup for us. I think there will be a lot more interest once there are some of our boats in that part of the world.”
Paul along with his wife and business partner Sarah recently marked their second year as the owners of KeelowCraft.
Paul says the company’s reputation for producing quality boats built by a highly skilled team, along with having good systems such as lean manufacturing processes, have been a real asset during the past two years
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