The last Florida post.
On Saturday, we headed out of town and deep into the flat, swampy loveliness that is the Florida Everglades. We wanted alligators, anhingas and snail kites (well, I wanted snail kites). And we wanted to ride on an airboat.
An air boat is just a shallow (knee-high depth) boat that is run by a very small outboard motor and one or two very big fans. Hence the name air boat.
We were assured that safety records for air boats are very very good.
It started out well. The girls were wearing life jackets and it seemed that the thunderstorm we skirted on the way in was going to hold off.
Half-way into the ride, we made a scheduled stop near a swamp apple tree. We learned that swamp apples were poisonous 5 months out of the year, and the guide wouldn't tell us which 5 months that was. Lesson: DON'T eat swamp apples.
We learned about saw grass. He pulled a stem from a nearby plant and passed it around. Yes, it is shaped like a saw. If you handle it the wrong way, it will slice you. Lesson: DON'T handle it the wrong way.
Please click on the photo to see the little barbs along the stem. They are really, really sharp.
What it feels like to skim above water and grass in an air boat:
Thunder. Very very close to the boat. And the rain began.
So the driver (captain, whatever) said for everyone to hang on so we could get out of there.
We all started looking around at each other. Isn't the engine supposed to start when you turn the key?
He stuck his head down into the boat and told us that we had lost the right engine (thank goodness we weren't on a damn plane) and he was calling in an SOS for a rescue boat.
It was a tense 10 minutes. We were in the middle of the freakin' Everglades. In a big metal boat. With an intense thunderstorm over us.
A boat came along (not our rescue...just some more tourists) and we had a nice, pleasant moment chatting with the folks. You know they were thinking, "Glad that isn't US!".
Soon enough, a rescue boat came to get us. We then had to transfer out of the disabled boat and into the new one, which scared the crap out of me. What if one of the girls had fallen in? With freakin' ALLIGATORS everywhere? There could have been one under the boat the whole time.
We got the rescue boat going and finishing our tour in one piece.
The captain said, "Well, at least you all can go home and tell people that you were actually stranded in the Everglades."
Yeah. Thanks, Gilligan.