Ocean City —
Ever want to float through the sky high above the ocean? Want to fly like a rocket over the bay? If you're visiting Ocean City this summer, you can do both.
Joel Richard and his wife Jamie own and operate a parasailing and jet boat company at Third Street and Bay Avenue.
Parasailing Inc. is in its 13th season in the resort. Ocean City Jet Boats started last year.
Richard, a resident of Ocean City, was introduced to parasailing as a young man.
"I got a summer job in the Keys doing this," he said. He earned his captain's license when he was 21 and has been operating his own business for 20 years. He worked at Atlantic Parasailing in Wildwood for three years before moving to Ocean City in 1995. Richard introduced parasailing to this island. In the off-season he takes his business to exotic places like Jamaica, Hawaii, and New Zealand.
The parasail is connected to a powerboat by 600 feet of cord, which allows a person to sail 450 to 500 feet above the water. The speed of the boat is determined by several factors. "Every flight is different," said Richard. "It all depends on the wind and the waves."
The boat generally moves between five and 10 miles per hour, but on a day with zero wind, it might move up to 20.
On a clear day, dolphins and manta rays can be spotted under the water.
Any parasailing boat that seats more than six people must be certified by the U.S. Coast Guard annually. Richard's seats 12 and makes several trips a day.
Ben Otto, 18, a summer resident who attends Fordham University, instructs the passengers on safety and preparation. Otto has been helping Richard since Memorial Day.
After putting on a life jacket, parasailors are strapped into a harness, which they also hold onto during flight.
Prior to takeoff, they move to the back platform of the boat and grab a padded beam above them as the cables of the sail are attached to the harness. A moment later, the sail opens, the boat speeds up, and they begin to climb into the sky.
Richard offers passengers a special treat when the sail is being reeled in - a nice dunk in the ocean. Passengers can have pictures taken of their rides.
Eric Touchstone, of Quakertown, Pa., brought his daughter Elizabeth parasailing for the first time. Touchstone had his first trip 19 years ago in Mexico.
"I thought this would be a great experience for her," he said. Elizabeth was nervous before her first flight, but that didn't last.
"After a few minutes in the air I was fine," she said. "It's awesome."
Fifteen-year-olds Ashley Haluck and Linsey Haluck took their first parasailing ride in Ocean City.
"I was excited and just a little nervous at first," Linsey said. After the trip, the girls agreed that it was colder in the air than they expected.
Richard runs his company with the help of his wife Jamie. Interestingly enough, the two met on a parasailing trip in Maryland. Jamie was a passenger on one of Richard's trips.
She had traveled from Iowa to visit the shore and thought parasailing sounded fun. The two began to talk and before the boat ride was over Richard invited her out to a lobster dinner.
If a placid trip through the air doesn't sound adventurous enough, Richard offers another form of entertainment - the Bayblaster.
This one's a rush.
The Bayblaster is one of seven jet boats of its kind operating in the United States, according to Richard. It can cut through the waves at up to 50 miles per hour and do 180 and 360-degree turns. Riders are instructed to brace their arms during turns. After the first one, they know why. The boat leaps off swells, skims waves, and weaves between obstacles as it shoots through the water. The boat fits 10 passengers and trips last 45 minutes.
Driver Andrew Magazzu handles the craft expertly. Three weeks of training are required for a driver to be certified by the Coast Guard. Maguzzu is in his second season with Ocean City Jet Boats.
"It's a blast," said Tom Braun of Tomkins Cove, N.Y. "That's why they call it the Bayblaster. It's worth every penny. They don't charge enough."
Braun's nephew Patrick, 13, took a ride with him.
"It was the fastest and best boat ride I've ever been on," he said.
William Hornick, 12, of Stafford Virginia was also surprised at the speed of the boat. "I thought it was great. It went much faster than I thought," he said. "The turns were really cool - I got soaked."
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