Buy or Build?

added by russ on November 4, 2011 at 08:36

Hovercraft have suffered from an image problem for many years. Despite a new Marlin II hovercraft clearly being a professionally manufactured, serious piece of kit, we still hear the same thing at shows from lots of people….”I built one of these at school” – when in actual fact, the difference between a Flying Fish hovercraft and a school-project is like walking up to a BMW and telling the owner you built a soap-box as a kid.

So – build or buy?

Well, both have their advantages. Here at Flying Fish, we supply a turnkey product to buyers who want to get out there in an amazing machine and have fun using it. Just like you’d buy a jetski or quad, we take your money and you get a fully warranted, reliable vehicle with great provenance .

But there’s another option. Companies like Sevtec and Universal Hovercraft will sell you a set of plans and you can actually build a hovercraft from scratch. You’ll buy the timber, source an engine or two, sew up your own skirt, source fan assembly parts, build steel fan frames, upholster seats and decide what colour gloss it needs to be finished in. It can be a fascinating project – as long as you have the necessary space, time and (crucially) skills to complete it safely.

Unfortunately, it’s probably fair to say that more don’t get finished than do. Its demanding and time consuming and enthusiasm and cash often run out before the projects completed (have you seen the price of marine quality plywood nowadays???) with the result that they end up on ebay – another unfinished project.  

So, if it does make it to completion, what do you have? Well – taking the Sevtec design, it’s very much a water craft designed for the American market – much more at home on big, open areas of water than exploring creeks and gullies. Their bag skirted design and large propeller means they lack maneuverability and whilst this makes them a great long distance cruiser, they’re not really a thrilling ride. I’ve always said, if a boat will do the job you have lined up for your hovercraft… use a boat!

Without the development that a professional manufacturer puts into their craft, homebuilt should always be inspected before operation. The terrible case earlier this year in New Zealand, when a man who’d built a hovercraft was killed by the propeller flying off the first time he used it just illustrates the point only too clearly.  But dramatic accidents aside, (this was an unfortunate but inevitable accident) making the hovercraft work properly can be nearly as big a job as making it and builders often become despondent the first time out when it doesn’t work – and it ends up, you guessed it - on ebay. Fine tuning the skirt, lift and thrust fans/props, matching the engine to the fan and selecting the correct speeds, getting the trim right, chasing away vibrations and the steering safe…none of it is a five minute job and can soak up hundreds of hours of painstaking development. We should know, we’ve been there and even after thirty years of making hovercraft – we’re still learning.

And so, a year after work began, and with the set-up and problems still being sorted, the feller who bought a professionally manufactured craft is out in it exploring places nobody else can get to!

The other issue with regards building a hovercraft is the resale value. Being of (usually) a timber or aluminium construction, they usually look pretty ugly and we often see them featuring such crude features such as (I kid you not) plastic garden chairs for seating. it’s rare that a homebuilt hovercraft will fetch even a fraction of what it costs to build (and that’s before you price in your own time.) Sadly, it’s a fact that people simply aren’t prepared to pay much for your own efforts - rather like with homebuilt/converted camper vans. Some are very good, but they’ll never get the same price as a coachbuilt one.  On the other hand, as a rule, we usually find that a three year old, well maintained Marlin II hovercraft can be expected to retain 75-80% of it’s value., which isn’t too sad.

So – like everything else, it comes to personal choice and if it sounds like I’m opposed to homebuilding hovercraft, then I apologise. That’s not the case - in fact we’re beginning to look into the idea of selling component sets for self-assembly – ie all the parts that you need to build your own Marlin hovercraft. The advantages of this (rather than the ‘kit/plan’ option) are numerous.

  • 1.       The craft will work – built from a set of matched and proven parts.
  • 2.       Much quicker build. There’s no need to build a hull – this is the basic unit on which the hovercraft is built.
  • 3.       Backup and support from the factory will make the assembly safer and more successful.
  • 4.       Parts can be bought as you go along – buy the next parts when you can afford it.
  • 5.       It’ll look great and you’ll have something to be proud of.
  • 6.       Once complete, you’ll have something with real value which can be sold on.

This is a significant departure from ‘kit’ hovercraft which are usually built from a set of plans and start with you building a plywood hull and fabricating every last piece of hardware. This is more like building a giant Meccano or Airfix kit!

Whatever your choice, Hovercraft are (to quote Jeremy Clarkson) “THE most fun you can have with an engine!”

If the ’component sets’ project sounds like something you may be interested in, then email us at and we’ll keep you updated with developments.







Want to run your own hovercraft business?

added by russ on November 2, 2011 at 14:26

Flying Fish Hovercraft are delighted to offer an unusual and exciting business package. As manufacturer of The Snapper, we have a hovercraft available which is designed and built specifically for usage within events businesses for driving experiences.

These UK, hand built, little machines provide incredible thrills to the public at activity centres and driving experiences at a number of venues in the UK and abroad. We’ve operated our own events business for ten years in Kent and are now making them available as a package including the hovercraft, spares, training and all the other necessary equipment and support you need to add them to your existing events business or start from scratch as a profitable and fun business.

The package price of £20,000.00+VAT includes much more than 'just' two fabulous Snappers.

  • Two Snapper Hovercraft (for full details, see below)
  • Road trailer
  • Two craft covers
  • Spares package including replacement skirt segments, blades & belt, service parts, cables, various fixings etc totalling approx £1000.00
  • Use of our website design and a credit towards establishing a web presence.
  • Online ticketing/voucher system
  • Vouchers/Gift Certificates/Presentation Certificates  & brochures all provided and with your own details.
  • Visit to your site to advise on course design / training your staff (UK Mainland only – overseas visits may incur an additional cost.)
  • One day training for company principle/administration
  • Introductions to packaging and ticketing companies.
  • Advice on where to source insurance.


The Hovercraft


The Snapper was developed specifically to provide a thrilling driving experience for the public at events and activities centres. These incredible little craft are easy to drive and fast enough to be fun. They’re tough, easy to repair and easily serviced with long service intervals. They look fantastic and are professionally finished with a strong fibreglass hull and stainless steel fittings.


We’ve personally run these craft and events for over ten years and in that time have learned everything there is to know about maintaining and repairing them. No other manufacturer produces a craft which is designed specifically for driving experiences, or has as much experience of operating their own craft as Flying Fish does.


  • Your choice of colours from our standard range.
  • Powered by Briggs & Stratton 23bhp engine
  • Revs at just 3800rpm
  • Low noise (74dbA at 25m) at a low frequency
  • Electric start
  • Very frugal – drinks just 5-6 litres fuel per hour.
  • Commercial engine power means long service intervals and long service life.
  • Very robust craft and engine.
  • Cheap and easy to maintain segmented, flexible skirt.
  • Simple driving controls consisting of handlebars and throttle – that’s it!
  • Training takes less than ten minutes per driver.


The Event


A grassy field and a watersplash! That’s all you need to provide to complete the requirements of this unusual and sought after event. You can even dig your own water-splashes  if there is no water on your potential site, which is what we’ve done at our own event.

You can work from a home office, taking bookings either by phone, your websites ticketing system (included) or from voucher companies. We’ll show you how to train folks in under ten minutes before they start pursuit events, relays and individual competitions.


You’ll easily ‘process’ 30 people a day at an average rate of £65.00per person. With good marketing, you should fill most weekends through spring, summer and early autumn – producing a turnover of around £3900.00 per weekend with an excellent profit.


This isn’t speculation – it’s proven figures!


Flying Fish Hovercraft


Flying Fish is a family owned business based in Dover, Kent producing recreational and light commercial hovercraft. Firmly established as one of  Europe’s largest hovercraft manufacturers, the business has developed the craft over ten years in which time hundreds of hovercraft have been sold throughout the world. Alongside this, Flying Fish run their own events business in both Australia & the UK, and have taught literally thousands of people to drive their craft.


Flying Fish have proven their craft in the harshest possible environments and taken on the biggest challenges. For instance,


  • The only small hovercraft to have made multiple two way crossings of the English Channel.
  • Completed eight challenging 1000km ‘Rhone Raids’ on Rhone & Soane Rivers.
  • National Coastal Racing Champions in 2005/2006
  • Inaugural National ‘Formula 503’ champions.
  • Suppliers of craft to the makers of the BBC’s ‘Frozen Planet’ for use in Arctic conditions.
  • The only small hovercraft to have completed a two way crossing of the Irish Sea.
  • In use around the world in hundreds of different applications from flood response to cockling and from mud-sampling to yacht tenders!


Today, employing six full-time staff at their factory in Dover, the business continues to supply thrill seekers with exciting, reasonably priced hovercraft and commercial users with a vehicle able to access all areas at very moderate cost.

 For more details, contact Emma on 01304 829944 for a chat.

Please note - this package is not available for sale in Kent.







Recent Posts