14 Oct 2016

First law of the sea: make sure you always look after your bottom.

Or, to put it another way: if you want to keep a high-speed jetboat's hull safe from destruction while rocketing along shallow river beds in New Zealand you need a very special brand of steel in your keel.

Here's an example of a company designing and manufacturing boats that make big demands on the used in their construction and finding that for high performance, BISALLOY® STEEL is not only best for their bottom - but, ultimately, the bottom line, too.

You want to do what?

In 1982, Kiwi Neil Ross decided there must be more to life than farming. His alternative? Exploring the concept of using jet-propelled boats (what else!) to allow tourists to see and experience (and experience is the word!) the rivers of New Zealand like never before.

In the six years it took to bring the concept to life, some people reckoned he had rocks in his head. But Neil knew he had the opposite problem: rocks in his bottom.

When Dart River Safaris began operating in Queenstown, in 1988, Neil not only had the challenge of starting up a unique, fledgling business. He also had to deal with an equally unique technical challenge - one posed by the conditions his boats would be operating in, namely: how to overcome the damage being done to the aluminium hulls of the high-speed jetboats day after day, resulting from swerving and scything over ultra-shallow shingle river beds, and constantly being battered by stones up to 30mm in diameter.

Adding to the problem was that these weren't small craft.

6.5 Tonnes of Jetboat, 33 Passengers, at 50- 80km/hour - In Only 100mm of Water.

Not surprisingly, the hulls of the boats took an incredible beating, to the point where the impact and abrasion caused by the stones eventually would tear the bottoms out.

It was the sort of problem that, unsolved, could have caused any company to go bottom-up.

That was until Neil was introduced to the unique qualities of what would be the "saviour" (his words) for his boats - BISALLOY® STEEL.

At the time, the use of quenched and tempered plate was almost unknown in this type of application, but when his local steel merchant recommended a new type of steel plate, Neil decided that it would be definitely worth a try.

He had already tried mild steel, but with the need for light weight also a critical factor, along with the need for greater strength, ordinary steel simply wasn't up to the job.

He found thin 6-8mm sections of BISALLOY® steel, delivered greater impact and abrasion resistance, proving to be the answer he had been searching for.

And the benefits kept stacking up, both in usage and in the design of the boats.

For instance, the plate's flatness, strength and rigidity not only saved the hulls of the jetboats, but also allowed for thinner aluminium sections to be used throughout the entire frame of the craft – again meaning significant weight-savings, without compromising the safety of the passengers.

BISALLOY® steel even added to the thrill quality of the ride, providing a wonderful "skidding" platform for the boats, allowing them to skim off the shallow, shingle river bottoms even more spectacularly.

Later, when Neil began making his racing boats, the performance-enhancing qualities of BISALLOY® steel would become even more critical, with the racing craft having to negotiate the twists and turns of the river in water barely 25mm deep - at speeds of up to 160km/hour.

Ned Kelly Would Have Approved

Another benefit for Neil was that adopting BISALLOY® steel into his manufacturing process couldn't have been simpler: the BISALLOY® Wear steel plate was simply bolted to the bottom of the boat, where it acted like a  suit of armour.

And the result overall in terms of Neil's business?

As he himself, says, “The fact is, using BISALLOY® steel literally doubled the life of the boats. And gave us a far greater margin of safety."

Without BISALLOY® steel, Neil would still be facing the problem of regularly having to replace large sections of his all-aluminium boats destroyed by the rigours of the river.

So, it comes as no surprise that he continues to use BISALLOY® steel in both his safari and racing boats, plus the custom-designed cruising boats he builds for customers.

"There is an extra initial material cost for BISALLOY® steel," Neil says. "But then, it's more than offset by the sheer value it represents in saving us both in construction, and in the life of the boats."

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