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This American Road

Experience America this summer with Andrew Burmon

Searching for an Airboat Captain, Finding Adventure


Captain Geoff gives airboat tours of Mobile Bay, leaving from the Original Oyster House on the causeway that goes east out of town, past the retired USS Alabama. On the tours, airboaters often see alligators, birds, leaping fish and the natural beauty of the marshy flats. That is, if you can track down the mysterious captain.

Traveling the American Road - Airboating in Mobile

Most arrangements on this road trip have so far been made by smartphone, cross-referencing websites and Twitter profiles, mapping locations, making calls and sending text messages. But no matter how many times I called Geoff's listed number, I couldn't get through to him. In search of more information, I walked over to the local tourism office.

Two Southern gentlemen staffed the desk, and no sooner had I said "Airboat tour" than they gave a knowing "Ahhhhh." Tourists frequently have trouble tracking down the skipper, they said, who spends a good bit of time hanging out at the Bluegill, a bar and restaurant near the Oyster House. (Promising news, I thought, a captain who carouses at local dives!) The consensus between the two: Geoff probably wasn't answering his phone because he didn't feel like giving tours.

Undeterred, I hopped in the car and drove out to the Oyster House. I asked the host, who hadn't seen Geoff lately. Same with the bartender. Just before I got to Bluegill, my phone rang: It was Brittney, who works with Geoff and would like to know when I'd like to go on an airboat tour? Tomorrow, please!

In the morning, it was back to the dock, where, to my great disappointment, there were half a dozen other airboat tourists ready to go. "Are you Captain Geoff?" I asked the man in charge, wearing boots and a Boonie hat pinned up at the sides. It was, and he pointed me to my boat as I wondered how these other people made their reservations. Why didn't I bump into them on the hunt for captain Geoff? Did they spend the previous day in Mobile on a quest that would end, anticlimactically, exactly the way it was meant to?

I didn't have a chance to ask: The airboat ride was way too much fun.

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