20 May Rowdy Dowty Comes to Life
When Stuart Diesel enjoyed a jet boat ride in New Zealand in 2020, a conversation with the operator about a ‘couple of old Dowty jet boats’ he had seen in his friend Ted Dowty’s yard years earlier sparked a huge restoration project, which West Country Boat Repairs are proud to have been a part of.
The NZ operator’s eyes lit up at the mention of the word Dowty, and rightly so, as these original classic jet boats are now extremely rare.
The jet boat concept was invented by New Zealander Bill Hamilton in the 1950’s. Water is forced through the jets enabling the boat to reach speeds of up to 40knots in as little as 4 inches of water. Bill Hamilton approached Sir George Dowty, of Gloucestershire engineering company The Dowty Group, renowned for their development of retractable landing gear for jet aircraft, to develop and build the jet boats. Dowty engineered some important improvements, such as a reverse bucket and built approximately 400 boats.
At the time, Sir George was also working with Donald Campbell, supporting his Bluebird antics and during this the Dowty jet boat became the tender for the Bluebird speed trials and can be seen on this Pathay footage being used as a water-ski tow boat at South Cerney.
Fast-forward to the early 1990’s and Stuart Diesel met and worked with Edward Dowty, known as Ted, nephew of Sir George, becoming close friends and eventually taking over his hydraulics business. Ted had two Dowty turbo craft parked outside his office and dreamt of refurbishing one to use as a tender to navigate the shallow waters around his house in the Bahamas.
Upon his return from New Zealand in 2020 Stuart asked Ted what had happened to the boats, to be told they were in the corner of a field he had sold. Luckily, the new owner had left them buried in brambles and was happy for Stuart to take 3 days to dig them out, full of water and in a poor state but complete!
One of the boats, originally named Tutti Frutti was entrusted to West Country Boat Repairs for the structural refurbishment as a major task during the COVID lockdown. The deck was fibre glassed with special twill, which is light, flexible and perfect for the boat’s many curves. Cracks and redundant instrument holes were filled and the whole of the hull and deck re-geled.
Looking like new, Stuart re-named her Rowdy Dowty, Ted Dowty’s Brotherhood of Pirates nickname, after he sadly died just weeks before the project was complete. The boat needs speed to change the jet direction and steer; Cardiff Bay has no speed limit so Stuart plans to launch and test her there. He’d also like to take her to Loch Lomond before potentially displaying her at a museum
Stuart says “I did this for Ted, he was so excited that the boat was going to brought to life. Working with Pete at West Country Boat Repairs was an absolute pleasure, we got on very well and I valued his expert knowledge on areas I didn’t know about.”