Thursday, February 28, 2013

St. Johns River - Day 9A

Airboats along the shore at the Hatbill Group Camping site.
One of the things that impressed me was that they had just
organized this group about three weeks before.  They had a
huge potluck and freshly caught fish cooked over a wood fire.
I was surprised when I arrived at Hatbill. Instead of a quiet, isolated campsite, there were about ten or twelve airboats lined up along the shore, and about thirty people gathered under the oak trees. They offered me a cold beer. In fact they invited me to dinner, but I had plenty of food, so just accepted a cold Corona. That I didn’t have, and greatly enjoyed. I joined them in conversation, took some pictures of their boats, and enjoyed their company until they left as sunset approached. With them gone, the campsite seemed suddenly overly quiet and empty.

They take great care of their airboats.  The engines are as clean and chromed
as any you'd find at a car show.
Click to enlarge.  Really nice even if you're not a gearhead.

You never know what you'll meet out in the swamp, so almost all carried a
shotgun.  Some had two, one on either side of the seat.
I had dreaded encountering airboaters before the trip, not being sure what to expect. With the exception of one dubious character Gus and I met one day, they were all friendly, thoughtful, courteous, and compared to some bass boat operators I’ve encountered, even professional in their operation. They would slow when passing, and would not power back up until they had rounded a bend or gotten far enough away that their prop wash wouldn’t drown us in spray.

There's no reverse, so they all come ashore, spin around, and pick
a spot where they can just slide off into the water.
The last airboat leaves as sunset is approaching.
Alone as the shadows deepen at Hatbill.  It's time to put dinner on the stove.
An old slab of concrete made a nice, level spot for the tent.  Jean said it looks
like Ibi's hind-end is sticking up in the air.  It is; she's still on the canoe cart.



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