Not many farmers can quit and turn industrialist, but C. W. F. (Bill) Hamilton did just that. A technological genius, he numbers among his products the remarkable jet boat. I went to see him in his offices in Christchurch, the South Island’s largest city (260,000) and by far the most English. Christchurch, with its Avon River and stately Gothic cathedral, bears out Anthony Trollope’s contention that “the New Zealander among John Bulls is the most John-Bullish.”
Mr. Hamilton, now well into his seventies, reminisced: “I was looking for a boat to use in our shallow rivers. In some places where you have only a few inches of water, all conventional means of propulsion are useless. Well, I just kept tinkering.”
What he created was a jet engine that sucks water through a grate in the bottom of the hull and squirts it out the stern with immense force. The result is a boat that at 20 knots draws only three inches of water, is so maneuverable that it can turn in its own length at almost any speed, and is safer than conventional boats since it can stop remarkably quickly (by reversing the jet flow) and has no whirling propellor to endanger swimmers.