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November 04, 2008

The Skinny on Jack Plates

Should every skiff come with a jack plate as standard equipment?

Make Planing Easier
You can simplify the process of "spinning up" by using a jack plate. First, raise the jack plate all the way up. Then, apply full throttle with the wheel straight ahead. Once up on plane, you can lower the jack plate if necessary. Rather than the stern "squatting down" in the water initially, the way it would with a standard engine mount and the engine trimmed up, the stern moves forward as the jack plate allows the engine's thrust to work, keeping the prop high enough to miss the bottom. As the boat starts to come over onto plane, the engine lowers to the  proper level for high-speed cruising.
Slowing down into shallow water essentially reverses the above procedure. As the boat slows, the captain raises the jack plate; some also tilt the engine out at the same time, so that as the stern drops to its lowest point coming off plane, the engine is already jacked up high and tilted out a bit to minimize draft.
Jack plates come in both manual and hydraulic versions, and size and setback depend on the size of engine you plan to mount with it. Obviously, if you want to adjust the height of your engine while under way, the hydraulic type is the only way to go. Manual jack plates retail for anywhere between $150 and more than $1,000. Hydraulic models run from about $650 on the low end to almost $2,000 for a top-of-the-line model.

Jack-Plate Manufacturers:
(Special thanks to Bob's Machine Shop
for providing all photography used in this feature)

 Bob's Machine Shop
Tampa, Florida
800-966-3493 (orders)
813-247-7040 (tech line)

 Cook Marine
Duncan, Oklahoma

 Detwiler Industries
St. Paul, Minnesota

 Panther Marine Products
St. Paul, Minnesota

 R&R Design
Terrell, Texas

 T-H Marine Supplies Inc.
Huntsville, Alabama

T&R Marine Corporation
Perry, Florida