Straddling the border of Arizona and Utah, Lake Powell is a blue oasis stretching through red and orange sandstone canyons with stunning rock formations.
Each season, visitors come to lake Powell Resorts & Marinas near Page, Arizona, to enjoy the lake and explore some of the geological wonders. Among the most popular are Antelope Canyon, Cathedral in the Desert, and Rainbow Bridge National Monument.
Lady Emma wants to take you there, too. The 15-meter (50-foot) tour vessel is a recent addition to the marina's fleet. Built by Bentz Boats, the new vessel sports an aluminum planing hull and jet propulsion powered by three John Deere PowerTech™ 6090SFM85 marine engines.
Capable of reaching a top speed of 45 knots, Lady Emma is the fastest in the marina's fleet. "She's primarily used to go up to Rainbow Bridge National Monument, which is 49 miles (79 kilometers) upriver. We can do a round trip in about four and a half hours, while our other vessels do that trip in six or seven hours," says Robert Knowlton, general manager of boat rentals, tours, and river operations for Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas.
Lady Emma made a grand entrance on Lake Powell in 2019. Knowlton says the marina has been in the process of replacing aging vessels with new boats. After considering various options, Knowlton and his team came to the conclusion that an aluminum tour boat with jet propulsion would be the best fit on Lake Powell. "Our other boats have propellers, and the draft on these vessels ranges from 4 to 5 feet (1 to 1.5 meters)," says Knowlton. "On Lake Powell, there are places where rocks lie just below the water surface, depending on water level. Having a draft of only 2.5 feet (73 centimeters) with jet propulsion makes it easier to get around on the lake and helps us avoid possible damage to the vessel."
He also points out that jet propulsion offers exceptional maneuverability. With one engine in forward and two in reverse, the boat turns 360 degrees on a dime and can walk sideways for easy docking — a strong selling point at Lake Powell. "The captains operating the vessel really enjoy the maneuverability and versatility that the propulsion package offers in narrow passages such as Antelope Canyon."
Picking the pros
After researching boat builders and evaluating reviews, Knowlton selected Bentz Boats in Lewiston, Idaho, to build Lady Emma. Family-owned and -operated, Bentz Boats has been crafting rugged aluminum-hull vessels since 1972. The company builds custom, high-end commercial and recreational aluminum boats that have a proven track record for safely operating in a variety of water conditions throughout the world. A vast majority of these vessels are powered by jet propulsion.
When selecting a power source for the jet propulsion system, Knowlton leaned on the advice of Bentz Boats, who recommended John Deere engines supplied by Cascade Engine Center. This John Deere engine distributor has years of experience and expertise pairing John Deere engines with HamiltonJet propulsion systems in tour boats, water taxis, and commercial fishing vessels throughout the Pacific Northwest.
"Cascade Engine Center has been a long-term supplier of engines for us, offering solutions and support from initial sales to aftersales service, regardless of vessel location," relates Bryan Bentz, owner of Bentz Boats. "My trust in their recommendation is high — they have a proven track record of quality and support. The depth of knowledge that Tim Sandeman and his team at Cascade Engine possess of the products they represent is impressive. I often use them as a sounding board. We are very fortunate to have them as a resource."
Cascade Engine Center recommended John Deere PowerTech™ 6090SFM85 engines for Lady Emma. "Cascade Engine preassembles the components to ensure they are compatible and operational before they even ship," says Bentz. "Receiving everything preassembled prior to delivery reduces the initial startup time. If there are startup issues, they can often be easily resolved over the phone while at the water."
Bentz Boats paired the John Deere 9.0L engines with HamiltonJet 322 waterjets through a ZF transmission with a 1:1 gear ratio. "Most of our clientele is looking for higher speeds. We have learned that oftentimes smaller triple applications provide better performance at a lesser cost both initially and long term than twin engines," says Bentz. "As a result, we have a history of installing a lot of triple propulsion packages."
In fact, Bentz Boats is building another triple-engine vessel for Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas. The new jet-propulsion tourism vessel measures 21 meters (68 feet) in length and will be powered by three John Deere PowerTech 6135SFM85 marine engines.
"Bentz Boats is approaching 50 years in this business, and you learn what works and what doesn’t," says Bentz. “The John Deere engines were the perfect fit for durability and performance."
Bentz Boats is approaching 50 years in this business, and you learn what works and what doesn’t. The John Deere engines were the perfect fit for durability and performance.