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Sometimes Bigger just might be Better;

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.
I will admit that winter is long and it's taking its toll on us here. I haven't much to say but I'll write down the most recent news from our little niche on the planet.

After a 2 day warm front that reduced our snow pack by about 6" of loft we are getting some snow to make up for the loss. I would be in Anchorage today but for the treacherous roads I have rescheduled the trip and its business until Monday, today is Friday I should add.

So trapped at home so to say I am doing what I can to move the ball forward on the coming season. We are exploring the prospect of re-powering the boat this year. Since we got it we have been using the Honda Hydro Jet 35 which is a 50 horse power motor which delivers a 35 hp jet thrust. If you aren't knowledgeable about how the jets work the easiest explanation I can give you is that while they are capable of navigating in very shallow water, they are not very efficient at propulsion to fuel ratio. Most of us are familiar with propeller driven boats and the outboard motors they use. The jet propulsion system amounts to a significant loss of power transfer and so you need a big one if you want performance. The picture below shows what we call the foot or intake of the motors lower unit and the propulsion tube.

As I said this motor is very good on low water but it has a top end speed of about 21 mph if I am running light; just Boss, me, and some gear. If you add another person and more gear you pay in both mph & fuel efficiency. So what to do about that........... I just got off the phone with Steve at ATEC Marine who actually built the boat and we are looking at mounting a 90 hp. that will supply a 65 hp jet drive with 2013 technology behind it.

The boat is all wrapped up in a giant tarp and covered with a couple feet of snow right now so all I have accessible are old photos but I guess the 35 does look sort of lost on the back of it. As far as fuel economy goes I may be pleasantly surprised in that the 90 hp motor with programed fuel injection will not be working nearly as hard as the old carborated 50, it may do just as well or better when it comes to gas. In the bush of Alaska, gas is always a consideration. Bush gas costs around 7.00/gal right now, some may be cheaper but you're doing right if you plan on paying $7 and if you get it for six, well then We keep 180 gallons out at the cabin and with good reason;

To get to the cabin is an 80 mile boat trip so once you are there you're ready for a fill up. It seems that everywhere is still far away even when you are 80 miles deep. A trip from the cabin to the Talachlitna River is still another 38 miles away. Even runs to closer creeks require at least a 24 mile round trip so fuel is number ono' in the bush. Speed will be a good thing, although I always enjoy the sights along the rivers....................

5 & 1/2 to 6 hours of it one way can be tiring and frankly standing at the console for that long will wear you right down, just add a good hard cold rain and it's something to experience. I may have to mount a rain shield on the console if I'll be capable of 35 mph!

Here are a few more pictures from the rivers and Hewitt Creek. The first is the view as you are approaching Hewitt Lake on the way to the cabin. Hewitt is about 4.5 miles long and the cabin is 1 mile up the lake so you still aren't there when you see this but you're close now.

Boss riding the bow on the Big Su;

Looking behind as I try to outrun a storm on my way home.

On the way home and getting a look at McKinley & Foraker off to the left as I plow against the current. Think about this, these rivers run around 6 - 7.5 mile per hour surface current speed unless you get in a swift area, then it will be higher. These are big swift waters so a big swift motor wouldn't be a bar thing at all.

It's still snowing and there is a young cow moose laying in the woods right out back waiting out the storm with me.



  1. littledavid123's Avatar
    Funny how sometimes it actually works out where a bigger motor can be more efficient. Switching out my jeep from a 4 banger to a 5.3L V8 and my gas mileage will improve by almost 5 mpg.

  2. milt spawn's Avatar
    Love the photos Ard! How do you get the 180 out to the cabin? milt.
  3. Ard's Avatar
    Hi Guys,

    Milt, winter freight in March. The same 73 year old man who helped me un-freeze the truck years ago is still running barges and winter freight. He has a pair of giant (long) custom built sleds that he pulls behind the biggest wide track duel range snowmachine that SkiDoo makes. It doesn't pay too take too much out because if you don't burn it in a relatively short period you end up adding stabilizer to it so the octane stays good. The stabilizer is about $60 / gal. By the time you buy the gas at 3.75/Gal then pay the freight weight (it changes with the price of fuel) and then add stabilizer, you might as well pay the 6 or 7 a gallon for the bush gas at Skwentna.
  4. milt spawn's Avatar
    Interesting, so when gas gets pricier it also gets heavier. Don't resident Alaskans get some money from the state for oil export? milt.
  5. Ard's Avatar
    The PFD is paid out every fall and averages about 1000 dollars. I'm not exactly sure what gas weighs by the gallon but I figure it's close to the weight of water. What it amounts to is that on a long trip when you carry an extra 25 gallon up in the bow area of the boat you are burning more gas just to have more gas. I think that qualifies as a 'catch 22'............
  6. milt spawn's Avatar
    I guess the hauler would have to pass on the price increase to his clients to maintain his margins. Thanks Ard! milt.
  7. Ard's Avatar
    That is what causes the freight prices to fluctuate here. We've had gas at 3.80 for quite some time now, it never has went down much since the surge of 2008. When it peaked it was around 5.00 in town and increased as you got farther away from the main sources.
  8. mcnerney's Avatar
    Ard: Great story and photos! I can see where you might want to consider a rain shield with the bigger motor and faster speeds. Those gas prices you pay sure was an eye opener! Gas here in WY is running around 2.89 except for the stations right on the interstate, they just can't resist gouging the consumers.
  9. Ard's Avatar
    Hi Larry,

    yep, it looks like we have you by a dollar or more depending on where I would take big Yeller for a fill up. The Chevy truck is yellow......... I'm looking to re-power because I am entertaining the idea of hosting a few fly fishers beginning this year. There are lots of costs and many hoops to clear before I could hang out my shingle so we're still in the "might" stages of the whole thing.

    As time has passed it sort of occurred to me that with the cabin, the boat, and knowing my way around a fly rod I might just enjoy helping some others have a good Alaskan experience.