Text & Photos: Trinity Powers
Glenn H. Curtiss, Hammondsport’s hometown hero, is known as the Father of Naval Aviation. In the early days of seaplanes and dirigibles, Curtiss became one of the first men to see the Crooked Lake from a bird’s eye view. One can only imagine what he felt at the sight! That is, unless you’ve been on a Finger Lakes Seaplanes tour for yourself. From award-winning wineries with stunning views to restaurants with a true lakefront experience, Hammondsport has plenty of ways for you to enjoy the beauty of Keuka Lake. However, there's nothing quite like feeling the excitement of buckling yourself into Andy Sable and Bob Knill's Seaplane, their Cessna 180, lifting off into the air, and gradually rising above the blue waters of Keuka Lake. We've been telling visitors about Finger Lakes Seaplanes for over a year now but finally got to experience it for ourselves this past weekend. I've gotta' say, your Keuka Lake experience isn’t complete until you’ve taken in the breathtaking views from a thousand feet in the air.
What started as a faraway dream for Andy and Bob turned into reality when they purchased a Cessna 180 in March of 2017. Andy and his wife, Tiffany, flew the seaplane home to Keuka from its original location in Minnesota and shortly began offering seaplane tours just a few months later. Located at the Harbor Lights Marina (13760 W. Lake Road, Hammondsport), you'll be greeted by Andy with his family (I'm told that Abby, his 4-year-old daughter, is actually the boss), and Bob with his lovable German Shepherd, Fritz. After receiving a few safety instructions, it's time to climb into the seaplane, buckle in, and put on your headset, which enables you to speak to the pilot and fellow passengers without having to shout over your shoulder. The seaplane comfortably seats four people: one seat for the pilot and three seats for the passengers. While the views from all seats are absolutely stunning, I called shotgun and was absolutely fascinated as I watched Bob pilot the craft. There's no one else you'd rather fly above Keuka with; Bob and Andy are incredibly fun, laid back, and knowledgeable about the area.
They offer three different seaplane tours: a 30-minute Keuka Tour, a 60-Minute Keuka / Seneca / Watkins Glen Tour, or a 60-minute Keuka / Canandaigua Tour. We thoroughly enjoyed our 30-minute tour of Keuka, which departed from the west side of the lake near the bluff, headed south to circle around Hammondsport, then up the west side past Branchport, over to Penn Yan, and back down the east fork for landing. If you live on the lake, they'll even pick you up directly from your private dock for an additional charge. It's mesmerizing to see the fork shape of Keuka Lake from the sky, as well as the hundreds of acres of vineyards and farmland, the ravines, and the boats cruising across the lake down below. But nothing beats seeing the charming little village of Hammondsport, which has a very special place in my heart, nestled between the rolling hills at the south end of Keuka.
If Hammondsport’s favorite son was alive today, we think Glenn Curtiss would give this aeronautical excursion two thumbs up. Whether you live around Keuka Lake or you're planning a visit, you absolutely must add the Finger Lakes Seaplanes tour to your bucket list. And you don't have to come during the summer to experience it. They offer tours even through November, so visitors can take in the fiery colors of autumn and those glorious golden sunsets igniting the leaves’ hues even further.