Ever wonder how and where the sport
of personal watercraft got it's start?
It all happened in about 1967 when the leadership of Bombardier in Canada, makers of the famous Ski Doo snowmobiles, had
the idea that it would be fun to create a snowmobile type riding experience for the water.
They had heard of guy who was working on an intriguing design for a stand up jet powered water craft......sound
familiar? That's right, the same guy who later brought the world the Kawasaki Jet Ski, designed the original personal
watercraft, the 1968 Sea Doo!
The twist in his stand up design came when Bombardier provided him with the engine they wanted to be used. It was a
320cc air cooled single cylinder Rotax engine currently in use in their "Olympique" model Ski Doo Snowmobiles.
This engine was too big, and required too much air for cooling, to be used in small, narrow stand up design. The
results of the much larger hull design signaled the birth of the sit down personal watercraft.
The inventor, Clayton Jacobson, completed the design and built a proto-type. Both were submitted to Bombardier
who then modified the final design to look more in keeping with their current model snowmobiles, ie., yellow paint with black
accent strips and the tradmark round, "positive curve," nose profile.
Production ran from 1968 with the original design air cooled "320" Model and ended in 1969 with the redesigned water
cooled model "372" which sported a better hull/keel design a bigger jet pump, and a water cooled twin cylinder Rotax 368cc
During the end of production a recall was placed in effect on the 372 Models to overcome a problem where the boats would
explode during hot starting. This recall included:
- Remove the top half of the hull and completely reglass it inside.
- Glass over the opening behind the black grill at the top of the cowling just in front of the handle bars to seal it shut.
- Remove the recoil starter cup on the right side of the hull just below the seat. Glass over it's opening on the
inside, and rivet a square plastic cover plate over the opening on the outside to hide the "glass over" that was done on the
- Reposition the recoil starter on the engine by "re-clocking" it one bolt hole to the left so the pull starter handle could
be accessed and used by lifting the seat.
- Place the Bosch Voltage Rectifier inside a waterproof yellow plastic box with a clear plastic cover and remove the metal
cover that was on the rectifier to protect the 2 fuses.
- Remove the bilge blower vent motor and it's dash mounted push button switch. Glass over both the push button switch
hole and over the opening where the vent motor vented out the left side of the hull just below the seat. Rivet a plastic
plate in place on the outside of the hull to hide the "glass over" on the inside of the opening.
- Remove the dash surface mounted ignition key and seperate push button starter button. Glass over the starter button.
Install a new recessed cup style ignition assembly which placed the key down inside the dash. The new ignition switch
now performed both the "on" and the "start" functions.
- Remove the jet pump's reverse nozzle assembly, and dash mounted "morse" type actuating cable. Glass over the
hole where the actuating cable was mounted in the dash.
Ultimately, production was ceased when the "exploding" problem was still not cured. All remaining stock, both
in storage, and at dealers all over the USA and Canada was ordered destroyed. Dealers who had boats on hand were asked
to return the Hull I.D. Plates to the factory for proof of destruction and to receive financial reimbursement for the lost
A very sad end to such a fantastic beginning.
Following the demise of the Sea Doo, Bombardier sold the patent rights back to Jacobson. He was soon in contact
with Kawasaki and the rest, as they say, was history!
Below is Jacobson's original patent drawing which was submitted to Bombardier in 1968. Thanks to my brother,
Tori, for finding this very special piece of Sea Doo history!