Invented by Minnesota farmer Ambrose Weeres back in 1951, the pontoon boat is all about offering extra stability compared to conventional watercrafts. And with its generous upper structure, this is also ideal for recreational activities. However, more recent times have seen pontoons also sharpening up in terms of speed. And a Michigan-based builder has taken the trend quite seriously, having strapped a Navy surplus jet engine to his pontoon boat.
The project has been about ten months in the making, but the contraption recently had its maiden voyage. And, if I had to use just three words to describe it, I’d go with unusual, loud and spectacular, in no particular order (okay, maybe the decibel part should be first).
Now, I first came across the jet engine pontoon in YouTuber Warped Perception’s cordless Tesla video, as the vlogger paid
Mike Nick a visit while getting fuel for his Model S (wait, what?).
You see, the project is handled by an enthusiast named Nick, who seems to stay true to the name of his YouTube channel: Live & Learn. For one, in one of the first videos detailing the build (the second clip below), Nick admits he wasn’t a jet engine buff when he got the hardware, but he was willing to experiment and it seems it’s all paid out.
The centerpiece here is clearly the Westinghouse J34 turbojet. The engine was stripped from a Lockheed P-2 Neptune, a surveillance and anti-submarine aircraft the U.S. Navy used between 1945 and 1984. Where does one buy something like this, you ask? Facebook Marketplace, of course (not kidding).
For the record, a gas turbine engine of the sort works by compressing air, which is sucked into the compressor via an inlet, mixing this with fuel, burning the mixture and releasing resulting hot, high-pressure air through a turbine (this powers the compressor) and a nozzle, which generates thrust. Oh, and here’s another type of jet boat.
Nick grabbed a run-of-the-mill 25-foot pontoon, to place around the turbojet. However, as you can imagine, the boat needed not just a new structure that would hold the engine, but also some serious reinforcement. After all, we’re looking at a turbojet that can suck up to 55 lbs of air (682 ci or 19,314 liters) of air per second, with a maximum thrust of 3,400 lbs.
There are still some steps to cover until the jet-engined pontoon can hit full speed
Now, after the first water test, which you’ll find in the first video below,
Mike Nick learned a couple of extra things. For starters, the current shape of the pontoons is not the most hydrodynamic in the world.
So he plans to install some extra hardware to reduce drag, such as lifting strakes and maybe even go from the present twin-hull to a triple-hull layout.
The man also built the floor, a starter for the engine, a thrust controller, a housing for the engine’s original instruments, and much more. Oh, and this is a two-seater (kind of a like a 1970 Mazda Cosmo, but not really). As such, the rather hardcore experience—mostly dictated by the ear protection-mandating engine noise—being reserved for
Mike Nick and his copilot.
For the maiden voyage, the jet engine pontoon only went to about 50% throttle, which meant doing around 30 mph. So, with the said mods and the determination to push that lever up to the end, you can expect much more from future runs.