Last week my husband, Wayne, asked again if I wanted to go with him in the airboat on Lake Marion. I had refused every time, but when I said, “Yes, I’ll try,” I realized it was a result of how exercise built up my confidence.
An Airboat Primer
He started up the aircraft engine while it rested in our central Florida lakefront covered boat slip. I ran the motor to lower the straps, and he pulled himself back out of the slip by grabbing the poles along the side. In contrast to airplanes, airboats utilize a push prop in the rear airplanes have a pull prop on the nose of the fuselage or along the wings.
There are two areas they are similar, the noise and the lack of ability to back up. In contrast to an airplane, an airboat can be spun around. Residents along large lakes in Florida complain about the noise. In our county they passed an ordinance that airboats must have mufflers. It didn’t really help reduce the decibels, however, because the source of the noise is the propeller. You can hear the engine and propeller noise and see the wind blow about debris in this short video of my husband and our airboat.
Airboats have a shallow draft due to their light weight, less than 1,000 pounds and the wide hull. Finally, the underside of the hull is treated with a product that reduces friction even more, Slick bottom. All these factors give an airboat the ability to skim over aquatic plants and even land for short distances. As he skinned around and headed out past the weeds, I turned around on the dock to head toward the shoreline of Lake Marion.
Trial and Error
I navigated the first obstacle, getting down from the dock onto the cinder blocks that serve as steps to the lakeshore. But how to get into the boat? With my arthritic knees, I feel much better with something to hold onto. Ah yes, I remembered to put my butt down on the bow and swing my feet inside the hull.
Carefully I stood up, whispering, “Thank you, Darrin”, to my workout coach for all the squats he has cheered me through. Aloft, I held onto the frame of the airboat, carefully aligning my feet with the metal bottom to reach the tubular rungs that lead to the backseat behind the driver.
I didn’t have the flexibility in my joints to lift my knees to the first rung. There was fear involved as my actions moved the airboat slightly. Big time fear.
The engine is running, but the prop is still, so I turned to Wayne and said, “I can’t do it.”
He yelled, “Can you sit on the grate where my feet are?”
It looked possible, so I went forward, easily lifted my foot onto the shallow bow and leaned back with my butt on the platform with his feet. My toes were dangling above the bow as I scooted back. This platform folds the accelerator pedal for Wayne’s left foot, but the right side was open, as his right foot control was beside the platform.
“I can do this!”
The only place for my hands to grab hold was the aluminum tubing welded along the underside of the platform. I held on tight as we spun around away from the sandy shore. Our immediate destination was the Eastern shoreline, directly in front of us.
Although my iPhone was stuck in my right pocket, I wasn’t confident of the stability of my situation to take any video until after we say a 10-foot bull gator roll off floating debris ten yards in front of us. My heart skipped a few beats as we skimmed right over his sunbathing platform. But I was disappointed to miss the iconic Florida wildlife photo.
Although the ride seemed really fast to me in my precarious seat, I knew Wayne was being extremely cautious. The roar of the propeller prevents conversation. But I suspected he was looking for the hidden entrance to Indian Springs Run, a slow moving creek emanating from a spring, constantly feeding Lake Marion. As we entered the run, our smooth ride on the airboat allowed me to take a handheld video with my steady hand.
I Didn’t Expect That
We exited the run and headed back out to the water lily pads. My phone safely in my pocket, a sudden outpouring of tears, then sobs overtook me. The anxiety of the stay-at-home pandemic order coupled with my newfound confidence in my improved strength burst forth, like the white egrets taking flight in front of me.
Then calmness reigned. I could now trust both my ability to hold fast on the platform and my husband’s care for me as I enjoyed the rest of the trip. I filmed cattle who had ventured away from the shore to browse on aquatic grass and later, the homes on Bannon Island.
The Next Goal
Two days later I told my trainer, Darrin, about my difficulty on the airboat, I could see the wheels turning behind his bright brown eyes. He added moves to my workout routine that would strengthen all the deep muscles in my hips. Remembering the thrill of the airboat ride enhanced my workout effectiveness. Even more now, I feel the result of how exercise built up my confidence. Next, Wayne’s talking about letting me take the controls on our next airboat adventure on Lake Marion.
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Have a Safe Memorial Day Weekend,