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Conche fisherman ready to put homemade airboat to the test

CONCHE, NL – A Conche fisherman is preparing to test the airboat he’s been picking away at for two years.

Ben Foley is now waiting in anticipation to send his self-made airboat out onto the harbour sea. He’s working out some final kinks in its motor and carburetor and hopes to have it ready in the coming weeks.

“I know it’ll work, but will it work the way I want to it to – that’s what we got to see,” said Foley. “It’ll be rough and ready when I’m finished with it, but it stays together and it works – that’s the main thing,”

Foley had initially tried to make an airboat a few years earlier but accidentally spoiled the motor. Two years ago, he decided to reignite the hobby and began remaking the watercraft.

“Every now and then I’d get a spurt of energy and go at it again,” said Foley. “I’d get it done someday, I figured. Finally, this year I got it up and near ready to go.”

Foley purchased the propellers and gearbox in British Columbia 15 years ago and built the boat’s body out of fibreglass panels. The cage that the motor and propellers are situated in Foley also welded.

The motor was taken from a truck and brought to a mechanic to refurbish as a marine inboard/outboard motor.

Recently, Foley added a steering wheel. But he is waiting to test it on the water to see if it’s going to work the way he hopes. He says the process has involved a lot of experimentation.

“Everything was trial and error for me. Never had no plans or nothing just had to go for it,” he said. “If one thing don’t work, I’ll take it apart and try again.”

Foley used an old and condemned fishing stage as a workshop for the project, keeping the stage heated throughout the winter with a propane heater.

Family, neighbours and friends have come to visit Foley as he’s worked away at the project, some with fascination and some with criticism.

“Sometimes they shake their heads wondering how I could be so foolish,” Foley said with a laugh. “But like the old fellow said, ‘put your head down, saw the wood and keep at it’.”

If the boat proves successful this summer, Foley says he may try it out on a pond as well. After the first test run he plans to add mufflers and an exhaust to the airboat.

“I’ve been around boats all my life but this is new to me,” Foley said. “It’s been an interesting experience for sure.”

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