You must have probably heard about air boats and their significance in areas like the Floridian everglades and Louisiana Bay. Air boats are typically flat bottomed vessels that use a huge propeller (like those used in air crafts) attached to the back of the vessel in order to move forward.
These vessels are very popular in areas where normal boats find it difficult to travel. Reaching high speeds of up to 45 miles per hour and more, air boats are commonly used for fishing, hunting and tourism in swamps and wetlands. An air boat ride can be quite thrilling and fun IF you take the safety measures into consideration. Here are a few need to know facts about airboat rides and visitor safety while riding these vessels.
Check the weather: As is the case with any kind of ride on air, land or water, check the local weather conditions before booking a ride. If it’s raining, the ride may not be all that fun and the waters can turn out to be very choppy during bad weather.
Check Crew Accreditation: Most of the agencies that operate airboat rides employ only skilled personnel and experienced captains. However, there are a few local companies which have inexperienced drivers and local youth acting as first mates. This can be extremely dangerous for the passengers.
Before boarding the vessel, you need to check if the captain of the boat has either a Captains License which allows him/her to drive a vessel that seats 6 passengers or a Master Captains License which allows him/her to drive vessels seating more than 6 passengers.
Most of the vessels that are used for air boat rides are checked and certified by the U.S. Coast Guard Service (if in America). Do check if the vessel you are boarding is accredited with any major service in addition to being insured.
Occupancy: If the vessel attains maximum occupancy before your entire family steps in, consider it better to step out and wait for the next ride rather than try to squeeze everybody in and exceed the total number of passengers the boat can originally carry. Not only is it dangerous for the passengers on board the vessel, it would become very hard to maneuver the boat at high speeds.
Requirements: For the most part, the weather around wetlands and everglades tends to be very hot and sultry. It is advised to carry along plenty of sun tan lotion in addition to sun hats and goggles. You can also carry a wet towel to wrap around yourself if you feel the heat getting to you.
Life vests and ear plugs are provided by the crew and you need to wear them even if you feel quite adventurous and want to give them a miss.
Stepping onto the vessel: Air boats are flat and can become quite slippery after a few rides. Though the crew would clean the vessel after every ride, there is a high possibility that you may slip and fall while boarding the boat. Make sure to check if there are any slippery surfaces on the boat and keep your feet on some kind of a non slippery surface.
It is considered highly dangerous to board an airboat after either consuming drinks or drugs. Once the tour starts, passengers are asked to sit still and not try to stand up or make sudden movements when the boat is moving. While sitting, make sure to keep your feet and hands inside the boat instead of trying to reach out and grasp the outer rail of the boat.
Be Prepared: If the water is a bit rough, the ride can become choppy and there have been quite a number of incidents wherein a passenger was thrown overboard when the vessel hit a particularly bad patch of water. Do note that this does not happen frequently but don’t eliminate the possibility from your mind.
Be wary of the propellers: Air boats have giant propellers that suck air in to move the boat forward. Even though these huge fans are covered with protective metal cages, there is a high possibility that small objects left loose by passengers may get sucked into the cage.
Such an incident can cause serious harm to the vessel and its passengers. In addition to disrupting the flow of the vessel, the broken fragments spewed out by the fan may cause bodily harm or death. In case of an accident, ask the captain to stop the boat immediately and see if anyone is hurt.
Dont feed animals: The final tip to having a safe airboat ride is to restrain feeding the animals you encounter in the everglades, especially alligators. In addition to being illegal, the activity can actually loosen the fear of the alligators which may attack the vessel if they sense any harm. This goes for captains as well.
Keep all these points in mind when you have an airboat ride and remember, safety comes first with regards to all other facts and by making sure you are safe, you can make the experience all the more exciting and fun.