Round 5: Safety
An oft-touted selling point of jet drives is safety. With the impeller completely enclosed, jets present no whirling blades that could impact a swimmer or skier, nor any exposed hardware that hangs beyond or below the confines of the hull. In contrast, a sterndrive features an exposed propeller, as well as the drive itself, that could cause injury at the hands of a careless captain. Sterndrive manufacturers have attempted to lessen the prop’s exposure in recent years with extended swim platforms that distance swimmers from the prop, but this issue is relatively clear. The jet offers a safety advantage over a prop, especially with an inexperienced skipper at the helm.
That same pump configuration also equates to far less draft and running gear that might be damaged by a strike with an underwater object. The Sea-Doo features a maximum draft of 12 inches, the Chaparral as much as 31 inches. The sterndrive can be trimmed, lessening that to as little as 13 inches.
But in shallow waters as a jet pulls water into the pump for propulsion, it can also suck up stones, weeds or debris. A protective grate prevents large objects from entering the pump cavity, but smaller objects can enter and create problems. The sterndrive is clearly superior in weedy areas. A jet has the potential to clog in weeds and needs to be cleared. Savvy boaters will shut the engine off quickly and allow debris to float away. Rarely will a boater have to swim below and manually clear the grate. Optional solutions include Sea-Doo’s electronic drop-down grate and Yamaha jet boats’ pump clean-out ports that allow access from the swim platform.