Vesconite-fitted airboats suited for African ecotourism
10 June 2024

A company that specialises in African airboat ecotourism tours in 2018 switched to wear-resistant Vesconite as a support for the engine/ gear box – propeller system to ensure that its boats can cope with the rigours of an African boating experience.

The US manufacturer had built the engine stands with nylon dampers encased in stainless steel tubes, explains Airboats Afrika MD Chris Grosch.

However, the result was a significant number of cracks in the tubes due to the constant vibrations and strain, which worried Grosch as his expeditions would often take him to hippo and crocodile-filled African rivers where it would be difficult to access maintenance facilities.

“We are not in the Everglades and you can’t whip out a cell phone and call a buddy,” he says of the ease of accessing help in the US.

“In Africa, you can’t do that. So then we worked out a concept of all kinds of things we deemed reliable.”

Grosch’s engine-mounting solution was to make a metal cup holder into which a Vesconite disc is bolted, and on which the engine sits.

Through these means, vibration was lessened and steel-on-steel wear was eliminated. Vesconite also provided the advantage of being dimensionally stable and resistant to salt water, which were boons for the tour company, which had to chisel off salt off the original water-absorbing nylon support base in the past.

Grosch’s company advertises its availability for tours in Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, DRC, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as locations in Asia, Australia, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Since Africa does not have the deep navigable rivers that you find elsewhere, he opted for airboats, which can provide a cruising-type experience even in shallow waters.

Driven by an air propeller, airboats have no moving parts below the waterline. Their flat bottoms allow them to enter difficult terrain, including swamps, marshes, river deltas and estuaries, lakes, lagoons, coastal waters, snow and ice. They are also able to move on grass and sand, and can be manoeuvred from water, over land, and on to vehicles to transport visitors between water bodies.

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