Friday 4 July 2014

Whirlpool Jet Boat

In my on-going series of crazy ass death-defying thrill seeking, I took a jet boat ride through the Niagara Gorge rapids. Okay, that sounds more dangerous than it really is but what the heck, doesn't a little hyperbole go along with telling the story?

This bucket list item has been sitting around for almost a year now. I had no idea there was a jet boat until some acquaintance mentioned he had been on it so I investigated and waited for the right confluence of circumstances. As with any of my little adventures, I made sure I got the photo package as the company always takes the best pictures and I certainly want photographic evidence of what I've done. That guarantees me permanent bragging rights.

The Niagara River runs from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, a distance of about 56 kilometres or 35 miles. Of course, the world famous Niagara Falls is about midway. Below the Falls is the 11 kilometre or 6.8 mile Niagara Gorge carved by the Niagara River along the US-Canadian border between New York and Ontario. In the middle of this gorge is the Niagara Whirlpool, the ultimate destination of the jet boat.

Passengers get a five minute orientation and safety talk then walk to the pier to pick up life vests and shoes. I elected to go on the "wet jet" as opposed to the enclosed boat so I was dressed in a bathing suit. And I didn't wear their poncho.

We offer water shoes, ponchos, splash suits and sweaters depending on the weather and your needs. Despite all of our gear, you will get absolutely soaked so please bring a complete change of clothes.

We peaceably went up the Niagara River from the small town of Niagara-on-the-Lake then stepped it up a notch when we entered the gorge at Queenston. The turbo-charged diesel engines are pushing out 1500 horsepower and you get the impression that thing can fly.

Jetboats are highly manoeuvrable, and many can, from full speed, be reversed and brought to a stop within little more than their own length, in a manoeuvre known as a "crash stop". The well known Hamilton* turn or "jet spin" is a high-speed manoeuvre where the boat's engine throttle is cut, the steering is turned sharply and the throttle opened again, causing the boat to spin quickly around with a large spray of water.

* Named after Sir William Hamilton who developed a waterjet in 1954.

Our guide would get all of us to raise our hands and do a spinning motion to supposedly encourage our captain to "let'er rip". You certainly can't do aqua doughnuts with a V hull.

While the boat went up the gorge as far as the Niagara Whirlpool, the real action took place a little downstream. Our guide spent most of his time at the front of the boat, but when we arrived at this point, he advised us to remove hats and glasses and get ready. He then went to the back of the boat to join the captain in the wheelhouse.

Niagara's Devil's Hole Rapids boast 15'-20' (4.5m-6m) waves, currents with speeds approaching 20 mph (32 km) and a solid class 5 rating. Class 5 rapids are defined as "approaching the limits of navigability, should only be attempted by whitewater experts after taking every available precaution."

It is here the boat went back and forth several times ploughing into the rapids sending waves of water over top of the boat and over every passenger. When they advertise you get "soaked", they are not exaggerating. Woo-hoo!

Uploaded on Apr 7, 2010 by Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours
Incredible Niagara River jet boats
Our jet boat takes off from 3 places on the Niagara River. You can go from Lewiston, NY, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada or Niagara Falls, Canada. This is the sweetest whitewater adventure in Niagara!

Final Word
It's a hoot. But like the other so called death defying stunts I've done (see below), it's really something you do once. That's enough. Okay, some may find it fascinating and do it over and over again but for me, once is enough. Let's move on to the next crazy ass thing on the list. Of course, I should add here that if I'm with somebody who's never done such and such, I can be persuaded to sign up a second time as this gives me a chance to relive the moment through the eyes of somebody doing it for the first time. That can be fun. But on my own? Nah, I don't think so.

If you're in the neighbourhood, put this down on your To Do list. Plus, if you opt to leave from Niagara-on-the-Lake, you can also visit this charming little town.


Wikipedia: Jetboat
A jetboat is a boat propelled by a jet of water ejected from the back of the craft. Unlike a powerboat or motorboat that uses a propeller in the water below or behind the boat, a jetboat draws the water from under the boat into a pump inside the boat, then expels it through a nozzle at the stern.

Jetboats were originally designed by Sir William Hamilton (who developed a waterjet in 1954) for operation in the fast-flowing and shallow rivers of New Zealand, specifically to overcome the problem of propellers striking rocks in such waters.

official web site: Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours
Why Niagara?
The Niagara River collects all the water from the Great Lakes which amounts to about 20% of the world's fresh water. Over the past 12,000 years, the turbulent currents of the immensely powerful Niagara Falls have carved out a 7-mile (11km) gorge on the lower Niagara. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water flow over the Falls every minute and as that water enters the narrow rock gorge, it is compressed into the rapids that create our whitewater playground.

Why Jet Boats?
Safety. Power. Again, Safety. Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours operates a fleet of custom-built vessels designed to the latest innovations in marine technology. Our boats use a triple turbo diesel water jet system for both propulsion and steering, a design that creates incredible reliability and safety in the turbulent whitewater rapids. This is why we have been able to create and sustain our exemplary safety record.

My Other Crazy Stunts

my blog: My bungee jump in two words: Oh... my... God...
I stand on the platform and look down two hundred feet (60 metres), approximately the height of a 17 story building, at the surface of the water. For the briefest of moments, part of my brain says, "This is so not right."

my blog: Jet Pack: Move Over James Bond
I did it. (Gets out a pen and strikes out another item on his bucket list) Before moving on to my next (so-called) dangerous activity, I thought to regale you with tales of crash and burn, er, crash and splash.

my blog: Edge what walk are you crazy?
I look down. The ground is 356 metres or 1,168 feet straight down and the only thing stopping me from an approximate ten second drop to my death is a steel cable my guide assured me could support the weight of an elephant and a half.

my blog: Parachuting: If God had meant me to...
By the way and if you will excuse my French, do you know the saying "to be scared s**tless"? Well, I discovered it's not true. I think it took a full 24 hours after my jump before my sphincter unclenched.


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