By Natalie Strom
People flock to Marco en masse every year for its pristine beaches, beautiful ocean scenery and endless amenities. Nothing is more exhilarating than getting out on the open water and feeling the ocean’s warm mist. Marco’s newest craze offers just that but in the form a thrill ride. Unlike any other watercraft experience offered on the island, Outer Limits Hovercraft Tours offers customers an exhilarating adventure over the water and sand flats of the Ten Thousand Islands and surrounding areas.
Ron Michaels, owner of Outer Limits, is a licensed U.S. Coastguard Captain with more than 45 years on experience on the water. He has been working in watersports for much of his life and continued to so when he came to Marco in 1986. “I grew up in a Coast Guard family,” explains Michaels. “We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale in 1969. At 10 years of age living on a waterway that led directly to the ocean, my love of boating began. I felt very privileged to experience operating boats and boating safety at such an early age. As an adult, relocating to Marco Island was a must to escape the extremely busy waterways of the east coast.”
Michaels has sailed and instructed others on Hobie cats and windsurfers. He has extensive experience running waverunner tours, kayak excursions and boating adventures throughout the mazes of the Ten Thousand Islands. He also has spent many years as a captain on different parasail boats.
These experiences eventually brought him all over the world. “My exposure to parasailing over the years led to working as a parasail training captain for a parasail boat manufacturer. I traveled around the globe to places like South Korea, Portugal, Bermuda and the Bahamas to name a few. However, my passion for the nature of this somewhat remote coastal region always draws me back. My knowledge of the area is extensive from the freshwater of the Everglades to the coastal Mangrove Forest of The Ten Thousand Islands.”
Having mastered just about every aqua activity, Michaels turned to something new for his latest business adventure: the hovercraft. “It was simply an idea to bring an attraction that hasn’t been offered in our area. A local boat dealer had a link to Neoteric Hovercraft. We contacted them, went on a demo ride and decided that was our niche.”
Hovercrafts fall into two categories, Michaels explains. The light-weight sport craft is what Outer Limits uses for its thrill rides. Large-scale hovercrafts facilitate movement of military troops and equipment and can also be used as public transportation vessels.
Outer Limits offers guests of four to five people a 45-minute thrill ride. “The pilot will review safety procedures and simple rider participation then typically take off from land directly into the waterway. The maneuverability of these high-tech, light weight hovercrafts allows the captain to fly inches over the surface of either water or land. Riders are always impressed with the smooth transition as the craft hovers from water over the sand and back over the water again.”
Riders quickly feel the flight-like feeling of seamless sideways turns as they slide across the surface. For the daredevils, Michaels and his team provide 360-degree spins and other moves that provide a sensational rush of adrenaline. Speeds typically range from 15 to 25 miles per hour.
“Not all rides have to be thrill rides,” he adds. “We can cater to those that simply want to experience the flight-like ride. This area is recognized for its variety of beautiful shells to be collected. Low tides are the best (for shelling) and with our craft’s ability to hover we can provide unrivaled access.”
For the environmentalist, Michaels states that there is no impact on marine life as the craft hovers nine inches above the surface of the water or land. The rides also offer an array of wildlife to be viewed.
“We offer a very specialized craft that is the only of its kind in this area. We encourage inquiries and are able to design private trips. Not many can say they have taken a flight on a Hovercraft and we hope to change that. Let us take you to the Outer Limits!”
Reservations are required. To learn more about Outer Limits and the many locations it operates from — Naples, Marco, Goodland, Port of the Islands — visit Outerlimitshovercrafttours.com or call 239-207-7887