Fishermen around these parts are usually willing to take a whole day to get to and from a favorite fishing hole, but Steve Kryzsko doesn’t have to spend that long getting to his favorite spot if he doesn’t want to. He’s got a hovercraft boat, a 2001 Webber Star Cruiser, that can go up to 45 miles per hour on an open river or lake.
His normal round trip is about 35 to 40 miles in four hours, and Kryzsko generally limits his use to the New River and James River because they’re much wider than the Roanoke River – it gives the fishermen a little more breathing room. Still, he’s a sight to see cruising about eight inches above the water, bearing a smile and flashing a wave with an American flag on the stern of the boat.
The Webber Star Cruisers were manufactured in Illinois by two retired carpenters. They built 120 crafts before ending production, Kryzsko said. His boat weighs about 600 pounds and is made of pink construction foam covered with fiberglass and spongy resin. He’s got a Kohler engine with 25 horsepower for the thrust, and he’s got a Tescama 10 horsepower for the lift. The hovercraft’s lift engine uses the airtight seal created by a skirt on the bottom to propel the boat above the ground or water. Kryzsko can park his trailer on a bank that slopes into the water and drive the boat straight from ramp to river. To top it off, the craft averages 12 to 15 miles per gallon of gasoline.
Kryzsko started building boats when he was 15 years old – he first built a kayak. And he’s build just about any kind of traditional watercraft since then, including sailboats, dinghies, motorboats, and rowboats.
“There was a time there when I got married and the kids arrived,” he said, when he put off his boating passion. “And when the kids got big enough I started building boats again.” The largest boat he’s built on his own was an 18 foot long motorized fishing boat with 35 horsepower.
“They say the best day in a man’s life is when he buys a boat and then when he sells it,” Kryzsko said.
“Yeah, that’s because it usually means they’re going to buy a bigger boat,” his wife Barbara laughed.
He’s been able to note where a local eagle’s territory is on the Roanoke River and has had the chance to see a few osprey – just because the hovercraft goes fast enough to sneak up on them.
The hovercraft is not, however, like the swamp boats that you see in the Everglades. They have a solid shell for the bottom of the boat – which wouldn’t be conducive to the rivers around here.
Kryzsko’s next adventures with his boat of a different hull will include a venture on the Dan River and to an annual hovercraft rally this fall in Big Spring, Tennessee. The rally usually draws eight to ten hovercrafts and they do several 30 mile trips together around the lake there, he said.