On a Sunday afternoon in February, we were cruising offshore from Estero Island on a quick 40-mile trip to burn off some old fuel. Returning from the Gulf of Mexico, we passed under the “C” span of the Sanibel Causeway Bridge obeying the posted “Idle Speed” signs. Clear of the bridge, we trimmed the outdrive down for planning off and applied one-half power to the dual, counter rotating, Hurricane stainless steel propellers. This configuration is designed to deliver high thrust out of the hole and “Island Dancer’ leaped onto plane in just over three seconds. Looking ahead, we could see a light chop with seas of only one foot, perfect for a high speed, fuel burning run. We retrimmed the massive Bravo III outdrive for the best speed attitude and applied full power to the big, fuel injected V8. The acceleration was exhilarating, with “Island Dancer” responding like a thoroughbred race horse heading for the home stretch, pushing us back into the bucket seats much like a jetliner starting it’s take off roll. We climbed through 3500 RPM, the normal cruise speed on up and leveled off at 4000 RPM. “Island Dancer” was finding her stride now riding high on plane with just the aft most section of her hull beyond the reverse chines still in the water, minimizing drag. An occasional rogue wave or swell would send her completely airborne, but she would gracefully re-enter the water with no discomfort to us thanks to her deep-V hull with 22-degrees deadrise at the transom. Running at 4000 RPM would be no problem for the short stroke, over-square bore designed engine, which would, keep the critical piston speed to a reasonable Ft/Min. We still had twenty-five percent more power in reserve if needed before WOT to deal with boat-jacking drug runners out of Key West, nuisance Jet Ski’s or bad weather and the like. Our fuel burn rate was now something over 15 GPH. We had now left the cruise speed realm of the sport boats and cruisers and began to enter the realm of the high-performance two and three engine “go-fast” boats. The GPS Chartplotter was guiding us to a waypoint to intercept the ICW (Inter-Coastal Waterway), which we would then follow through the treacherous shallows of Pine Island Sound. The VHF radio was buzzing with the usual weekend boating traffic. All was normal, but then from out of nowhere, a sea-helicopter (pontoon landing gear) approached in front of us off our port bow at a combined closing speed of well over 100 MPH and flew past us about one-hundred feet off the water, then made a deliberate sharp U-turn from about one-eight mile behind us and started back after us. There were no other boats for a one-half mile radius, so we knew it was us they were pursuing. We thought it was law enforcement and were trying to figure out what we had done wrong; idle zone, no wake zone, slow speed zone, Manatee zone or temporary Coast Guard restricted zone. So as the helicopter raced to catch us, we immediately reduced throttle and simultaneously hit the dual momentary contact switches lowering the port and starboard hydraulic trim tabs so they would act as speed brakes. “Island Dancer” responded instantly and slowed her two and one-half tons down to 25 knots from the warp cruising speed that she had been running at just as the helicopter caught up to us. As the helicopter passed us on port low to the water, we could now see a photographer hanging out the side, shooting pictures of us as they past, cutting across in front of us and then zooming off to our starboard with a friendly wave.
We hope you enjoy the photo.