Join Jane on her first parasailing adventure
By Jane Bartnett
Parasailing above the emerald green waters of the gulf, all by myself, watching people walking and playing along the shoreline of Siesta Key, I said out loud “This has got to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.”
With no one to disagree with me, I felt pretty good about this amazing adventure. I felt like a kid on a swing. “It’s just like parachuting,” I thought as I drifted through the air. “Yeah, but I’m not jumping out of any airplane,” I said to no one. “I think I’ll stick to parasailing!”
When my editor asked me to write an article about ParaSail Siesta on Siesta Key, my plan was to head out with a group and observe other people as that beautiful parachute held them up in the air. After visiting the office, I learned that all of their boat captains hold United States Coast Guard licenses and all company vessels are Coast Guard certified. The next day, a text came saying that they’d had a cancellation. “Would I like to go out with a group the next morning?” it read. I sent back a quick “Yes!”
Maybe, I thought, I’ll be brave, and try it.
After arriving at the ParaSail Siesta office, I met Capt. Bobby Powers. He led our group of 11 intrepid parasailers to our comfortably equipped open boat on the canal behind the building, with seating for 12. With the temperature in the low 70s and only a slight breeze, it was a perfect day to be on the water. As we headed out under the Stickney Point Bridge on our way to the Intracoastal Waterway, happy Calypso music floated through the air. We spotted a few playful dolphins enjoying their day, and as we entered the mouth of the gulf, we came upon our Air Force One motor boat crew, waiting to take us out to open waters. Capt. Markus Scott and first mate Max Paris, both veteran sailors, greeted us as they pulled alongside our boat. I had to remind myself that I was working.
“Welcome aboard,” said the captain as we transferred to Air Force One and Powers headed back to the Intracoastal Waterway. As we settled in, our first mate asked to put our sneakers under the seats and to stow any bags.
“How many of you have gone parasailing before?” he asked.
Only one woman in the group, who was onboard with her 10-year-old son, had parasailed before.
“I loved it,” she exclaimed. “It’s below zero in Wisconsin where we come from. How can you not love this!”
Her son looked uncertain about the whole situation.
Soon, we were underway. After cruising along for about 20 minutes, it was time for the first two passengers to parasail.
“Hey guys, you want to be the first to go?” Paris said to two teenage boys in the group.
“Ready,” they said.
The first mate helped the teens suit up in their parasailing gear and regulation life jackets and then directed the pair to sit on the cushioned seating behind the captain. After hooking the parachute to their gear, Scott gradually increased the engine’s speed and called out “Have fun boys!”
Laughing and waving, the boys drifted up in the air as Paris snapped their photos.
About 15 minutes later, it was time to bring them in. “Awesome” they said to each other, after their smooth landing on the deck.
As the boys took off their life jackets, Paris said to me “Conditions are perfect today. The water is like glass and there’s no wind. Generally, we send up two people at a time, but since conditions are so calm, we believe that you’re good to fly alone. When you’re up there, it’s like meditating, it’s such a great feeling of freedom, you’ll love it.”
My bravery nearly left me. Paris must have sensed my hesitation.
“Come on Jane, you’re gonna love it,” he said.
As fast as any doubt came to my mind, it vanished. “OK,” I said. “Yes.”
Paris smiled and went to help the young boy and his mother suit up. “It’s really fun,” said the mother to her son. He was still unconvinced. As the parachute lifted them above the water the young boy began to smile and laugh. Away they went. Three more pairs of parasailers followed.
All 10 passengers agreed that they were glad not to be back home in Wisconsin, New York or Connecticut, where there was snow and ice and below freezing temperatures. My mind flashed back to freezing days in New York City and Long Island.
“All right,” Paris said to me, “You’re up.” After stepping into my gear and life jacket I was ready.
“Just scoot over here,” he said as I sat on the deck. Back straight, legs in front. Paris hooked the parachute to my gear. “Have fun!” said the captain.
Within moments, I felt Air Force One gradually picking up speed and I was flying.
Waving, Paris gave me a thumbs up. The parachute lifted me higher.
“Smile, wave for the camera,” I heard him say. Looking down, the people on the shore became smaller. A sense of peace and calm enveloped me. The next time, I thought, “I’ll bring someone along to talk to.”
When the gradual descent brought me closer to the boat, I realized that my time in the air was coming to a close. “Want to dip your toes in the water?” “I heard the captain say. “Sure,” I yelled back as my feet grazed the water.
“Time to come in” I heard. “OK Jane, back to a seated position.” As I straightened my back and put my legs out in front of me, I glided effortlessly onto the deck.