4wings.com Hovercraft development 47751 Michigan ave., Port Isabel - 78578 - Texas, US Tel.: (956)943 5150


Hovercraft development
47751 Michigan ave. , Port Isabel, TX, 78578
Tel:(956) 943-5150

Flying a Hovercraft
The following script was sent  to us from  Don A. Weber  who is a local to the Lower Laguna Madre and has the typical South Texan charm ...it will give you  a objective point for a  small  Hovercraft cruising report - enjoy - all credit to original author.

The Latest and Greatest Adventure by Don A. Weber

It all started on Tuesday, October 17th at 12::00 noon.  My buddy and customer, Frank Smith, invited me to go floundering.  He is the guy who had a fishing cabin on the Intracoast Waterway, North of Port Mansfield.  His cabin was near the mouth of the North land cut.  The reason I say "had" is because last year it got struck by lightning.  That didn't destroy it but caused some havoc.  Then in May a barge side swiped it, while him and some other guys were in it, asleep.  It knocked everybody out of bed.  Plus the barge ran over his 21 foot boat he had tied to the pier.  It moved the entire cabin, built on saltwater treated, telephone post that were driven 8 feet into the ground, two feet.  The barge hit some other cabins also.  The captain had gone to Mexico and was sleeping off a hangover.  He put a deckhand in command to pilot the tug and he wasn't very good at it.  The barge ran aground but the tug has so much power that it pushed it back into the channel.  Now to finish it off, Hurricane Bret went though last year and blew the cabin away.  It blew all the cabins away or left them in shambles.  Now he is rebuilding and has the pier finished along with the platform where the new cabin will be built.    It will be a one room structure about 18 by 30 feet.  He has also finished a small tool shed where he plans on storing a 4-wheeler, ATV.  However, since I took him out on the Hovercraft yesterday, he may change his mind and get a Hovercraft.  I will tell you that, later in this story.  It was rather exciting.

OK, back to the fishing story.  About 15 miles West of Port Mansfield, on the highway, I passed a large buck on the side of the road, near the fence line.  At first I thought it was a doe, but when he raised his head you could see he was at least an 8 pointer.  Another 2 miles down the road, I almost ran over a bigger buck.  This one had to have at least 10 points.  It was running along side the pavement, in the grass, and I really had to slow down because I thought it would dart in front of me.  It didn't so I went on.  Then about another mile or so there was a wild boar in the other lane.  It had been run over by a car.

I arrived in Port Mansfield, found Frank, and finally got his boat in the water at 8:30 p.m.  He couldn't get it started because his son had run it completely out of gas.  Plus he still had to load the boat with all the gear for floundering.  You know, the beer, food, gigs and of course the batteries, lights and floats for the batteries, etc.

Now, it is dark, without a moon in sight.  Off we go into the pitch, black darkness with a spot light in my hand.  Frank was piloting the boat and I was looking for green and red markers to guide us out the East cut that leads into the Gulf of Mexico.  We went from maker 31, leaving the harbor, to marker 11.  Frank said it was about 8 miles.  We anchored at maker 11, got out of the boat and started walking.  We walked all the way to marker 6.  We could hear the waves pound the shore of the Gulf of Mexico.  I had a gig in one hand, light in the other and dragging a 12 volt car battery behind me on a floating piece of styrofoam.  The gig had three prongs and I was sure glad it did.  The way those flounders fought, we would have lost them with only a one prong gig.  I worked close to the shore, about eight to ten feet out and Frank walked in the knee deep water about twenty feet out.  I gigged about 3 flounder before I figured out how to judge the length of them in the water.  After that, I saw about 25 or 30 flounder, but they were all under the 14 inch limit.  We did end up with two keepers, one was 15 inches and the other 20 inches. After cleaning them we netted a total of 5 pounds of flounder meat.  I had lots of fun and now I know how to flounder and where to go floundering.

After walking for two miles we turned around and walked back, another two miles to the boat.  A guy by the name of Charlie Williams had gone with us but he was in the boat waiting for us.  Charlie is 70 years old and is a retired football coach.  We decided to start walking back towards Port Mansfield, but this time we drug the 21 foot boat with us.  Well, we made Charlie drag the boat.  Frank and I walked, each dragging a battery, a light and gig.   Charlie also had a gig and a light, but his battery was on the boat.  At about 3:00 a.m., I finally got tired and jumped into the boat Charlie was pulling.   By the way, this is the same boat that got sunk by the barge.  Frank fixed it back up and it is fine now.

After getting the boat stuck one time on a sand bar we finally got back to Port at 4:30 a.m.  What a night, what a night.

I am up again at 7:30 a.m. and start fishing off the pier in front of Myrna's house in Port Mansfield.  Myrna is Frank's accountant at his Toyota dealership in McAllen.  Frank use's the house during the week and Myrna use's it on the weekends.  That is when Frank is not up in Alaska fishing.  He went to Alaska this past July, for a month, and brought back 350 pounds of fish.  Mainly it was Salmon.   Frank's thing is watching football on TV and fishing.  That is all he does, or at least that is all I ever see him do.

We fooled around all day Wednesday fishing, off the pier, and getting ready for our voyage to the new cabin site for all night fishing.  I wanted to take the Hovertechnics, model 2+2, Hovercraft along so we could use it in the flats where his boat won't go.  We left Port at 5:00 p.m. for the 35 minute boat ride to the North land cut.  I took off with the Hovercraft first to see how it would do.

I got it launched, with an audience, and chugged out of the Port into the deeper water.  The swells were about 18 inches to 2 feet and I was moving slow.  It would have taken me about an hour and a half to get out there.  I changed my mind and headed back to the harbor just in time to catch Frank, Terry Leonard, a friend, and Sonny Langford, the commercial fisherman,  coming out.  I met up with them and we all went back to the boat ramp.  I flew the Hovercraft up the boat ramp, to my amazement.  As I landed on the parking lot a lady comes driving up and asked if I was the pilot of the Hovercraft.  I thought to myself, this is really getting to be a pain in the butt with everybody wanting to talk to me about the Hovercraft.  I responded to her, yes it was me.  She then laid into me, scolding me for going too fast in the harbor.  She said that I was doing fine going out but came back in too fast.  She caught me off guard with her lambasting tone of voice.  She had a beat up old car and about in her late twenties or early thirties.  Not bad looking but kind of scrubby.

After she chewed me out a bit, I asked her who she was.  She said that she was the Harbor Master.  I was shocked.  I then told her that I was sorry and explained to her how a Hovercraft works.  I told her I was coming in from large swells with the throttle wide open and only going about 5 miles an hour.  When I hit the smooth water of the harbor, the Hovercraft took off.  It just so happens that was right in front of the Harbor Master's watch tower.  She then kept harping on the fact that I was going too fast.  I became impatient and asked her.  Why do you think that every body needs to slow down to a crawl while in the harbor?  She told me because of the wake it makes and it will rock all the boats in the harbor.  I then told her that she was 100 percent correct.  I asked her if I rocked any boats in the harbor.  She said that she did not notice any wake.   I told her that she was very observant and correct.  A Hovercraft does not make a wake.  That threw her off guard and then started to stumble in her speech.  She didn't know what to say next.  I just smiled at her and told her I was sorry and that I would be more careful next time.  I walked away and left her sitting in her car with a bewildered look on her face.

I then shouted for Sonny to bring me the keys to the Van.  He had helped me launch the Hovercraft and drove the Van and trailer over to the parking lot.  Guess what, he didn't have the keys.  Here we go again.  The keys locked in the Van and me not having a spare with me.  What an idiot.  After trying to figure out what to do I walked back to the dock where Frank and Terry were waiting in the boat.  I was thinking of words to describe Frank's friend, Sonny.  Look here, there are my keys laying on the side of the boat ramp about three inches from the water.  You talk about luck.

Off we go towards the North land cut and an evening of fishing under the lights.  It took us 48 minutes because of the rough water.  We arrived, set up the lights, generator, etc. and started fishing.   We fished until 1:30 a.m.  I finally got tired of catching fish.  I went 8 casts in a row with catching a fish on each cast.  Most of the time I would catch a fish every other cast.  It got to the point where it was no fun anymore.  All the Trout were from 13 to 14 3/4  inches.  We only got four Trout 15 inches or longer.  The longest one was 18 inches.  Terry and I were the only ones fishing.  Frank was all worn out from Floundering the night before and Sonny is a commercial fisherman and was not interested in fishing.  He told us that we weren't going to catch any keepers.  He was almost right.  Hey, Terry and I had a blast.

I was up at the crack of dawn again. It was Thursday morning now.  The fish had gone away, none to be seen in the water, like the night before.  We broke camp and were headed back to Port Mansfield by 9:00 a.m.  It took 30 minutes to get back to Port because the bay was smooth like glass.  Terry and I went back to Myrna's house, he left after we had unloaded the boat and I got the Hovercraft ready for flight.  Frank wanted to go for a ride in it.

It was now 11:00 a.m. and Frank was still over at Sonny's house messing with the boat.  Getting impatient and knowing that the wind was going to start blowing in a hour or less, I went back over to Sonny's and found him and Frank having breakfast.  I started urging Frank to hurry up until they stuck a taco in my mouth.  Boy was it a good taco.  At 1:00 p.m. we finally got off on the Hovercraft.  I had found a place in Fred Stone County Park where I could launch it and didn't have to argue with the Harbor Master anymore.

Frank is 6 feet tall and weighs 260 lbs.  He was a fullback and line backer for Rice University, back when they used leather helmets.  He looks at the Hovercraft, sitting on the trailer, and asks where he is supposed to sit.  I told him right behind me and in front of the engine.  He stumbles into the craft grabbing the steering column.  I am getting nervous since I had just fixed the steering column because someone had bent it.  Now I know how it got bent.  Anyway, he didn't bend it.  With the trailer tilted down, I start up the engine, let it warm up a bit, and we are off headed across the bay.  The craft is doing great.  The swells are only about 5 inches and we have no problems.  We head North, staying close to the shore, over about five inches of water.  Frank is amazed since he has never been able to get this close to the shore with his boat.  You can see the fish, all over the place.  They are probably Red Fish.  We are in Red Fish Bay.  We go for about three miles and I stop to get Frank's impression.  He has already stuck waded up paper towels into his ears because he is right in front of the propeller and motor.  It doesn't bother me because I am further forward in the craft, plus I have a motorcycle helmet on.  We hover up on the shore and make plans as where to go next.

Our minds are made up.  We are going to attempt crossing the ship channel and go over to South Padre Island.  To my amazement we make it with no problem.  The swells in the ship channel are about 12 inches by now.  We get across it and head to the South of the spoil banks (islands) on the opposite side of the channel that goes out to the East Cut.  In other words we are on the back side of the shore where we were floundering Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.  We are now back into 3 to 6 inches of water, just hovering along at about 20 to 25 miles an hour.  Frank is having a blast.  We are hovering from island to island.  When we get to the shore we just keep on going right over the sand, avoiding the sand dunes.  When we hit the sand the Hovercraft lifts up about 4 inches and the speed increases to about 35 mph, against the wind.  This is the difference between hovering over water and a hard surface.  There is less resistance over a hard flat surface.

After crossing the channel, with success, and arriving somewhere across from channel marker 13, we stop to access our progress and have a beer.  Well, we actually have two beers.  I can't stop laughing at Frank.  He is so amazed.  We are now in an area where nobody goes, because they would have to use a boat, then walk about 5 miles use a Hovercraft or helicopter.

Off we go again across the desert like area.  It is just flat sand as far as you can see.  We decided to go to the next water crossing to get back in the East Cut, channel.  We go and go and go.  It is not water we see ahead, it is a mirage.  There is no water to be seen anywhere.  We are, what seems, in a desert with sand dunes to one side of us and nothing but flat area ahead, on the other side and behind.  After going about 15 minutes at close to 40 mph, I decide to turn back.  Before I turn, I see a dog ahead and to the right of us.  We pass it about 75 yards away.  It turns out to be a big coyote.  He is just standing there looking at us.  I am sure he had never seen a human in these parts.   He was not moving one inch.  I start a wide turn to go around him.  When ever you turn the Hovercraft you loose speed.  We are now on the other side of the coyote and heading towards him at full throttle.  As we get within 50 yards of him he realizes we are coming right at him.  He takes off running and the chase is on.  He is heading straight for the sand dunes, for his refuge.  We are slowly picking up speed, doing about 20 mph.  The coyote is running as fast as he can and we are gaining on him.  He leaps into the sand dunes and we have lost the race.  I am, now, about 50 yards from the sand dunes, going 40 mph and the Hovercraft has no brakes.  I let up on the throttle, a little, do a 180 degree turn and give it the gas.  We stop, within about 15 feet of the sand dunes.  What a ride, what a ride.  It is beer break time again.  Frank and I are having the time of our lives.

It is now time to head home because we are at the half way mark in regards to fuel consumption.  Now we are heading with the wind and registering 45 mph over the sand.  Finally we approach the first water.  We hit it at full throttle.  Being wrapped up in how well the Hovercraft is performing I forget that it might do a nose dive or a plow-in when you hit the water.  Well, it did and next thing we knew we were sliding sideways.  We came to a sudden halt and Frank and I went flying, almost throwing me out of the craft.  I quickly got up and looked around for Frank.  When I saw him I could not help from laughing.  There he was all sprawled out, half in and half out of the craft.  He had such a surprised look on his face.  Then when he said, "you didn't tell me the Hovercraft would do this,"  I really started to laugh.  We both stepped out of the craft into 4 inches of water and drank our last beer to relax after this episode.  Now, out of beer, it was definitely time to head for Port Mansfield and the comforts of Myrna's house.

Arriving at the first cut we cross over into the East cut channel and deeper water.  We stay as close to the shore as possible because the swells are now well over a foot.  Our speed has decreased to less than 20 mph.  Now we are out over deep, open waters attempting to cross the ship channel.  The swells are now waves of almost two feet.  We are cruising at a steady speed of about 15 mph and having a hard time because of the rough water.  I decide to stand up to keep the bow of the craft from raising because of going over the swells.  My hand slips from the throttle and we lose our air cushion and momentum.  I rev the engine and try to get back up on cushion.  It won't do it.  The swells are too big.  Still about a mile out from shore, we are barely moving.  I really can't tell if we are moving or it is just the water moving.  Port Mansfield is in site but we don't seem to be getting any closer to land.  The engine is revved to 7,000 rpm and not much is happening except water spraying all over us and in my eyes.  My glasses have so much salt water on them that I cannot see.  I have to look over the rim of my glasses.  Then, all of a sudden, the engine looses rpm and I still have the throttle in the wide open position.  It went down to 4,000 and I don't know what is causing it.  The waves keep pounding the shallow Hovercraft.  Then all of a sudden the engine rpm goes back up and then down again.  I shut it off thinking it might be overheating.  Here we are drifting in the middle of the ship channel, still a mile from shore.  My mind is racing as to what I can do to salvage this situation.  Stories of 6 foot swells were racing through my head.  Frank had told me, earlier in the day, about the 6 foot swells that occur, in the bay, when a cold front comes in.  One was on its way, didn't know when it would hit.

I turn the key and the engine starts.  It revs up to 7,000 rpm, like it should.  We are off again at a snail's pace.  What seems to be hours we finally arrive on shore about 15 minutes later.  We load the Hovercraft and head to Sonny's house, where the beer is.  It is time to relax and reflect on the days events.

After a beer we head for the local hamburger joint and I have the first real meal in the last 72 hours.  Now, back to Myrna's house and maybe some fishing off the pier.  I am bushed so I skip the fishing after about an hour with not even getting a bite.  I leave the lights on at the pier and the gate open, leading out onto the pier.  In to the shower I go.  I get out, grab my blanket and head for one of the three couches in the living room.   Frank and I were sleeping on the couches so that we would not have to clean the bed linens in the bedrooms.  Frank is sitting, watching football on TV.  His plan is to watch football all night long.  I can't sleep with two televisions going.  Frank would have six televisions going if Myrna would let him put them in the living room.  All of them would have a football game on.  I went back to one of the bedrooms, spread out my blanket over the bed and fell fast asleep.

Friday morning Frank wakes me up at 5:30 and tells me that someone is out on Myrna's private pier, fishing.  I can't believe it.  Sure enough there he was.  We didn't bother him but kept an eye on him to see what he might steal or bring back off the pier.  Around 7:30 a.m. he comes in.  I am standing next to my Van which is parked next to this guys car.  He asks me, "this is the public pier, isn't it?"  I say no and he asks me where it is.  I point North and he leaves.  I had left my fish basket hanging off the pier on a rope.  I wanted to make sure he hadn't stolen it.  When I arrived at the end of the pier I pulled up my basket and there was a 17 inch Speckled Trout the guy had caught and left there.  That was nice of him.  I took it home and ate it.

Well I hope you enjoyed the elaborate story and got a bit of a idea about the advantages and limitations of a Hovercraft ...

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