" /> Try parasailing above Marco for the thrill of a lifetime » Marco Eagle

Try parasailing above Marco for the thrill of a lifetime

A gathering of angels appeared above my head
They sang to me this song of hope, and this is what they said
They said come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me.
— lyrics from Come Sail Away by Styx

Teenage sisters Katy and Angela Nardozzi took a cue from the 1970s classic rock band Styx and sailed up, up and away Feb. 24, as many vacationers do when they hit the beaches of Marco Island.

When the sand and surf lose their novelty, people look to the skies — and parasailing — for some fun.

"Why not?" replied Katy when asked why she and her sister dared to venture vertically with the help of Marco Island Ski & Watersports.

"We're kind of the adventurous type," she said. "We went Jet Skiing earlier, so we're trying to cram it into one day."

Ron Michaels and Jason Hall, who were at the helm of the Watersports shuttle boat, a yellow sliver of nautical speed, say that this time of year, their parasailing business definitely picks up.

"It's amazing how many families come when the kids get out of school," Michaels said.

"Now, we can get busy with the winter breaks from the schools up north, and soon we'll have spring breakers."

Michaels said that he's had customers reserve their spots up to four months in advance during their vacations. But most make reservations the day before.

Although parasailing is a popular activity during family vacations, youth is not a requirement to take to the air, Michaels said. You just have to be young at heart.

"Last week, we had a woman go up to celebrate her 70th birthday with her husband," he said. "I've been doing this for 10 years, and we've had kids out of wheelchairs go up, sight-impaired people. ... It's a mild ride, not jerky like a roller coaster.

(Parasailing) is 99 percent more peaceful than the world they left on the boat."

The parasailing process is quite simple: On land, you sign a safety waiver and then hop on board a shuttle boat.

The boat comes as close as possible to shore, but you have to wade out up to your knees to climb up a short ladder.

"It makes for a pretty nice office," Michaels joked about the boat.

Once the boat has all its soon-to-be cloud hoppers on, the boat heads out to sea.

How far depends on what else is going on around the boat that day, including Jet Skiers, other boats and banner-totting airplanes, Hall said.

"We don't need an obstacle course," he said. "So we really watch what's going on to ensure the safety of the people going up."

People can fly up individually or go tandem, that is, two people side by side. Most people go up in pairs, either to stifle any reservations they may have about parasailing or to just have someone with whom they can enjoy the view.

Each person wears a life jacket and then squats into a diaperlike harness. The harness is then hooked to the parasailing cord, which is slowly cranked out once the parachute is let loose. A staff member walks the person or people to the chute, and with backs facing the multicolored puff of fabric, they are slowly lifted off the boat's platform.

Each ride can last anywhere from seven to 15 minutes, Michaels said.

Depending on the weather, the wind and the water traffic, Michaels said he tries to get parasailors "up anywhere from 200 to 250 feet in the air. That way, they can see over the tops of the hotels on Marco and into the Ten Thousand Islands — once they open their eyes."

The Nardozzi sisters had no qualms about parasailing. But their parents, Tom and Nancy, had enough risk-taking with the Jet Skiing earlier that day.

"We love you! Don't forget to write!" they called out to their daughters as they began their flight.

Katy and Angela said the trip went smoothly. Literally.

So much so that the sisters entertained themselves with a few verses from the 1978 Styx hit Come Sail Away as they did just that.

"It wasn't bumpy at all, not like I thought it might be," Katy said once the ride was finished. "We were so high up.

It was so peaceful. It was like looking out a window."

As with any recreation activity, experts recommend making sure the business provides safety features such as life jackets, first aid and a fire system on the boat. Ask if there are any clothing, physical or age requirements. Costs at Marco Watersports are $70 for a single ride and $140 for a tandem ride.

Here are some parasailing options on Marco Island:

— An Adventure in Paradise, 389-4386
— U.S. Parascending Corp., 394-4344
— Marco Island Ski & Watersports, 642-3377

© 2004 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.