...one of my favorite subjects. I have a one-man pontoon, an inflatable kayak, a driftboat, and a jetsled. Here are my thoughts, coming from the viewpoint of using boats as transportation on rivers (not as fishing platforms).
Jetsled - people either love 'em or hate 'em. Usually it's the guy in the boat that loves it, and the person standing on the bank that hates it. For me jetsleds equal freedom - freedom to go fishing without having to depend on anyone else for shuttle purposes. Freedom to go back UPRIVER and fish pools and runs in the order that you want, and not as the direction of river flow dictates. Freedom to fish pools and runs that USED TO BE availible through ground/foot access, but are increasingly becoming "off-limits" due to the ever-continueing encroachment of civilisation onto our rivers. This last is the main reason why over a dozen years ago I plunked down a sizable lump of cash for a motor-propelled boat. Since I first started fishing the Puget Sound rivers in the '80's, better than half of the runs and pools that I used to walk into are now posted "No Trespassing". This is a trend that I don't see abating in any way in the future, in fact it's just going to get worse.
In response to your post a while back:
I first started driving sleds as a guide in Alaska in 1990. Since that time I have logged better than a thousand hours of driving sleds from 14' flat-bottomed jonboats to 21' high-powered semi-vee's, on waters as small as 200cfs to as large as 60,000cfs, from thin, pea-gravel riffles to boulder-studded class 3+ rapids. In my opinion, if you're going to get a sled with the main intent of using it as TRANSPORTATION, getting from point A to point B, then versatility in hull capability is the main feature to seek in the boat.
The most versatile hull design I have ever driven is the one that I now own - built by Al Buhr of all-welded aluminum and based on the original Rogue river design. Here is what this boat is about:
- slow "planing" speed - this boat is "on step" at about half the speed of the typical semi-vee, which makes for, and this is a "biggie", much more "relaxed", assured and confident, mistake-free driving through narrow, technical, tight spots, ESPECIALLY when going DOWNRIVER! I cannot stress how much nicer it is to be able to be able to "plane down" when going through boulder gardens or driving downstream with sun in your eyes and heavy glare on the water! A totally flat-bottom jonboat also has this ability.
- very low amount of forward "resistance" - standing in knee-deep water in a "typical" riffle, I can hold this boat in place with one hand - just about on par with the resistance of a driftboat! This means that this boat can be "surfed" up through a rapid at extremely slow speed, with uncanny control, rather than "crashing through" at white-knuckle highspeed, as would be the case with a semi-vee. A jonboat can also do this in small riffles, but in bigger stuff it's pretty scary.
- shallow draft - sitting empty this boat sits flat and level with a 5" draft. With me in it the draft increases an inch. I can IDLE this boat through 9" of water, and walk it through 6". A jonboat can also do this, but a semi-vee - NO WAY!
- good wave "character" - the flat-bottom, but very narrow profile of this boat allows it to perform with the shallow water characteristics of a flat-bottom jonboat, but gives it the ability to take on much bigger waves or rougher surface conditions. Jonboats SUCK in rough water or big waves. Semi-vee's have the best rough water ride.
- maneuverability - another "biggie" in my book, this boat turns on a dime. Very handy for getting one'sself out of "trouble". Even at idle speeds, this boat maintains steerage. It's amazing and exciting just how narrow a slot this boat can be driven through SAFELY. The only other boats I've experienced with this kind of maneuverability are propboats. Jonboats slide... badly. Semi-vee's also slide, some worse than others.
This boat drives like a surfboard with a motor on it. I wouldn't trade it for any other, except for maybe upgrading in size to one of Mike's 19 1/2 footers, for the increase in capacity. Mine is 18', great for me, or me and one other person. My boat will take myself and two other people, but at that "weight" the boat starts to lose some of its "nimbleness" - still handles well and safely - but is not quite as much fun to drive in this status.