August 19 – 25, 2016Vol. 18, No. 11

Water Skiing behind Junior's Airplane

A Republic RC-3 Seabee, like Junior's. The craft is often referred to as "a flying boat."

by Rod Johnson

Here we go with another Great Pond adventure from a long time ago. I must admit being a spectator only, as this happened when I was 7 or 8 years old.

"Boys will be boys" as one old adage says, and they seem to want to press the limits in attempting various feats that might cause their demise. Having a brother ten years older allowed me to get a front row seat on some of the antics that he and the other local boys that age were up to during the summers of 1954 and '55.

One antic/feat that I was able to watch, was bro and his friends water skiing behind an airplane over in Sahagian Cove, between Woodland Camps and Abena Peninsula. One young man, who was a little older and was named Junior Sahagian, was fortunate enough to own, and probably with his father's help, a Republic Seabee RC-3 airplane. These planes were built during the mid 1940s under contract from the Army and Navy. After WWII it was the hope that returning war flyers would want them for recreation. The planes were well made, powered by 210 horsepower Franklin engines, but demand was spotty and the last Seabee was sold in 1948 for $6,000.

Junior's Seabee was often kept down in the end of the cove where his dad owned what we now call Sahagian's beach. Several of the local boys asked Junior if he would tow them on water skis. I remember they did it several times one summer with varying results. The idea was for the plane to pull them up one at a time, which was agonizingly slow. Once the skier was up Junior would increase the flying boat's speed to above 50 miles per hour and lift the plane barely off the water. By then the skiers had either fallen or were so tired and scared as to not let go.

Of course there were bets and counter bets as to who could stay on for the longest time. The older boys were as red as a cooked lobster when they finished their turn, and every one complained that the water spray behind the plane felt like BBs hitting them. No one got hurt badly that I know of, but let's tip one to the boys who gave it a ruddy go — Beaver Pray, Karl Johnson, Dick Johnson, Mel Pray, Puggy Damren, and probably others, too.

If you ever see a Seabee at some little airport or a museum, you'll appreciate it. Google says there are about 250 Seabees in the world that are still flying. Some were altered over the years with the addition of a second engine, which made a huge difference in the plane's performance.


Author's Note: Hang in there, we got a few more for ya! There's only a few folks left that remember this, but special thanks to Bill Pulsifer on Main Street, who told me that he remembers taking some five gallon cans of gas in his little boat out to Junior when the airplane ran out of gas!

Rod Johnson was born and raised in the Belgrade Lakes in the 1950s and '60s.