On Saturday night, myself and the merry crew of Paradise Hang Gliding, Inc. had the pleasure of participating in the annual Bonita Springs Boat Parade up the beautiful Imperial River. Our “float” consisted of the vessel “Reel High” with the Falcon 3 Tandem glider in the launch position, me in a Santa suit hanging in the harness, with the whole thing lit up like Las Vegas (well, almost)
We spent the day making preparations by first installing a 750 watt power inverter, then stringing lights on the glider and around the boat. Q Wilson worked hard all day assisting me, and my honey MaryAnn helped by painting the banners which hung on the side of the boat. We turned the winch tower into a candy cane with red and white LED lights, complete with Santa, Rudolph, Frosty, and an Elf climbing a ladder to the glider. Capt Travis Elms came right on time at 5 pm, with the parade set to begin at 6. MaryAnn, her daughter Vita, their dachsund Romeo, Q, Capt. Travis and myselfshoved off from my dock at 5:35 for our adventure.
The assembly point was at the Fish house Restaurant on Fish Trap bay, but our way there was blocked by a bridge which the glider was not going to squeeze through, so we waited at a junction in the estuary waterways which bears the ominous name of “Cross Bones” for the boats to pass and jumped into line.
En route to our jumping-in-line point, we were treated to a twilight show by numerous dolphins and manatee, as well as a number of other fish jumping and ever-present great blue herons, snowy egrets, and ibises. On our stern was a small Coast Guard cutter, obviously going along to keep the peace. We have been expecting to be boarded by the USCG at any time, but it has not happened yet, and the sherriff’s boat deputies have been downright cordial.
Capt. Travis, Scot, MaryAnn – photo by Q.
The parade route up the Imperial is lined by numerous large homes, each with their own docks and all hosting large parties. Some of the revelers were quite enthusiastic and obviously intoxicated, and all were very happy to catch a glimpse of a hang gliding santa. We drew lots of applause and plenty of friendly comments & “Merry Christmas” shouted from shore. We all used our best parade waves.
The turnaround point was in a stretch of very skinny water with not much maneuvering room. Capt. Travis being the cautious type, elected to pull off the route a bit early into a small basin in a residential area, where we watched the rest of the parade ourselves. We then scooted out and headed back down river alone, ahead of the rest of the boats. After returning to our dock, we headed by car for the reception back at the fish house, and were pleasantly surprised to recieve the plaque for “Most Original”. Food and drink were available for the participants, and the band played outside while we all basked in the glory of unexpected victory.
The next day, an article appeared in the local paper which began with a reference to Santa coming to town in a hang glider, and a woman was quoted as saying it was her favorite float. http://www.news-press.com/article/20081206/NEWS0102/81206024/1004/ACC Unfortunately, the reporter framed the article in the context of the glider being merely a prop in a scene depicting Santa arriving in an unusual fashion rather than an advertising display by a new business. Nevertheless, we were grateful for the ink and happy to have participated in such a unique experience.