by Larry Pullon firstname.lastname@example.org
|It's a rare day when you get
more than a quick glimpse of a one-of-a-kind boat. A recent
trip to Tennessee lead me to Tim's door and a tour of his remarkable
craft. If you like the no-nonsense qualities of a well made Jon
boat, you'll like Tim Webb's Kawasaki 550cc powered "Webbjet
14". Function over form usually means an excuse for
ugly, but Tim has created a well balanced rig that looks "just
right" to Jon boat enthusiast.
When Tim took me to the
Webbjet's "hangar" the first thing that caught my eye was how
the small tires and the lack of usual upright bunks on the trailer kept
the rig low enough to launch in shallow waters that would thwart most
other 50hp boats. I also quickly noticed the hull looks like a
current generation aluminum jon, but, is in fact constructed entirely
out of plywood. Like everyone else that looks at this boat, I just
couldn't resist giving the side a thump.
and the Webbjet in front of her hangar.
A low trailer ensures shallow water launching
|Built using Tim's
"screw and glue" technique, which is a fast and easy way to
make a boat like this, the hull is protected on the outside with two
layers of 8oz. satin weave fiberglass cloth and epoxy resin. At
fourteen feet long, with a four foot bottom and hard chines, you'll
find she has all of the stability that has made Jon boats a favorite
for protected waters.
A large fishing deck on
either end ensures maximum comfort and casting room for two
occupants. Permanently mounted seats on fixed height pedestals
provide economical yet comfortable seating.
Tim says he usually fishes
from the back seat because it places him closer to the controls when
it's time to motor to a new spot. The JS550cc power plant is
tucked amidships under a two inch "hump" and lets you know
this is no "ordinary" jon boat.
entire aft deck is supported by gas struts and easily lifts to reveal
a built in 12 gallon fuel tank, starting battery, and the mechanicals
of a JS550 Kawasaki Jet ski. Everything is uncluttered and
neatly laid out, allowing more than average room for maintenance.
Tim has designed a great weight saving engine mount and bearing
support system that eliminates the need for all but a tiny part of the
Kawasaki Hull (alone worth the price of the plans). Water inlet,
pump housing, and ride plate is stock Kawasaki. Tim's motto is
"Cut up your stand up!".
Webbjet takes readily to the water. Engineering is excellent -
would also make a good hull for 25 and under outboards.
The area under the forward
deck is primarily for storage but is also slated to contain
floatation foam to augment the flotation now secured behind two side
panels. The decks are braced just enough to give a solid feel
to the seating and flooring areas.
Between the two casting decks
is the cockpit area. Here you'll find the centrally located
stick steering, designed to be out of the way and operated with
equal ease from either side. There's also a sub floor covering
the bottom of the cockpit area that promises dry and warm feet on
those cold winter trips. The boat's finish is an oil based
gray with leave patterns randomly stenciled to give a nice camouflage
|The rig towed without
complaint on Tim's homebuilt trailer (also included in the plans!).
After an easy shallow water launch we were ready to begin on the water
testing. I found the noise level in Tim's boat to be much lower
than that in my fiberglass JS550 powered "Xboat". Even
though there is carpet soundproofing on the inside of the cowling, the
wood itself seemed to absorb much of the noise. Over the years I
somehow forgot that wooden boats are quieter than either glass or
We headed up river against a
7-10 knot current and quickly reached cruising speed which I estimate
in the 25 knot range, a nice speed for fishing boats. I held the
controls a bit and found them to be smooth, easy to move, and responsive
(everything you expect).
After a silky smooth run of a
couple of miles we came upon a shoal stretching across the river
area that was the stopping point for most propped boats. There
were about four boats fishing in the fast water blow the shoals and I
couldn't help but notice the stares as we slowed down for courtesy and
then made our way around the amazed onlookers (our boat was
bigger than most of theirs!). We easily crossed the shoals
without bottom contact and motored across a shallow "flats"
area where I noticed Webbjet was "feeling the bottom".
I don't mean we were dragging the bottom, on plane in shallow water
(under a foot) the hull will tremble as it picks up feedback from the
bottom only a few inches away. When you feel that, you know you
are floating on dew!
test river. 7-10 knots running water.
Cold, shallow, and clear - perfect for trout..
little further upriver Tim found a submerged log and demonstrated the
jet's power by pushing right over it! I imagined the possibilities
on those log choked streams, normally inaccessible to powered
boats. For bottom protection Tim installed four one inch
high density plastic strakes which also give you a slippery surface
that make log hopping seem easy. Tim said he ran the Webbjet
onto the boat ramp a few times "just fooling around", but
discouraged this because you quickly loose "cool points"
trying to drag the boat back to the water.
|Finding a likely place, I
disembarked for photos and Tim demonstrated full power turning and
control capabilities. The Webbjet turned smoothly and proved the
boat has the maneuverability needed to operate around rocks, stumps,
etc. Tim says, it's about the only boat you own that needs a
winch on the front. He did note, that like all jet ski pumps, the
Webbjet must be operated in clean water, hydrilla, too many leaves or
trash will disrupt water flow and cause cavitation problems.
The trip back down the river
took a bit longer, we were both having too much fun to leave and we
had a lot to talk about. So we stopped several times to discuss
different aspects of boat design, operation, and just
"things" in general.
get me wrong, I'm not saying Tim's Webbjet is the "perfect all
around Jon boat", don't even think about using the Webbjet for
crossing giant reservoirs or ocean use. But, in it's protected
shallow water element, you're going to have to search hard and long
and spend thousands of dollars to find its equal! If you need a
"skinny water" boat for shallow, rivers, bays, and inlets,
Tim's Webbjet is a great boat that will eagerly take you were props
dare not go!
special training needed. Controls and
operation are predictable. Nice ride!.
|The Webbjet is definitely a doable boat for
typical garage construction (even first
timers) using regular hand tools. Happily, Tim has agreed to
publish drawings with dimensions, and general
instructions. He is offering two plans
packages - first is the total package ($30) which includes jon
boat, engine installation, and plans for the
trailer. The second package ($20) is for
building the jon boat for outboard power and trailer plans.
Both plans packages include a CD with a large
collection of construction photos!
Tim is a great person - I
have little doubt that if you choose to build his fine boat he will be
there to support you all the way!