Berlin mayor Dick Schramer pilots his patented Hovertoon into the Fox River, with Green Laker reporter Joe Schulz aboard. submitted photo
by Joe Schulz
When I first met Berlin Mayor Richard Schramer, it was about a year ago and I was working on a story about the Berlin Boat Club and the Eureka Lock.
I met him at his house, and we rode his pontoon from his home in Berlin to the lock, so I could see it first hand.
When we returned to his house, Schramer showed me his garage, which housed the prototype for his patented Hovertoon.
I was amazed, and began asking him about it. He explained the Hovertoon is part pontoon and part hovercraft.
It looks like a pontoon, with large hydraulic fans on the back and can switch between pontoon mode and hovercraft mode.
When in hovercraft mode, the pontoons fold out, a large cushion below fills with air, the motor hums and the propellers in the back begin to spin.
At the time, Schramer was excited because he had finally completed the prototype, which took years of working in “phases.”
“I made a model first just to see what it would look like,” he said. “Then I made a test platform, which was a wooden silhouette of a pontoon. I took that out on land and tested the engines, and then I invested some money in a pontoon deck for the prototype.”
This summer, Schramer is even more excited because he’s discovered that his prototype works like a dream.
Schramer began testing the vessel last fall, but this summer he’s been trying to push it farther to find anything that needs to be tweaked, posting photos and videos to the “Hovertoon” Facebook page.
So far, he noted the longest voyage the Hovertoon has taken has been on a 10-mile trip up river a few months ago.
A few weeks ago, I caught up with Schramer to discuss the progress made since he began testing the vessel, and he gave me an opportunity to test the vessel alongside him.
I met Schramer in the garage where he crafted the Hovertoon. Schramer explained that he hasn’t had to make any major adjustments to the prototype, but he’s working on a redesigned skirt underneath.
He then backed the vessel out of the garage and inflated the cushion below. I hopped on and we took off for the water.
We drove straight off the shoreline — about two feet down — and into the water, without a bump or any discomfort for those aboard.
Once in the water, we took off down the river, over a sandbar and back. Hovering over the water, while zooming back and forth was exhilarating.
From where I was sitting, the Hovertoon steered like a dream. Schramer had no trouble maneuvering over the water, as we did donuts on the Fox River.
Schramer played around for about a half an hour before we returned to land, with no trouble transitioning out of the river.
The experience was a lot of fun, the ride was smooth as silk and it felt really cool to be gliding over the water.
Joe Schulz stands inside the patented Hovertoon after an adventure with Dick Schramer on the Fox River. Russ Kuehn photo
While it’s been rewarding to transform the vessel from an idea on paper to a working prototype, Schramer is still looking for a manufacturer.
“They say, ‘If you build it they will come,’ but they haven’t come yet,” he joked about the situation.
Despite little interest from manufacturers, Schramer believes the Hovertoon has a variety of uses ranging from search-and-rescue operations to recreational boating activities.
“Say a hurricane comes through and you need to get to someone; you can deploy the pontoon and go right down flooded streets,” Schramer said. “If you have early spring fishing or late fall fishing, where the shoreline’s frozen, just set this down in the parking lot, drive it right onto the ice and enter the water and go out and fish.”
I sincerely hope an established manufacturer reaches out to Schramer to add the Hovertoon to its product line. It’s a unique vessel that is a ton of fun to play around in. And in Green Laker Country, fun is the name of the game.
For more information, or links to videos of the Hovertoon in action visit www.hovertoon.com or the “Hovertoon” Facebook page.