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Airboat for saltwater?

Tallykenj

Member
I am interested in occasionally exploring saltwater creeks and marshes in north Florida. I will also spend time in freshwater. I live in Tallahassee. I need some advice. I’m suspecting I should go with poly on the bottom and stainless steel rigging. True? How about the engine, aircraft or auto? Any other tips or things to consider? Thanks.
 

John Fenner

Well-known member
Yes on stainless rigging, if you go with a Hamant hull "aluminum" which will be fine as it will be of marine grade, poly should be riveted on with a good coating to bottom to keep electrolysis to a minimum as the water never really escapes the voids between the plastic and the hull, zinc bars are a must.
On to powerplant, a well built 200 "O-360" will be fine for what you are doing, if you have access to AVgas in your area.
The 4.3 GM V6 either direct drive with a proper tune and cam profile, or gear box is a nice setup as well, propeller choice is key on either setup, I would suggest Whirlwind, tell them what you are running, they will get you the right airscrew to move it.
 

One Eyed Gator

Well-known member
I run an alumitec 14x7-6 it is 25 years old and got a lot of patches but still running. There are a lot of rocks in the area I fish.

This hull has had a DD Caddy, a 5.3 with a 2.1 gearbox, 5.3 with a 2.68 and a 2.55 gearbox and now a 6.0 mild cam and a 2.55 gearbox maybe 400hp does everything I need and will do it with 3 guys and fishing gear.

Got a buddy with a 13x8 alumitec with 520 continental and it work great as well.

For me personally for the gulf I like a 14x8 8' floats better than a 7-6 wide hull.

Stainless steel rigging is a must, I started with conduit and mild steel rigging and cage but it didn't last long.

Using aluminum rivet for the poly as JF mention is better than SS screws as over time electrolysis build around the ss machine screw.

A lot of boats will work 1st hull I had was fiberglass and didn't last 3 years fishing the waccassasa area.

See a guy with 10-11'gore with an o-290 and another guy with a 520 conversion on a glades style deckover with poly
 

Slidin Gator

Well-known member
I am interested in occasionally exploring saltwater creeks and marshes in north Florida. I will also spend time in freshwater. I live in Tallahassee. I need some advice. I’m suspecting I should go with poly on the bottom and stainless steel rigging. True? How about the engine, aircraft or auto? Any other tips or things to consider? Thanks.
Ken,
You can run the big bend area ("The Armpit of Florida") in just about anything, I have run the area in my narrow grass and ground 7x13' airboats, my 14' mud boat, my 16' Carolina Skiff, my Jon boats (14-22), 20' etc. etc... Generally speaking, every time I have run there (in any of the above, for different reasons) I always find my butt hole held a bit tight vs. other places I have been (afraid of running aground on rocks in a kicker, afraid of hitting a rock or wave sinking in an airboat). With the Airboat I keep my foot in the throttle at all times I'm not on bottom because I don't want to sink my stuff in 5 foot of salt water. Every time I have left to come home I made a stop at one of my inland haunts to soak the boat in fresh water and wash as much salt as possible out from between the hull and poly.

If I lived in your area my #1 goal would be a boat I am comfortable killing the motor in a heavy chop with land a mile away and water deep enough that I can't touch. My #2 goal would be a boat that runs awesome and lasts while meeting goal #1. My #3 goal would be a boat I am willing to leave submerged for a few days till I sort out a solution.

I would be running an 8' wide high side or deck over boat, chine style, 14' minimum length. It would be welded 5052 aluminum, 0.125" thick on the sides/transom and 0.188-0.25" thick bottom. It would have T bar stringers full length every foot and half-length stringers between.

My Armpit boat would have sand blasted, unpainted, welded aluminum tubing rigging, but that takes the right fabricator, Stainless will work. The boat would have plenty of coolers and the deck would be finished in a "Fish, mud and Oyster Gut's" theme because that's what it would look like anyway.

My Tally boat would definitely run poly, 3/8" minimum, but more likely a big heavy 1/2" thick black poly slab that laughs at oysters (rocks, not so much). Aluminum fasteners for the poly are a must to minimize corrosion. Rivets are a good option (and what I use), but for a go hard and mess things up boat I would use aluminum screws to make poly changes as easy as possible.

A lot of boats will work 1st hull I had was fiberglass and didn't last 3 years fishing the waccassasa area.

Last time I was in the area I had to run over a busted/sunk fiberglass boat just to keep going, had to run it over on the way back.

As for motor, there are plenty of options, I would choose based on what you are willing to sink in the salt water. The hull and rigging usually comes out fine from a good sinking. Any gear box will need a rebuild, but the case and gears should survive. But the motor will be toast. My Tally boat would run a geared LS, not likely to be the stroked and forged version I'm presently building, more likely a junkyard iron 6.0, possibly a $2k rebuild, with waterproof aftermarket control.

Finally, my Tally boat will have a butt load of fishing rod/scallop net holders and will slide on that snot slick mud no problem, just watch out for the random oyster beds and rocks. You gotta know where you go when you slide!
 
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Andy

Well-known member
just my option ,,,but don’t go to small yea the creeks are skinny but if you have to deal with open water it can get pretty dam choppy. Min 15ft and plenty of power
 
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Tallykenj

Member
Ken,
You can run the big bend area ("The Armpit of Florida") in just about anything, I have run the area in my narrow grass and ground 7x13' airboats, my 14' mud boat, my 16' Carolina Skiff, my Jon boats (14-22), 20' etc. etc... Generally speaking, every time I have run there (in any of the above, for different reasons) I always find my butt hole held a bit tight vs. other places I have been (afraid of running aground on rocks in a kicker, afraid of hitting a rock or wave sinking in an airboat). With the Airboat I keep my foot in the throttle at all times I'm not on bottom because I don't want to sink my stuff in 5 foot of salt water. Every time I have left to come home I made a stop at one of my inland haunts to soak the boat in fresh water and wash as much salt as possible out from between the hull and poly.

If I lived in your area my #1 goal would be a boat I am comfortable killing the motor in a heavy chop with land a mile away and water deep enough that I can't touch. My #2 goal would be a boat that runs awesome and lasts while meeting goal #1. My #3 goal would be a boat I am willing to leave submerged for a few days till I sort out a solution.

I would be running an 8' wide high side or deck over boat, chine style, 14' minimum length. It would be welded 5052 aluminum, 0.125" thick on the sides/transom and 0.188-0.25" thick bottom. It would have T bar stringers full length every foot and half-length stringers between.

My Armpit boat would have sand blasted, unpainted, welded aluminum tubing rigging, but that takes the right fabricator, Stainless will work. The boat would have plenty of coolers and the deck would be finished in a "Fish, mud and Oyster Gut's" theme because that's what it would look like anyway.

My Tally boat would definitely run poly, 3/8" minimum, but more likely a big heavy 1/2" thick black poly slab that laughs at oysters (rocks, not so much). Aluminum fasteners for the poly are a must to minimize corrosion. Rivets are a good option (and what I use), but for a go hard and mess things up boat I would use aluminum screws to make poly changes as easy as possible.



Last time I was in the area I had to run over a busted/sunk fiberglass boat just to keep going, had to run it over on the way back.

As for motor, there are plenty of options, I would choose based on what you are willing to sink in the salt water. The hull and rigging usually comes out fine from a good sinking. Any gear box will need a rebuild, but the case and gears should survive. But the motor will be toast. My Tally boat would run a geared LS, not likely to be the stroked and forged version I'm presently building, more likely a junkyard iron 6.0, possibly a $2k rebuild, with waterproof aftermarket control.

Finally, my Tally boat will have a butt load of fishing rod/scallop met holders and will slide on that snot slick mud no problem, just watch out for the random oyster beds and rocks. You gotta know where you go when you slide!
Sliden Gator,

Great reply! You are scaring me. I know you are speaking from experience; something I don’t have. I spend a lot of time in the St. Marks area on another type of boat. I know the rock garden area well. Well enough to know the rock moves and there is no way to know where they all are. I also know the red fish love to get deep into creeks where it’s hard for people to go. I dream about getting deep in there and proving the fish wrong. As I have thought air boating, those are areas are ones I dream about. Perhaps I need to leave the dreams and reds be and stick with the fresh water lakes, etc. It’s tough. I really won’t to do some exploring. I can‘t waste a motor though.
 

SWAMPHUNTER45

Well-known member
If you are gonna be close to a protected shoreline small works. If you have open gulf exposure or need to cross through openings around large islands bigger is better.
 

Rick McC.

Well-known member
I’ve been running this boat for 16 years now; with my Dad up until about four years ago.
It’s never been sunk, still has the original motor, drive and prop. Stainless rigging, 18X8 hull, no poly. It was exclusively run in salt water until my son borrowed it a couple months ago for some stuff he’s doing up in Citrus County.

edit: I just remembered that we had the exhaust pipes and mufflers replaced about eight years ago now; Sorry about that!

2A6F789D-EB2F-4970-8B2D-CB3D15CE2EDF.jpeg
 

CJM

Active member
People run airboats all up and down the West Coast of Florida. I'll give you some names to start out: GTO Airboats in Ocala, Poorboys in Steinhatchee, Brownwater airboats and last but definitely not least check out Pop Dees Performance airboats in Archer. Pop Dees builds fiberglass and aluminum boats to spec. Their metal work is beautiful.
 

CJM

Active member
To answer your questions: Yes you want poly and stainless rigging. Engine selection is pure preference. My last boat was an 540 Chevy Big Block , Stinger reduction and Sensinech 4 blade wide - I never got stuck but it ate gas like a pig in corn. I see a lot of aircraft setups out here as well. Make sure you have a good aircraft mechanic nearby if you go that route.
 

Aeon

Well-known member
i am in brackish to salt quite a bit. Stainless rigging for sure!!!!!!!!!! had conduit on the old boat and it rusted out faster then you would think. So far no problems with the stainless screws though the poly. every so often i pull one and look to see if anything is going on. I do run big zinks in a few locations to help it,.
 

JLP3314

Well-known member
I’ve been running this boat for 16 years now; with my Dad up until about four years ago.
It’s never been sunk, still has the original motor, drive and prop. Stainless rigging, 18X8 hull, no poly. It was exclusively run in salt water until my son borrowed it a couple months ago for some stuff he’s doing up in Citrus County.

edit: I just remembered that we had the exhaust pipes and mufflers replaced about eight years ago now; Sorry about that!

View attachment 97476
Love that fuel cell is it 50 gallons?
 
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