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The Anti-Canoe?

View of Bombardier Sea-Doo, 1969. (CSTMC)

The most recent popular trend in recreational boating involves a new type of vessel known as Personal Watercraft, or PWCs, sometimes informally referred to by the commercial names "Sea-Doo" and "Jet Ski." Roughly equivalent to a motorcycle on water, these small, powerful vessels combine light, moulded fibreglass hulls with water-jet propulsion systems, to create a vessel with an enormous appeal for aquatic thrill seekers. Unfortunately, the easy portability, noisy powerful engines, and high speed have combined to make these boats controversial. Demands for regulation and operator age restrictions have arisen in response to widely publicized accidents and complaints from campers, cottagers and environmentalists.

Builder's plate, Bombardier Sea-Doo, 1969. (CSTMC).

This reputation has given rise to such critical epithets as the "Anti-Canoe" (The Globe and Mail, July 9, 1998, p. A16). It is ironic that Canada is the cradle of wilderness canoeing and the birthplace of one of the most popular PWCs, the Sea-Doo. Developed and first introduced by Bombardier (famous as the builders of Ski-Doo snowmobiles) in 1968, Bombardier stopped production after two years, only to return to the market again in 1988, in time to capitalize on a rapidly expanding market.

The Sea-Doo in the Museum's collection (841198) was built in 1969. With its 24-hp Rotex engine, bicycle-like handlebars, and top speed of 56 km/h, this early model seems almost quaint compared to today's sleek, high-speed, top-of-the-line editions, capable of skimming across the water at speeds of up to almost 111 km/h!

Detail of 24-hp Rotex engine, Bombardier Sea-Doo, 1969. (CSTMC)

Detail of water-jet nozzle, Bombardier Sea-Doo, 1969. (CSTMC)