Every since I was a kid watching Flipper, I’ve always wanted to ride in on of those air boats in the everglades. Last week, while visiting my brother in Ft. Lauderdale, six of us went out into the everglades with Capt’n Randy. We drove out to a landing in the everglades and met him beside the water. This was a guy that would be hard not to like, friendly, funny and we found out he knew a lot about the ‘glades.
The first thing he says to me is, “you look just like a friend of mine, JD Gator. I sure hope you’re a lot smarter’n him though.”
We loaded up, the six of us and the capt’n. My dad was up in the highest seat beside the Capt’n. These things really fly, and it doesn’t necessarily need any water either. Mud or grass will do just fine. With a Corvette big block and a composite four blade prop this tourist boat (a little bigger than you would use for fishing or hunting) could do 50mph with virtually no wake.
We saw a lot of wildlife, mostly gators and birds. The gators didn’t care about us but most of the birds we saw from behind. Capt’n Randy told us about his Grandfather who, in the ‘60s, was changed from an alligator hunter to an alligator poacher. Well, I’ll testify to the fact that there is no shortage of gators out there. They are everywhere. I’d say there are more gators in the everglades than there are deer here in West Virginia where I live.
He showed us some of the camps that have been in the everglades for generations. You can almost hear the parties that some of them must have had, there were very few railings so you know someone got wet.
Randy told us about going out at night. He says the moon is enough light to ride with only your nav lights on. He did say that you needed goggles and a bandanna over your mouth to keep from getting “redneck drive through,” a euphemism for a bug lunch, but he says it’s beautiful, and in the summertime, it’s cool after the heat of the hot Florida sun.
On the way back my dad got a turn at driving this beautiful machine. It had dual steering controls; you push the lever down to go one way and pull it up to go the other. He’s good with machines and he did really well. Then my brother took a turn and even though he started out in a narrow little channel he got the hang of it quick. Unfortunately we got back to the landing before any of the rest of us had a chance to drive but I guarantee I’m going back, I gotta get me one of those things.