Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Here’s another reminder that fall is here and winter is around the corner. Speaking of around the corner, just to the left of where I was standing when I took this picture is the scene of one of the most thrilling and dangerous moments of my life in Mathews. In fact, it was almost my death in Mathews.
My father collected many toys over the years, and one day he decided we needed an airboat.
Wikipedia describes an airboat as follows:
Airboats are essentially flat-bottomed vessels propelled in a forward direction by an aircraft-type propeller and powered by either an aircraft or automotive engine. The engine and propeller are enclosed in a protective metal cage that prevents objects, e.g., tree limbs, branches, clothing, beverage containers, or wildlife from coming in contact with the whirling propeller, which could cause devastating damage to the vessel and traumatic injury to the operator and passengers. The propeller produces a rearward column of air that propels the airboat forward. Steering is accomplished by forced air passing across vertical rudders. There must be a forceful airflow in order for the vessel to be steered. Airboats do not have brakes and are incapable of traveling in reverse. Stopping and reversing direction are dependent upon good operator/pilot/driver skills.
Let me just say a few words about my experience with the airboat:
1. I’ve never EVER seen one around here.
2. That’s because they’re death traps. They were built first to deafen, then terrify and ultimately kill people, especially children.
3. They do not operate predictably in deep water. Or at all.
Middle Sister and I decided to take the new contraption for a spin, and naturally I had to drive.
My father provided detailed instructions on safe and proper operation. These instructions were as follows: “Here ya go! Have fun!” Then he walked off and took a nap. There were no adults to be found in a 50-mile radius.
All I remember is a very brief spin up the creek in deep water (no good for airboats) against the wind (no good for airboats) and deafening noise directly behind us (no good for eardrums). None of this was good for Chesapeake Bay Children.
The noisy helicopter blades swirled right behind us, and if either one of us had decided to stick a finger in there, we’d have been flung to Jupiter.
Tired of fighting the wind, and deafened by the noise even with earplugs, I turned the boat back around and high-tailed it home. Determined to see how fast the boat would go, I floored it. The wind was behind us giving way too much of an extra push, and we were over deep water, which equated to unpredictable steering. Particularly for an unskilled operator.
The next thing I knew we were headed directly towards the shore, wide open, helicopter blades whirling and Middle Sister screaming. (I couldn’t hear her shrieks over the deafening sounds of the death blades.) I was trying to steer us away from shore but it just wasn’t working. We were headed straight for land.
What happened next can best be explained by Middle Sister. The boat ended up perfectly cushioned in a bed of marsh grass, helicopter blades still swirling.
Two stunned children disembarked, pulled out their earplugs, laughed nervously and agreed never to speak of the incident again.