Personal Watercraft: From Water Scooter to Jet Ski

Almost everyone knows what a Jet Ski is, but have you ever heard of a water scooter? We didn’t think so! 

From Water Scooter To Jet Ski

The idea for the first personal watercraft, originally designed to be a one-person recreational vehicle, emerged in 1950s Europe under the term “water scooter.”

These leisure vehicles weren’t exactly popular in their early years, leaving their designers to toy with the idea for almost a decade before getting it right. It was Australian Clayton Jacobson II who designed the first standing version of the machine in the 1960s, but with a revolutionary twist: he traded the traditional outboard motor for a more efficient pump-jet. Thus, the personal watercraft we have come to know by the name Jet Ski came to life!

These small, self-powered vehicles went through a number of changes over the years, and was even the center of a  lawsuit over the rights to who created it. Kawasaki, the prolific Japanese vehicle producer, finally surfaced as the victor, releasing the first stand-up personal watercraft available on the market and claiming the rights to the term Jet Ski. Though Jacobsen was compensated for his idea in lieu of a lawsuit, the vehicle manufacturing tycoon continues to use the name today. The name Jet Ski is widely used to describe crafts of the same type, but the moniker remains trademarked specifically to its parent company. Other vehicle manufacturers eventually produced numerous similar vehicles under their own trademarks, but “Jet Ski” really stuck with consumers, much like Kleenex has laid claim to facial tissue.

Summer Staple

Some 20 million Americans use personal watercraft every year. Is it even summer if you’re not cruising the nearest body of water aboard one of these iconic leisure vehicles? Though sales of the personal watercraft have had their ups and downs, it’s clear that their influence in the recreational world of water sports is still prominent. 

There are tons of makes, models, and types of personal watercraft available on the market. A large number of those sold are multi-person vehicles that make them suitable for up to three people, without having to spend the big bucks on separate crafts. Among those available, some come with advanced technology that makes them (somehow) even more fun to own. One such craft is the Gibbs Quadski, so-named for its unique ability to convert from a four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle into a personal watercraft of the same power! With the touch of a button, the wheels retract into the body, leaving you with a fully amphibious vehicle that goes 45 mph, on land or at sea. While it isn’t exactly a revolutionary concept, owning one of these versatile toys can open the door to new, exciting vacation possibilities.

Evolution and Improvements

The evolution of the modern personal watercraft transformed it from a standing, one-person craft into a multi-person, recreational vehicle. More power and streamlined bodywork made these crafts easier to control and even less dangerous than boats, and environmental consciousness brought them into the present where electric motors reign supreme. Consumers’ desires for a more environmentally friendly watercraft contributed to the production of more efficient jet-propelled vehicles. Additionally, due to its thorough evolution, the craft has significantly improved its emissions ratings over the years, leading it to be one of the more environmentally-friendly recreational watercraft available!

StrandCraft V8 Wet Rod

If you’re in the business of extreme luxury, the StrandCraft V8 Wet Rod is the model for you! This ultra-lavish, celebrity-quality personal watercraft is not only super powerful, but it’s all about living fast and loose. The V8 Wet Rod is capable of achieving speeds of up to 65 mph and has a powerful 300 horsepower engine that will bring out the racer in anyone. The whopping $49,000 bottom-dollar price tag might have you reeling, but the luxury craft’s speed and design make up for it in spades. 

Hovercraft: ATV of the Boating World

The hovercraft is capable of traversing ice, mud, water, and land. Its amphibious nature makes it an extremely versatile craft.

The brainchild of British inventor and engineer Dr. Christopher Cockerell, the hovercraft came to fruition in the 1950s. Dr. Cockerell worked during World War II for Macaroni Wireless Telegraph Company. His work revolved around developing radar systems for use in the war.

Infantry landings (such as those of D-Day and Normandy in France) set the wheels in motion for his invention of the hovercraft. He wanted to develop a vehicle that would allow troops to transition from one medium to another quickly, efficiently, and without the discomfort of getting drenched.

What is a Hovercraft?

Today’s hovercraft looks quite different from Dr. Cockerell’s original experiments with “a tin of cat food, an empty tin of coffee, and a hairdryer”.(McIntyre, Aaron. “Evolution of the Hover Craft”. Prezi. 9/3/2013. 8/9/2019). According to Justin Parkinson of the BBC, Dr. Cockerell used a “vacuum cleaner” instead of a hairdryer in his experiments. Regardless of which small appliance gave birth to the idea, modern-day hovercraft are quite different than the original prototype. Modern hovercraft are behemoths capable of transporting up to 400 people, and upwards of 50 cars. Equipped with an engine and a propeller, this ingeniously designed craft seamlessly transitions from sea to land and everything in between. Hovercraft can conquer difficult terrain challenges including the conditions listed below.

  • Snow
  • Ice
  • Swamp
  • Water
  • Grass
  • Mud
  • Sand

How is this possible? The hovercraft was designed to be supported above terrain by an air cushion. This cushion is made of downward directed air. A difference in air pressure capable of suspending the craft is created between its hull and the terrain it is traversing. Hovering is the action that results when the high air pressure environment underneath the hull and low air pressure above it create lift. A hovercraft is propelled forward by engines, propellers, and a large rear fan. The first hovercraft, the SRN1, crossed the English Channel in 1959. Propellers help these all-terrain boats move through air and water, directing its trajectory as it glides. The air cushion located beneath the hovercraft creates very little resistance when compared to the water resistance that traditional boats encounter. Consequently, hovercraft are more fuel-efficient than many boats. 

Are Hovercraft Easily Piloted?

Hovercraft of the past and present have faced handling issues. As long as the surface which the hovercraft is traveling over is relatively flat, piloting one is as safe as directing a boat or plane. Provided the pilot has sufficient experience, hovercraft travel is enjoyable, quick, and novel. The addition of side fans for turning, and a front fan for braking, have attempted to address these handling issues by creating a safer, more stable, and predictable piloting experience. Hovercraft can reach speeds of up to 90 mph. Unfortunately, they are more likely to be used as military vehicles than civilian transport. According to Justin Parkinson’s 2015 BBC article “What happened to passenger hovercraft?”, The Solent (which is the strait separating the Isle of Wight from England), is “now thought to be the only place in western Europe where a full passenger service operates”. The Catamaran proved to be more cost-effective and comfortable for travelers. The hovercraft, although efficient, fast, and capable of carrying large amounts of cars and people, was not favored for commercial passenger transport.

What Niches do Hovercraft Fill?

Military-grade hovercraft can carry up to 65 tons of equipment and soldiers. The ability of hovercraft to transition easily from one terrain to the next is seen as very advantageous from a military standpoint. Hovercraft are also useful as humanitarian response and disaster response vehicles. Their unique ability to hover over surfaces is extremely useful during disasters such as oil spills which would ruin other types of craft. The hovercraft is an indispensable caveat in the history of transportation.

Sail to Paradise on a Cruise Ship

If seeing another part of the world from the tranquility of the ocean sounds like your idea of a perfect vacation, it may be time to start planning a cruise.

There are many types of cruises available to suit a variety of interests, and the options are always increasing.

History of Cruise Ships

Modern cruise ships evolved from ocean liners and cargo ships. P&O Cruises, the first passenger cruise line, began offering tourist routes originating in Southampton in 1844. While early passenger ships and ocean liners were often referred to as floating cities, they were much smaller than the modern cruise ships they have evolved into.   

Comparison of Cruise Line Styles

Because travelers have a wide variety of personalities and preferences, some well-known cruise lines have strayed from the traditional cruising etiquette to create a more casual travel experience. Other high-end lines stick closer to the traditional cruise experience. 

Norwegian Cruise Line is famous for its concept of “freestyle cruising,” which promotes casual dress and does not require guests to eat meals at assigned times. Carnival is another casual, lower-cost line that is a favorite among younger travelers. Cunard Line is a traditional luxury cruise line that has higher standards and requires formal dress at certain times, while family-oriented lines, such as Royal Caribbean, fall somewhere in between.

The various activities that are found on each cruise line are typically chosen to match the average population that is likely to select the line. Large ships that are geared toward families and young adults are packed with water slides, climbing walls, and go-kart tracks, while small ships that are frequented by senior citizens focus on more laid-back activities, such as bingo, speakers, and sightseeing.      

Extreme Cruise Ship Enthusiasts

While most travelers take no more than one or two cruises per year, some experienced cruisers take their love of the sea to new levels. Travel bloggers and vloggers, such as Morgan O’Brien and the Sea Cruisers, create a significant amount of written and video content about the biggest, best, and newest cruise ships. Many of these creators are able to earn steady streams of income through ad revenue while keeping both first-time travelers and avid cruise fans in the loop about helpful tips and tricks and the latest trends in the cruise ship industry.

Avid cruisers can literally cruise around the world. Many popular cruise lines offer world cruises, which often last between six months and one year and visit dozens of countries on several continents. 

A handful of lifelong cruise fans have even chosen to move aboard cruise ships following retirement. Mario Salcedo explained that, in many circumstances, living on a ship can cost less than living in a retirement home. Salcedo’s favorite parts of his nomadic lifestyle include seeing new places, such as Europe and the Caribbean, and meeting a variety of new people from around the world. For the nontraditional, adventure-seeking senior citizen, spending the last several years of life seeing the world aboard a floating city can be a dream come true.   

Where Can I Go On a Cruise?

If you’re ready to go on a cruise, you have a wide variety of options. Some of the most popular cruise destinations include the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, but there are many more possibilities. Cruises are offered to Alaska and Hawaii, as well as along the East Coast and in many other coastal regions throughout the world. Transatlantic cruises are also available, as are small, yacht-like ships in the Mississippi River. No matter what your travel interests are, you’re sure to find a ship and destination that will make your next cruise a vacation you will never forget!  

The Versatile Motorboat

Nothing says ‘fun’ quite like the hum of an engine over water.

Motorboats, defined by the Britannica as relatively small boats that are run on an internal combustion or electric engine, are regular featured in music videos and TV shows as a sign of lavish living, partying, and popularity.

However, there is a lot more to the motorboat than just a pretty party vessel.

Origin Story: The Motorboat is Born

Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach didn’t know what they were starting when they drove their little gas-powered boat down the Neckar River in 1886. All they knew is that they wanted to show off their invention. They demonstrated their boat on the Waldsee in Stuttgart later that year. It had just one cylinder engine of 1 horsepower, but it impressed people enough to start creating their own versions.

Fast-forward to 1890 when William and George Priestman created a successful motorboat company from their home in Hull, England. Their boats used kerosene and ran off of a high-voltage ignition system. These were not sporty boats: they were used for towing goods up canals in England’s busy waterways. 

The motorboat, however, truly came into its own when Frederick and George Lanchester invented a much faster and more powerful boat in 1897. This was a flat-bottomed river launch that ran off of benzene and used a carburetor to mix the fuel with air. This ran a reverse propeller, and the engine ran at 800 r.p.m.

People almost immediately wanted to race motorboats. The first competition was held in 1903 in Cork Harbor in Ireland. This race was held under the auspices of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club. According to Scarf and Goggles, the winner, a Dorothy Levitt, set a thrilling pace at 19.3 miles per hour in a 3-propeller Napier launch designed by Selwyn Edge. King Edward VII was in the stands when she won, and he asked her to come to him so he could compliment her performance and discuss the finer details of boat handling. However, the designer’s name was on the entrance form, so she received a trophy engraved with the name ‘S.F. Edge.’ 

Motorboats were also quickly put to work as ferries, fishing boats, interceptor boats for police work, tugs, and coasters. 

Types Of Motorboats

You can spend a lot of time listing types of motorboats, but the two biggest classifications are inboard and outboard according to BoatUS. Inboard motorboats have engines mounted inside the hull, with the drive shaft poking through it and generally running to a propeller. The inboard engine is a permanent part of the boat.

The outboard motorboat has an engine that can be taken off, and it is attached, either by bolting or by clamping, to the stern or in a well in the hull. A propeller and a drive shaft are attached to the engine.

Within the two grand categories are many sub-types of motorboat. They can have flat bottoms and sport air screws, paddle wheels, and water jet pumps in order to go in shallow water. Hydroplanes and launches are considered motorboats because they have engines. Bass boats are specially designed for fishing for bass, and they come with powerful outboard engines and trolling motors. Bay boats go in shallow bays and are made out of fiberglass so that they can handle the salt water. Cruisers are slightly larger and have a cabin at the front of the boat. 

One big category of motorboat is the runabout. This is a name given to motorboats between 14 and 24 feet in length. They generally have outboard engines, and their small size makes them versatile. You can see them used for racing, cruising, and fishing.

Other types include the pilothouse boat, the power catamaran, the Jon boat, and the utility boat. The world of motorboats is vast and glorious, and anyone interested in boating can test each one until they find the one that suits them. The joy of finding the one for you, in fact, is part of their appeal.

Frigate: Favored by Navies

From the 15th century to present day, the frigate has played an important role for navies around the world.

These powerful warships were originally built for speed and maneuverability and have transformed over time into essential naval vessels.

The First Incarnation of the Frigate

The origins of the word frigate are uncertain, but it is thought to have originated from the Latin word “aphractus,” used for an open vessel with no lower deck. The term frigate can be tracked back to the Eighty Years War, which lasted from 1568-1648. During the war, privateers called Dunkirkers attacked the Dutch shipping using small, maneuverable sailing vessels that were called frigates. The Dunkirkers were very successful in their efforts to block Dutch shipping, and much of this success was credited to their use of frigates. This success inspired other navies to adopt similar vessels with some modifications overtime. This first incarnation of the frigate lasted until the early 19th century and had some notable moments:

  • Fifth-Rate Classification: In the early stages of development, the frigate continued to see modifications in size and style. By the late 18th century, the Royal Navy sought to include the frigate in its rating system. The Royal Navy classified the frigate as fifth-rate, a rating used for scouts and cruisers and a variety of gun arrangements. Frigates fit nicely in this rating given their maneuverability and use to patrol and disrupt enemy shipping lanes.
  • Armament Evolution: Given their position as naval vessels used in times of war, the armament of the frigate was an important consideration for the navies that employed them. In 1778, a new naval gun was produced that was revolutionary for smaller naval vessels such as the frigate. The gun was called the carronade and was produced by the Carron Iron Company of Scotland. The gun was light, quick to reload, and could be operated by a smaller crew. Its weight allowed it to be mounted on a frigate, greatly increasing the vessel’s firepower.
  • In America, Bigger is Better: While the first super-heavy frigates were built for the Swedish navy, they were most readily adopted by the United States Navy. The U.S. Navy’s first major ships were frigates. Given their size and firepower, they posed a serious threat to enemies. In the War of 1812, the British Royal Navy ordered its own frigates not to engage the larger American frigates unless they had a two-to-one advantage. Eventually the British adapted their fleet to be able to match the power of the super frigates used by the Americans.

The Second Incarnation of the Frigate

The modern frigate first came to be during World War II. The construction standards for the vessel also allowed it to be manufactured by yards that didn’t normally handle warship construction.

Unlike the original frigate, these frigates were not known for their speed as they were initially not deployed with the fleet. The vessels were eventually produced for fleet use but speed was still not a focus.

Modern Day Frigate

The frigate remains in use is an important element of many navies fleet today.  They serve a variety of uses, included:

  • Guided-Missiles: Small ships were made effective for anti-aircraft warfare with the introduction of the surface-to-air missile, including the frigate. Most modern frigates include offensive or defensive missiles.
  • Anti-Submarine: Some frigates remain specialized for anti-submarine warfare, including sonar equipment, specialized weapons, and a landing deck or hangar for helicopters.
  • Air Defense: Developments in fighter jets and ballistic missiles allow modern-day frigates to serve a role in air defense.

Naval advancements remain important to any country with a navy fleet, which means we can anticipate continued developments, refinements, and incarnations of the frigate.