Deep in the heart of winter on the Gulf Coast, boaters already begin to plan their upcoming on-the-water adventures. New destinations are plotted on charts; that wooden boat festival that was missed last year due to work is scribbled onto the calendar, and family friendly boating events are searched out on the Internet. Here’s one boaters must included on their cruising calendars: an air show from the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels.

The legendary, precision flying squadron’s home is smack in the middle of the Florida panhandle at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Pensacola. The Blue Angels have been thrilling hordes of people for more than 50 years with their razor-thin precision and spectacular aerial stunts. Throughout the year an estimated 11 million people view the incredible aerial dynamics of these pilots as they fly in close formation and perform amazing feats of sky gymnastics in their F/A-18 fighter jets, which can reach speeds of 1,400 mph!

Eleven million people can be quite a crowd, but luckily, many of the air shows that the Blue Angels visit are accessible to boaters in many parts of the country. What better way to entertain than to run your boat just off shore on the Gulf of Mexico, a bay or lake and drop anchor for the best seats in town. Raft up with your boat-owning friends and make it an annual event. Pack a lunch or fire up that stern grill, marvel at the aeronautics and feel the power of the Blue Angels as these extreme aircrafts spring through the air. Many of the venues, especially in beach towns such as Pensacola and Key West, have the fighter jets screaming just along the shorelines and possibly directly over your vessel. It’s quite the memorable experience. Air shows held throughout the country in 2016 can be found on their website blueangels.navy.mil. Search for the event nearest you and discover whether the pilots will be flying directly over or within viewing distance of your favorite waterway. The energy and thrill of watching these fighter pilots from the comfort of your own boat is truly a one-of-a-kind experience and should absolutely be scheduled into your boating plans for this New Year.

Now go back to dreaming of warmer weather and untying those dock lines—spring is right around the corner.


By Troy Gilbert, Southern Boating Magazine January 2016

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