Saun­ders pow­ers up home­made air­boat

Northern Pen - - FRONT PAGE - BY CORY HURLEY TC ME­DIA

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.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

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.

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