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A jon boat (or johnboat) is a flat-bottomed boat constructed of aluminum, fiberglass, or wood with one, two, or three bench seats. They are suitable for fishing and hunting. The hull of a jon boat is nearly flat, therefore it tends to ride over the waves rather than cut through them as a V-hull might, thus limiting the use of the boat to calmer waters. Jon boats typically have a transom onto which an outboard motor can be mounted. They are simple and easy to maintain, and inexpensive with many options to upgrade. Typical options might include live wells/bait wells, side or center consoles, factory installed decks and floors, electrical wiring, accessory pads/mountings, casting and poling platforms.
Jon boats are available commercially between 8 and 24 feet (2.4 and 7.3 m) long and 32 to 60 inches (81 to 152 cm) wide, though custom sizes may be found. The simple design includes an open hull, without a bilge, leaving the ribs exposed. Many individuals choose to cover the ribs, producing a flat, level surface.
In the late 19th century flat-bottom boats were found popular in The Ozarks, and were ideal for traversing the shallow waters in the Missouri Valley. "Float Boats" of this kind were originally made from pine and green lumber, allowing for disposal after a single voyage downstream due to the low cost of construction.
One theory of the origin of the name comes from the use of jack pine in the construction of the boats, and over time "Jack" became "John" (the former is a common diminutive form of the latter), and the boat came to be called the "Ozark John Boat."
These vessels were found useful for float fishing, duck hunting and carrying timber. Visiting tourists and travelers enjoyed the idea of flat-bottomed boats, as they could fish standing up and did not have to fear tipping over.
Jon boats with beefed up aluminum construction, and powered by jet-drive outboards are becoming more popular since they are capable of operating in extremely shallow water and thus are used frequently in rocky rivers and areas with submerged obstructions such as oyster bars and coral. The hulls are built specifically for shallow water and designed to work with the dynamics of an outboard jet. The jet foot, sits at the same water level as the boat bottom, decreasing the amount of water needed to draft and navigate. With an outboard jet, water is drawn into the unit through an intake grill by an impeller driven directly by the engine driveshaft. This water is then forced at high pressure and volume through a nozzle directed astern of the boat. The velocity imparted to this mass of water creates an opposite force, and drives the boat forward.
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