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MarshBunny Notes
The St. Johns River The Intracoastal and Beyond
Sinking on the Sweetwater Canal

It's easy to sink an airboat in deep water. Not quite so easy to get it out, but it can be done.

One day a couple of friends rode with me in my kicker boat down the Sweetwater Canal. While sitting around on the Cabbage Palm island we were joined by another friend in his airboat.

After a while we all decided to go into town and we two women got in my boat and headed down the canal. The two men got on the airboat and followed us.

I'm not sure who decided what (or why), but rather than sticking to the airboat trail the guys decided to catch up with us on the canal and let the passenger back into my boat. The passenger sat on the front corner of the airboat to be in position to step down into my boat.

Here's where the fun begins...

The airboat came roaring up, slowing as they got close. The man sitting on the bow of the boat caused the balance to be off, and as they slowed the nose of the boat started to go down. The driver, seeing the nose dip, stood on the gas HARD to try to bring it back up. Instead of coming up, the nose of the boat dug into the water and the entire airboat went straight to the bottom of the canal.

Sweetwater Canal
The canal where the airboat sank.

Believe it or not, the four of us actually got that boat back out of the water!

Post at the edge of the Canal.
The post at the edge of the canal.

The airboat had sunk about 10 feet from shore, with about 1 foot of water over the top of the prop cage. Keep in mind, in the marsh "shore" doesn't always mean solid ground, but we got lucky - not only was it solid enough to stand on, but there was a post in the ground within reach.

The two men got into the canal, retrieved a stout rope from the airboat, and tied the rope to the bow of the boat. We women stood knee-deep in mud on the shore and wrapped the rope around the post. The men would physically haul the boat a couple of inches closer to shore and we would tighten up the rope around the post to hold everything from sliding back.

The water grasses were very thick and healthy in that spot and the prop cage caught it all as we pulled through it. It was hard work and very slow going, but we kept at it and finally had the airboat floating again. The airboat would not start, of course, with water in the engine, but we towed it back into camp with my boat and the driver was later able to get everything dried out and running again.

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