Lead Line — April 2003
By Richard Thiel
|The perfect antidote for crowded waterways and speed restrictions!|
Looking for a tender for your megayacht, something a little different from the oh-so-typical 36-foot sportfisherman or Bell Jet Ranger? Or maybe you’re tired of wasting time taking your boat to a remote anchorage and would like to position her there, if you could only find a way to get to her quickly. Well, I’ve got just the thing for you.
Warrior Aeromarine has just introduced a new, state-of-the-art, six-seat amphibious seaplane to the U.S. market (www.centaurseaplane.com). No one has introduced a true seaplane (as opposed to a float plane) for a coon’s age, and this one is touted as featuring “a new hull design inspired by the recent slender hull developments of fast performance yachts and ferries.” Doesn’t that sound like the perfect antidote to crowded waterways and speed restrictions (good-bye manatee zones!)? Think of the freedom!
I hate to brag, but I’m something of a seaplane expert. For years I was a regular passenger on Antilles Air Boats, which flew pre-World War II Grumman Gooses among the Virgin Islands. Antilles had, as I recall, the world’s worst safety record at the time, so every flight was an adventure. Because there was no copilot, you could sit in the right-hand seat and watch the pilot crank up the wheels just before starting his takeoff roll, then watch as the needle on the big tachometer in front of you zoomed far into the red zone.
Years later I again rode in the right-hand seat of a Goose that a friend, a rather cocky commercial airline pilot, had bought and was about to fly home. Although he’d never flown a seaplane, he’d logged many hours on float planes and thousands on airliners. A few minutes of familiarization with the cockpit, and he was ready to take to the air. He taxied down a ramp and out onto a lake, firewalled the two ancient engines, and blasted off on our takeoff roll, the water drumming furiously against the aluminum hull. Alas, the sorry old Goose couldn’t make more than 50 knots, well below her takeoff speed. Finally, after repeated essays, my friend gave up and taxied back to the dock, where the previous owner, a crusty old bird, had been standing and watching us.
“Something’s wrong with this aircraft,” said my friend authoritatively. “She won’t make takeoff speed.”
“Ever flown one of these?” asked the old bird, as he spat a wad of tobacco into the water.
“No, but I’ve plenty of time in similar airplanes,” my friend replied haughtily.
“Do ya now?” asked the coot. “Well, seaplane’s different from other planes, son.”
“Oh, and how’s that?” asked my now clearly annoyed friend.
“It’s the only airplane on which you have to raise the wheels before takeoff.”
Keep that in mind if you buy a Centaur.
As some of you may already know, this month marks the end of an era. After appearing in virtually every issue of PMY since the first one, “Spectator” is leaving. It’s hard to overestimate the contribution Tom Fexas has made to this magazine. For a lot of people, Fexas and “Spectator” are synonymous with Power & Motoryacht. Over his 18-year run, I suspect Tom has entertained, amused, outraged, and infuriated just about every reader, advertiser, and editor we’ve ever had. Me included. That’s his charm.
But before you put pen to paper in high dudgeon or celebration, know that Tom isn’t leaving. We’ve asked him to work up three or four feature articles on topics of his choosing, each with that same, unique “Spectator” style. Just think what Tom can do with a couple hundred more words. Frightening, isn’t it?
This article originally appeared in the March 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.