Saunders powers up homemade airboat
Rex Saunders — the creator of such personal crafts as a glass-bottomed boat, a chainsaw operated bicycle, and a remote control trap skiff and long liner — has captured the attention of folks in his neck of the Northern Peninsula again.
The St. Lunaire-Griquet man says he saw his latest project while watching a television show that included an airboat being used in the Florida Everglades.
Always one ready to take on a new challenge, his mind went to work.
“I’m always making old stuff, and I saw it on TV, where he was after the alligators in the swamps,” he said. “I said, ‘I think I can make something like that,’ and I started at it.”
Saunders purchased a 13 horsepower motor and ordered some parts, made some others, for the airplane-like, fan-operated propeller. In the shed where he does his work, the power source was concocted for the glass-bottom boat, one of his previous designs.
He was advised, and realized, the v-shaped bottom would provide significant resistance to the system designed for flatbottom vessels, but he would not be deterred.
“I wanted to see if it would work before I made a proper boat,” he said.
Earlier this year, word got out that Saunders was preparing to try out another of his projects. Some people from the Northern Peninsula town lined Gull Pond to observe his latest spectacle.
“There was nothing ever seen like that down here before,” he said.
Travelling at about eight-10 miles per hour on the 14-foot vessel, he made his rounds of the pond. It was all in good fun for Saunders, who said he was just glad the weight of the propeller and motor didn’t capsize the boat. He didn’t want his brothers, Wade and Ezra Saunders — who followed him in an aluminum boat in case — to have to fish him out of the water.
Saunders has no plans to hunt alligators with it, but is hoping to improve on the preliminary design. He has moved the propeller and motor to a flat-bottom boat he built. He hadn’t tried it out to that point, but expects it to be faster and smoother.
Regardless of the improvements, he says it is only a recreational boat.
“Just to fool around the bay there,” he said. “I don’t think I’d go outside.
“I just wanted to prove that I could do it, that’s all.”
Rex Saunders of St. Lunaire-Griquet tried out the airboat he made at Gull Pond on the Northern Peninsula. It is the latest of the personal crafts he designed and made.