This was Jeff Hamann’s idea. It’s a long shot, but a fun one.
The idea is to buy and modify a houseboat for use as a paramotor launch and landing pad. Our own little aircraft carrier.
We’d spend a couple summers, in week-long stints, exploring parts of the country’s midsection via riverboat and paramotor. The attraction of this method is that you bring your “field” along for the ride. Tim & I have been traveling via motorhome (our “Enterprise”) for years but still always have to find launch sites. If we did buy this together, we’d have it modified as described below after validating methodology on land in a strongish wind. We’ve both spent a lot of time flying in much stronger winds than we’d be doing with this. Even Tim is willing to do it after we validate the methodology.
The idea here is to launch and land on top of the houseboat whenever that’s safe to do so. At this moment you’re thinking, “and when the h*ll would THAT be?”
Good question. If you’ve seen our “Master Powered Paragliding” series you know the answer. We had a segment on how to land on a moving car that’s going near your cruise speed or well below it. But it must be acknowledged that this is never going to be AS safe as landing in a big, open, unobstructed field. Paramotoring at all is less safe than sitting on your couch. We all choose different risks, but there ARE ways to mitigate it.
- Start with a reasonably clear top deck having no guard rails.
- Paramotor pilot has auto-inflation device AND life jacket.
- Have a stout rope that goes across the deck and connects to a short rope going to a large, quick-release carabiner like what’s used in zip-lining. This short rope is the “launch line” and keeps the pilot from being pulled off the deck.
- Have a low aspect ratio wing with short lines (think big speed flying wing like Little Cloud).
- Set minimum and maximum wind speeds across the deck with maximum crosswinds. Start with an envelope like 9-18 mph wind within 30 degrees of straight in.
- Have an anemometer on the top deck with a readout at the steering station one deck below. Establish an quick communications method to the boat captain (radio or foot taps). The steering station is immediately below this deck.
- The launching pilot has his wing set up for high wind (nearly rosetted) AND is clipped into the launch carabiner. If everything goes to hell, he can NOT go over the edge or even off the deck because he’s clipped to this carabiner.
- He gets the wing up either facing forward, being held by the launch line, or stands reversed, upwind of the launch line but still connected.
- Once the pilot has the wing overhead and under control, a helper (wearing a life jacket) disconnects the launch line and moves out of the way.
- The pilot launches off the front side so if the motor quits at any point, he just glides into the water without fear of getting run over by the boat.
There you have it. Crazy? A bit. But dang wouldn’t it be cool! Even in a calm wind the boat can generate 12 mph. That’s easy to manage.
Problem Winds and Currents
The worst condition is when wind is blowing WITH the current.
Imagine this. The current is moving south at 5 mph. In a calm condition we would sail south at 10 mph to get 15 mph over the deck. Perfect. Now lets say the wind is also moving with the current at 5 mph. Just drifting with the river current we have calm deck wind. Going 10 mph either upriver or downriver gives us exactly a 10 mph wind over the deck. That would be tough. Yes, you could control the wing, but the launch run and drop needed to generate the extra 10 mph. I don’t THINK it would be hard to do that, but the deck is pretty short. It would be good to test when there’s some wind in case you go into the drink.
Landing has the same concern. It’s easier with 15 mph or so over the deck.
This is why I’d suggest hard limits on launching, at least for me.
Our idea is to make it into a FootFlyer project with a video or series of videos if it can be produced well.
The whole prospect is a long shot. Given that there’s only so much time in life, Tim & I would sell the motorhome since we’d be spending time on the boat instead. We plan it as a two-summer mission where we sell the boat afterwards.
This boat is a lot bigger than what I’d want, but Jeff likes the upper deck. My thought is to find a smaller, more maneuverable boat that has the same size deck. One good thing about this arrangement is that it would likely have less sink aft of the landing area because air can’t flow down into the floor of deck 2. The room would be nice but the mileage and dockage fees would be ugly.
We’ll see. Even if it never happens, it’s fun to consider.