Buying a new hovercraft - Turn-key, Build or Assemble? What are the options?

added by russ on March 21, 2017 at 07:02

All three options have their advantages. Companies like ourselves and a number of others, supply a turnkey product to buyers who want to get out there and have fun using their hovercraft. Just like you’d buy a jetski, boat, car or quad, you spend your money and make your choice as to the brand, size and specification.  For your money, you get a fully warranted, reliable vehicle which should be certified and built to the standards of the MCA Hovercraft Code of Practice. It really should be that simple!

There’s basically two other options.

Build from plans

Companies such as Universal Hovercraft in the USA will sell you a set of plans and you can build the whole hovercraft yourself. 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 & knowledge to complete it safely.

Unfortunately, where new and first time owners/builders are concerned, it’s probably fair to say that more don’t get finished than do. It’s a major project, demanding and time consuming. Enthusiasm and cash often run out before the projects completed – especially given the price of marine quality plywood nowadays! This often means that they end up on ebay as another unfinished project (which in themselves can a be a good buy if the work has been completed safely and well.)  

So, if it does make it to completion, what do you have? Well – taking the Sevtec & Universal designs, they’re 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 can be a challenge on mudflats and the large propeller means they can lack maneuverability. This means they work well as a long distance cruisers on calm water, but they’re not really a thrilling ride.  Think more ‘limo’ than ‘Lotus’ and you have the idea!

Without the development that a professional manufacturer puts into their craft, homebuilds should always be inspected by a competent engineer before operation. The terrible 2011 incident 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 constructing it. The builder 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 making the steering safe…none of it is a five minute job and can soak up hundreds of hours of painstaking development.

And so, a year after work began, and with the homebuilder still setting-up his craft and ironing out problems, the feller who bought a professionally manufactured craft has many hours of hovercrafting adventures behind him. Now that’s not to say that the homebuilder isn’t enjoying himself – but it’s certainly a different type of enjoyment!

The other issue with regards building a hovercraft is the resale value. Being of (usually) a timber or aluminium construction, they usually look pretty crude,  and are often seen to sport 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 (especially if 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 coach-built one.  On the other hand, a well maintained, three year old commercially built hovercraft can reasonably be expected to retain as much as 75% of its value.

 

 

Some hovercraft home-builds can be....rudimentary! (below) Limited to grassy field, it would be best not set out on a maritime adventure in this one!

 

Build a Hovercraft Kit

Going back a few years, we realised we were being asked time and again to supply complete kits, so we introduced them and have sold many since then. This is very much ‘halfway house’ between buying a completed hovercraft and building a hovercraft from plans. The kits we supply contain everything needed to build one of our Marlin or Snapper models. The fiberglass hull is fully assembled so that the fit-out is simply a mechanical project which is well within the capabilities of any competent mechanic without needing specialist tools and equipment.

Whilst it gives the builder the satisfaction of building their own machine, there’s two major advantages in the kit, compared to building a wooden hovercraft from a set of plans – aside from the fact it’s a much quicker build, meaning you can get out and play with it that much sooner!

Firstly, it’s going to work. Engine, fan, transmission, hull design are already decided and have been successfully used hundreds of times. No guessing, no calculations - follow the instructions and you’ll build and play!

Secondly, and this one’s a big one, it’ll be worth money when (if!) you come to sell it. The GRP hull’s are the same as we use on production, ‘turn-key’ hovercraft so that the finished article looks basically the same as those models. No clumsy wood, sharp corners, garden chair seating or unfinished edges – the finished hovercraft will look the part and fetch a good price.

 

 

 

 

Options for a ‘new’ hovercraft

Whether you buy a complete, turn-key hovercraft, a hovercraft kit, or build a hovercraft is down to your own skills, funds and wishes of course.  We're here to advise, just pick up the phone!

The next part of this series looks at the various aspects of hovercraft design, with advice about what to look for in a used / second-hand hovercraft.

 

 

 

 

 

Buying a new or second hand hovercraft? Some advice to avoid a costly mistake!

added by russ on March 20, 2017 at 05:39

Introduction

There's more used hovercraft than ever currently offered on Ebay, Gumtree and other sites - so now seems a good time to offer some advice to potential buyers. They're still, to most people, a bit magical and often misunderstood. That they are the most environmentally sound powered vessel available should be a massive boon to their popularity but – but this worthy fact is sadly often outweighed by unnecessarily noisy and unreliable examples which cause too much of a disturbance and get the good ones a bad name!

But here we are in 2017, and with more professional, high quality cruising/recreational craft operating than ever before, it's fair to say it's an activity that's flourishing. Over the course of the last five years we’ve really seen both the hobby and the market radically change. There’s more manufacturers producing good quality, affordable and safe hovercraft - some excellent plans available for home builders, and new engines which make practical small hovercraft with great performance and reliability. On top of that, last year, the MCA issued an industry led ‘Hovercraft Code of Practice’ which sets out standards for hovercraft construction and reassures buyers they're getting a legitimate bit of kit for their money.

Throughout this brief series, we’ll look at what hovercrafting is all about, where/what to buy or build and the options open to you, where to operate your craft and what the Hovercraft Club of Great Britain(HCGB) is all about.

First Off - Racing Hovercraft

I’ve raced hovercraft with a mixed bag of success and it’s fast, fun & loud. Racing craft are a completely different beast to recreational craft and designed for blasting round a grassy field – they’re extremely lightweight and overpowered (top Formula Ones are nearly 200bhp….!) making them a spectacular sport. They feature some sublime engineering but push the limits of what's possible to the maximum - so they tend to break down a lot and are usually two stroke powered. They’re very noisy, don’t float very well and are completely unsuitable as a cruising/recreational vehicle…but when you open the throttle on an F1 and you’re doing 100km/h four seconds later - well, suddenly all the disappointments make sense!

Take a look at www.hovercraft.org.uk for more details about when and where to see these machines in action.

Racing hovercraft are singularly unsuitable for recreational and cruising use for the reasons listed above, and this brings us neatly onto the first – and most important piece of advice we can give you when looking at buying a hovercraft….Not all small hovercraft are the same - make sure you buy the right type and design of hovercraft for your purposes!

We'll roll the information out over the next week or so, looking at different designs, suitability and 'what to look for' with regards parts and components when buying a hovercraft second hand. The important thing is that you understand right from the off that not all small hovercraft are the same - to avoid disappointment - and possible danger - we want to make sure you buy the right type and design of hovercraft for your purposes.

Recreational Hovercraft - What’s it all about?

Hovercraft come in all shapes and sizes from small single seat examples, medium size commercial/passenger vehicles to the massive American LCAC naval landing craft, which can deliver a squad of Marines and an Abrams main Battle tank to a contested beach . All work on the same basic principle of the vehicle riding on a cushion of air, generated by engine driven fans. This principle allows the hovercraft to travel over any sealed surface – grass, sand, ice and snow, water etc etc. Personal/Recreational/Cruising hovercraft (the three terms get used and are all pretty much the same thing!) are typically 1-6 seats and used as a leisure vehicle in much the same way as a Jetski, Boat or Quad etc. Some folks choose to build their own craft, others prefer to buy a professionally manufactured craft with the benefits of a warranty and proven design. In both cases, you have a vessel which allows you access to anywhere boat can go - in addition to its incredible shallow water/intertidal/amphibious ability. It’s this unique ability that make hovercraft so appealing to a growing number of enthusiasts.

There are plenty of events organised by clubs - especially in the United Kingdom, USA and Australia and suitable, well maintained hovercraft are just as capable of solo or ‘buddy’ cruising in protected waters as any other marine vehicle.

As a quick example of a recent cruise, four of us launched two-seat integrated, professionally manufactured hovercraft into the Swale in Kent (the stretch of water separating the Isle of Sheppey form the mainland.) From there, we traveled up to the River Medway - the Medway's a hovercrafter's heaven with massive tidal sandbanks and mudflats. In no time, we were exploring the gullies and saltings which no other vehicle can access. We visited a WWI German U-Boat laying at Stoke Marshes, climbed inside a Napoleonic Fortress and took a spin around 'Deadman's Island' (a macabre yet fascinating island containing the - often exposed - graves of quarantine victims and French Prisoners of War….) Then it was off to Upnor Castle for Sunday lunch and a pint, before returning via Bee Ness Jetty, Grain Tower and finally home via our favourite hover pub 'The Old House at Home' in Queenborough. In all we covered 65 miles, used less than three gallons of fuel and all agreed it was a fabulous day out. I'm still grinning as a I write this….

So where do you start?

First off, you’ll need to decide what you’re planning to use your hovercraft for. You might just want it as a toy for driving round a big garden/inland lake or playing field. You might be a bit more ambitious and planning maritime cruises. The usage does have a big effect on the type of craft you’re looking for. Larger 3-4 seat hovercraft are often more challenging to steer in confined places, but more comfortable on long distance cruises. Small hovercraft are great for inexperienced drivers and kids and are more sporting in nature – providing bigger thrills.

Are you a builder or a buyer? Lots of people over the years have built hovercraft as much for the thrill of building it themselves as for what it can do. Lots of them built one at school and are revisiting that. We’ll come onto building craft in due course, but for now it’s enough to consider whether you have the time, money, skills, tools and space to invest into what is going to be a huge project building a successful hovercraft.

If you're going to buy a craft, new or used? What are the pitfalls of buying a used hovercraft (or even a new one….) and how can you avoid them? More than ever, there’s a thriving recreational hovercraft scene in the UK.

There’s a massive range of hovercraft out there, some good, some bad, and some plain dangerous! Before we start getting into specifics in tomorrow's article, there's plenty of places for you to start your research, a few of which are listed below.

www.Youtube.com (type hovercraft cruising into search)

www.hovercraft.org.uk (the world's biggest club - 30 quid a year to join is money well spent!)

http://britishhovercraft.com/Contact.aspx (our own contact page lists up events companies where you can go along and drive a hovercraft.)

 

 

A reply to some client questions.

added by russ on September 9, 2016 at 08:39

Copied here because many of the questions are fairly common ones!

All our craft use Briggs & Stratton Vanguard engines.  Built in Japan by Daihatsu, they are low revving four-strokes, which means decent noise levels and very good economy. Snappers use around 4-5 litres of fuel an hour, Marlins maybe 6-7 (much less than a jet ski!) They use regular UK/US pump fuel, no need for anything special.  Both will get around 2-4 hours from a fuel tank (12 litres on Snapper, and 25 on a Marlin) but of course it depends on conditions, payload, wind and the driver.

Maintenance is (in brief) as follows.

Pre-operation, check the craft over. Visually inspect skirt fix and wear, oil levels, fan condition, belt etc. Takes a couple of minutes per craft.

After a days operation in salt water, wash the craft off thoroughly with fresh water. Allow five minutes per craft.

If skirt needs maintenance, you can change each segment individually (approx. 58 on a Marlin/52 on a Snapper) and it takes just two minutes. The skirt – on water – will last a very long time, you’re likely to get well over a year from them. Sand/Mudflats/gravel obviously wear it faster but its top quality material and designed especially for us by a 'technical materials' company.

At 50 hours, change the oil, adjust tappet clearances, check fuel and air filters, replace if necessary.

How long do they last?

We have customers operating with over 600 hours on their engines, mechanically they are very robust (they are for plant/commercial use remember!) but you may replace ancillaries such as carburetors/coils etc in time. A whole new engine is only £1250.00UK so its not an expensive purchase if the worst happens. I’d certainly hope you got 5-10 years use from the craft, but of course, it depends largely how well they are looked after and the hours they clock up. We keep absolutely everything to build them (of course!) so there's nothing cannot be replaced, even the hulls which (to answer your next question) are built from GRP Fibreglass.

Wave capacity

It's difficult to be too precise about but they are all okay in a ‘chop’ – you must remember they are only small – so whatever you may be comfortable in a small boat of the same size, the hovercraft will be okay too. It’s a common question, and you may find this interesting and useful. http://britishhovercraft.com/UploadedFiles/hovercraft%20performance%20and%20information.jpg Also our FAQ page - http://britishhovercraft.com/Buy-A-Hovercraft/Frequently-Asked-Questions.aspx

Which Marlin?

For your use I’d recommend the Marlin ‘Beast’ – it has lots of extras and has more 'kerb appeeal' than the Marlin II Freestyle. The Marlin III is the best of everything, but it costs more money and isn’t really necessary for your purposes.

Marlin II : £9,500.00 - No frills, all thrills hovering!

35bhp Briggs & Stratton Engine

Yellow beacon

Bilge Pump

Jockey Seat for two

Hour meter

Kevlar reinforced floor

Internal Buoyancy foam

Limited range of colours. White hull with either blue or red trim.

 

 

 

The Beast : £11,000.00 - As driven by Jeremy Clarkson!

As above but with the additions of

37bhp Hi-Torque 'Savage' engine.

Rear 'T' Seat - more seating for up to three people.

All-round LED white light and navigation lights.

LED Headlights.

Rubber non-slip flooring.

Improved endplate rudders.

Tacho/Rev Counter.

GPS Speedo/heading compass.

Wide range of hull and secondary colours .

 

 

Marlin III : £12,500.00 - The ultimate yacht tender!

As 'The Beast' but with the following additions.

Upgraded, stiffer hull with integrated screen, revised splitter plate to reduce noise and add additional lift, larger receiver area to give improved plenum flow characteristics.

 

 

Lots more answers to many more question on our website!

 

 

 

 

Buying a Hovercraft - Our 'Top-Ten' tips to avoid a costly mistake!

added by russ on February 3, 2016 at 11:15

Our Top Ten Tips for hovercraft buyers!

AND HOW TO AVOID THE RIPOFF MERCHANTS!

1.If you don’t know anything about them, do your research into hovercraft in general. Be sure about what they should be able to do, whether a hovercraft is what you want, how they work and join your local club. Hovercrafting is still a small (but growing) community and you can gather some very useful information and feedback.

2.Do not pay for a hovercraft if you can’t actually see a real one exists – especially do NOT pay a deposit on a hovercraft which is only available in CGI form!

3  Is the supplier a member of the HMA? Hovercraft Club? Chamber of Commerce? BMI?

4.See it in action, preferably drive it, and ask to see its capabilities – as described – demonstrated. Drive more than one model before making any decisions.

5.Ask to see videos of other – identical - craft in varied conditions (water, land, mud, one up/two up etc) and look online on Youtube specifically for the make you’re considering  – do you have plenty of confidence that WYSIWYG?

6.Does it come with a service manual, warranty, training and registration?

7.Does the manufacturer offer a Money Back Guarantee if the product doesn’t measure up to the  sales hype?

8.Does the manufacturer have agents and dealers? This is a good sign that they are established and serious.

9.Can you obtain references from dealers/customers?

10. Ask to see photos of the build as it happens, or visit the factory. Small hovercraft should be easily completed within 4-6 weeks – any longer should make you nervous if there's not a good reason!

Good luck with your purchase – just be careful with your money!

Hovercraft, The Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) & CE Marks

added by russ on November 3, 2015 at 10:25

We often get asked whether our hovercraft are 'CE' marked or not – the answer isn't quite straightforward, read on to find out.

Background

In the EU, marine vessels sold new by a manufacturer for recreational or pleasure purposes have to conform with Directive 94/25/EC, known as the Recreational Craft Directive, or RCD. This directive sets out the minimum technical and environmental standards for marine vehicles between 2.5m and 24m, ensuring they are 'suitable' for sale within the EU. The RCD was amended in 2003 by Directive 2003/44/EC which brought personal watercraft (ie Jet bikes/Jet skis) into the RCD. The directive also includes marine engines and some components. From January 2016, a new Directive, 2013/53/EU, replaces the current legislation but is basically the same and is aimed at reducing emissions.

 Exclusions

 Below is a list of vessels excluded from the RCD (taken from the RCD text.)

 craft intended solely for racing, including rowing racing boats and training rowing boats labelled as such by the manufacturer; or

 canoe and kayak, gondola or pedalo; or

 sailing surfboard; or

 powered surfboard or other similar powered craft

 original, and individual replica of a historical craft designed before 1950, built predominantly with the original materials and labelled as such by the manufacturer; or

 experimental craft, provided it is not subsequently placed on the Community market; or

 craft built for own use, provided it is not subsequently placed on the Community market during a period of five years; or

 craft specifically intended to be crewed and to carry passengers for commercial purposes, regardless of the number of passengers or

 submersible; or

 air cushion vehicle; or

 hydrofoil.

See it down there second from the bottom? Hovercraft are air-cushion vehicles (ACV.) So, in short – neither we, nor any other manufacturer can CE mark our hovercraft under the RCD, as ACV's are not eligible. Having checked the forthcoming legislation, we can confirm that they remain excluded from the new 2013/53/EU directive as well.

 Options

Two years back, BHC approached the European authorities and opened a dialogue aimed at either including ACV's or allowing us to voluntarily claim compliance and plate our craft accordingly. However, the ACV market is too small to interest Europe and we were refused. So, we looked into other directives, the only one of which seemed at all relevant was the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC. Again, following extensive discussions, the answer was a 'no.'

We lobbied the EU to include ACV's in the new legislation due to the growing market – but as stated above, ACV's remain excluded.

 So where does that leave us?

A number of boat builders have told us that we're lucky that we do not have to comply with the RCD and the inevitable administration that goes with it. However, our ambition for the hovercraft industry is such that we're looking at the big picture and the long term growth of both the industry and our own business. We've certainly lost a few sales over the years due to the fact we cannot claim compliance with the RCD, but generally this has been due to the misunderstanding that the craft should be compliant.

However, with very few exceptions, and in all the main areas of safety, our craft do comply with the standards of the RCD. The only area we may struggle is with the stipulated noise levels, marginal on the Snapper & Marlin but the Coastal-Pro is comfortably within limits.

So what's that CE plate I see on the dashboard then? 

Although – as established – we cannot claim compliance with the RCD, ACV's do still need to comply with the standards of the Electromagnetic Compatibility Directive 2004/108/EC. This directive basically confirms that a product sold within the EU is not causing excessive electromagnetic interference, nor is effected by the same. So, back in 2013, we put our craft through the necessary tests and compiled a conformance file. Following a meeting with Kent Trading Standards, we started to affix a compliance plate to all our craft.

Are BHC craft built to a standard? 

Of course! Back in 2012, we approached the MCA to introduce a set of standards for small hovercraft. Initially rebuffed, we eventually got our way, and together with Griffon Hoverwork of Southampton, we established a manufacturers association and got the MCA to the table to start work on the 'Hovercraft Code of Practice.' Three years, many hours, miles and meetings later and the code is due to be introduced anytime soon (it's currently going through public consultation) and sets out standards for small craft up to 24m in length. It's our fervent hope that the legislation will be adopted by other countries in due course.

All our craft are built to the standards of the HcoP and marked accordingly alongside the conformity statement for 2004/108/EC and this – in truth – is a more relevant build standard than the generic RCD could hope to provide. 

Conclusion

Hopefully, this document will explain what is possible, why hovercraft cannot be CE Marked, what standards BHC craft meet and what we've done to establish the build quality of our products.To the best of our knowledge, BHC manufacture the only hovercraft that conform to any formal standards - at least nobody else claims compliance with the HcoP or 2004/108/EC. We were the company that started the ball rolling to introduce the HcoP, we've discussed voluntary inclusion into the RCD , explored options and as such, we believe our products conform with all existing legislation and exceed the industry standards of the HcoP. 

If you need to know more, do please call us.

Sample Plate

 

 

British Hovercraft Company - Play Day for friends and family!

added by russ on June 23, 2015 at 09:12

It's been a pretty mental few months now and at times, the order book has rather outstripped production! But the team working in production have risen to the task brilliantly - working, quickly and efficiently and putting extra hours in as required to make sure that customer orders have been completed on time - we're are genuinely grateful for their efforts.

As a bit of a thank you, we decided to throw another one of our 'play days' where we invite the familes and friends to come along for a drive in the safety of our demo track in Sandwich. Some vigourous work with the mower, rakes and water pump (to refill the bone dry pond!) gave us a useable track, Emma's new exhibition trailer (of which she is rediculously proud and excited!) was pressed into use as the corporate centre (we're not quite Red Bull Formula One yet!) and a huge BBQ thrown together from an empty acetone drum, base made from an old trailer chassis and off-cuts of hovercraft fan ducts providing the grill!

All in all, a quick and dirty bit or organisation which worked out just great. I was responsible for the weather (which was gorgeous) and we got really lucky when a stunt plane turned up and put a spectacular display on for the show in the next field over... result! Nobody died of food poisoning, dozens of people drove a hover for the first time and the kids and dogs were completely exhausted when we finished up around 6pm.

A great day, thanks so much to all our staff for their hard work, and friends and family for coming along and helping out.

Here's a few photographs from the day, mostly courtesy of my Auntie Brenda!

 

 Awesome show - Pitt Special?

 The peace and tranquility of an English summers day!

 

I taught a lot of people to drive... successfully too! :-)

Gary soaking the girls. 6 years old and they love it...2 years old and they hate it!

Your never too old to try it - right uncle?

Emma's trailer..next stop the vinyl wrap ready for some shows.

And you're never too young either - 10 year old Kai drove the Snapper like a boss! ("Daaaad? Can I race one next year....?")

Carbon Fibre Integrated Hovercraft....no, not really the answer!

added by russ on May 28, 2015 at 10:23

Unfortunately, the days of cross channel 300 ton monster hovercraft are behind us, killed off by many factors - unavailability of engine servicing, increased fuel costs and finally, the end of duty free.

Nowadays, the Russian Navy ZUBR, and the US Marine LCAC's operate the world's largest hovercraft. Here in the UK, the Hovertravel AP1-88 flies the flag for the largest craft in the UK.

Down at the ‘other end’ of the scale, our original single seat ‘Snapper’ of 1998 now has a larger sibling in the shape of the Coastal-Pro, a 3-4 seat commercial craft which has been selling well to people who need a practical, safe and effective hovercraft for such uses as transport on frozen rivers, through tidal estuaries and over mudflats.

The biggest difference between the Coastal-Pro and our earlier hovercraft (the Marlin, Snapper and Mark One Coastal-Pro) is that it uses a separate lift system, which is controlled independently from the thrust system. Our smaller hovercraft use just one engine to give both lift and thrust, a system which works really well on smaller hovercraft but is redundant by the time the craft gets to 3 seats/4m or so. The Coastal-Pro is the first of these twin-engined hovercraft from BHC, but larger ones will follow.

 

As a result the Coastal-Pro can lift over 300kgs from a dead-start on water, and carry considerably more on land or over water without needing to stop. The earlier craft without he separate lift engine displayed some shortcomings in this area, which is why the  new Coastal-Pro was born. Quite simply, larger hovercraft don’t work with a single engine and fan.

Interestingly, one company has recently released an integrated 5m hovercraft built from Carbon Fibre which they claim is capable of seating (variously!) seven to nine people or an astonishing half-tone payload – from a water start, this is a hovercraft’s biggest challenge. Of course, none of the videos actually show it doing so with 7 people on board (just big cardboard boxes in the back full of what I wonder? Air?) If you have a desire to never hear again, take a look at a video of it in action (WARNING : HEARING DAMAGE VERY LIKELY!) VIDEO

The whole design concept of a 7 seat integrated hovercraft is simply wrong. It’s a fundamental design flaw akin to building a 400bhp three wheel Ferrari or an aeroplane with one wing. This particular example is powered by a 120bhp turbocharged engine – huge complexity and noise levels fit to burst eardrums (this, from our analysis is around 96dbA at 25m, loud even for a racinghovercraft!) A carbon fibre hull is space rocket technology stuff, sure. But in hovercraft use, it’s brittle and shatters quite easily, a more useful design would be to back it up with Kevlar (something we and many others have learned from racing hovercraft over the years of competition) – on its own, it’s a poor choice.

The problems can be seen quite clearly on the promo videos, the integrated design means very poor hover height, the hovercraft never truly hovers which means the skirt is dragging and will wear out in no time. Worst case, poor hovering can mean it will catch the ground travelling sideways and stop dead or flip over…ouch!

You cannot simply ‘’scale up’ small hovercraft and expect them to work as well – there has to be limits, and this one’s been crossed - and here's the result.

Meanwhile...put your fingers in your ears, turn down the volume on your PC and and play THIS VIDEO!

Take a look at this photo - wow! No words needed!

 

 

The bottom line is that despite being a much smaller hovercraft, our Coastal-Pro (all 65bhp of it) will outperform this 5m, 120bhp offering. It’s around 1/3rd of the noise level, three times as economical, carries just as much payload, is easier to drive, more reliable (seriously – a turbocharger and extensive electronics in a saltwater environment???) – oh, and much prettier! :-)

All those years of R&D, racing, cruising, commercial work and using our own craft in every conceivable environment have given The british Hovercraft Company unmatched experience in the design and production of real, working hovercraft. No bull, no wild figures, no opinion – we’re proud to say our hovercraft perform exactly as promised in our literature and on this website

By all means, try out other hovercraft brands – then come along to us for a demo, we’ll be happy to see you and demonstrate the advantages of a clear design philosophy.

For demonstrations, please call us on 01304 619820

 

 

Build a Hovercraft - Snapper & Marlin Kits in time for Christmas!

added by russ on November 13, 2014 at 06:16

BUILD YOUR OWN HOVERCRAFT!

 

Lots of people enquire to us about building their own hovercraft - or call us for advice and parts when they hit snags building one from plans. Unfortunately, most of the plans and kits available to build your own craft fall well short of providing the first time builder with any realistic chance of assembling a decent, working, attractive craft.

 

Many of the plans available are poorly written and based on outdated 1970’s designs. They usually rely on a very simple, flat wooden hull  which is heavy, porous, ugly and expensive. They often feature a nasty little, two stroke motorbike engines and worse… a bag skirt!  They have no freeboard or flotation and whilst 90% are never finished in any case, those that are completed often work poorly – and almost none produce a genuinely usable recreational craft.

 

Many are never finished and end up on ebay....another “unfinished project, just needs.......” etc. This is largely because many parts need to be sourced, salvaged or made - many are difficult to find or expensive to buy and this leads to a lot of frustration and a loss of motivation to see the project through.

 

So what are the other options?

 

Buy a used craft. Certainly an option but they’re often battered, scruffy looking and in need of restoration. Many are inland racing craft and unusable (or even dangerous) for cruising and recreational use in a salt-water environment. Very few used cruising craft come up for sale which also means prices are high.

 

Buy a new commercially manufactured craft. The perfect solution if funds allow or you’re not the type of person who looks at things and thinks...”How does that work?” But obviously, a manufactured craft costs a reasonable amount of money and may not offer the 'Caterham Cars' thrill of being able to say "I built that!"

 

The third option - 'Flying Fish' Kits

 

For some years now, the British Hovercraft Company has supplied Pro-Build Component sets to two overseas manufacturers who produce the Flying Fish range under licence. And, in response to the almost constant enquiries we receive to supply parts, kits, hulls and even plans to home builders, we chose 2014 to launch or component sets into the retail market.

 

These aren’t just kits; our comprehensive pro-build packages are designed to be quick and fun to build. All the parts you need are supplied ready to assemble, not requiring any donor vehicle, fabrication or any special skills. And we mean everything - down to the last nut and bolt!

 

Building your own hovercraft undoubtedly adds some satisfaction to the finished product - we should know, we build two a week and they still thrill us! Flying Fish Kits offer two huge advantages over building from plan or a partial kit.

 

They work! The Marlin II and Snapper hovercraft have been sold in substantial numbers, and are almost the 'industry standard' for personal hovercraft (Hovercraft Club cruises are usually attended by 80-90% Marlins) so you can be sure you'll be building a professional looking craft that will perform as it should and will 'wow' everyone who sees it. It will work, you’ll have amazing fun with it and it’ll be safe. Building from a plan just isn't a 'sure thing'  - it really doesn’t guarantee that you'll end up with a safe and effective hovercraft -whereas building from a proven component set does.

 

When/if you come to sell your hovercraft, it’ll be worth a good price - you have a fully working, professional looking craft that people will genuinely want to buy. It has a greta reputation (Flying Fish' craft are pretty much the industry standard). Take a look on ebay for instance, there's probably a Marlin or Snapper on there for sale, and they always fetch decent money. Build it well, look after it and your hovercraft has real value. Plywood/aluminium hovercraft built from plans and kits almost never fetch any money as the hull material makes them look quite ugly and crude.

 

Which Component Set Should You Choose?

Snapper

Small but enormous fun - the Snapper is the hovercraft of choice at most UK driving events businesses because it's incredibly easy to drive (both adults and kids) and offers very good performance. It will carry two adults on land but is limited to approx 100kgs on water. It's powered by a Vanguard 23bhp engine, so it's quiet, reliable and economical. It is incredibly manoeuvrable, it must be the easiest hovercraft in the world to drive so it's great to share with the kids. It' suitability extends to an uncontrolled environment in calm conditions -  many owners venture into coastal areas every weekend and the component set includes stainless steel fittings for salt water use. You can even race it in Hovercraft Club events!

 

Marlin II

The  Marlin II was launched in 2010 and is a longer version of the Snapper with a higher seating position (you sit in the Marlin, kneel in the Snapper) larger screen, 35bhp engine and improved performance - particularly in a marine environment. Overall, it's best described as a ‘sports-cruiser’ and really looks the part! See our website for lots of details and photos.

 

What's included in the set?

 

Everything! All parts are 'straight off the shelf' - ie they're exactly the same components that we use in production of our own craft.

Complete set of fibreglass parts, trimmed.

Complete Fibreglass hull. Top and bottom decks bonded together.Buoyancy foam and engine mounting timber installed.920mm duct - inner and outer mouldings (inner fitted to hull)Rudders & Flow straighteners.23bhp (Snapper) or 35bhp Briggs & Stratton (Marlin) engine, boxed.Built in fuel tank with filler fitting (Marlin) or 12l outboard tank (Snapper)Seat cover (not upholstered)Screen.Belt cover and rear coneSteering cable installed  

Fan frame.

Alloy engine mounting plates.

Fan blades and hubs, with bearings.

Guard, guard saddles.

Stainless Steel Top & Bottom pulleys, taper lock.

Platinum Spec Drive Belt

Stainless steel Exhaust and downpipes.

Fuel line/filter and primer bulb

Steering kit - handlebars, uprights, stock, mount, grips.

Skirt Material and template (finished segments available at extra cost)

Bilge pump & piping.

Throttle Cable & Lever

Wiring loom & Toggle Switches

Hatch Covers

Skirt fixing cable and clamps (lower)

Titanfast skirt fixing (upper)

Mooring cleats

Skirt fix top clips

Sikaflex, peeler rivets.

Complete nut and bolt set.

Keel strips

Aluminium edging

 Hull colour

 White with your choice of red or blue trim/secondary colour.

 Other colours available at an additional cost of £250.00 (hull) and £150.00 (secondary)

 Other options include

Lights (beacons/navigation lights/headlights)

Marlin Screen with Snapper purchase.

One man/one minute trailer.

'Marinised' or upgraded engine.

Skirt segments in place of material.

Teak effect flooring.

Coloured blades.

 

Production Time : Approximately two weeks.

Build Time : Approximately 2 Weeks/50 hours,.

Build Guide : Video

Cost :   Snapper £5,000.00+VAT

            Marlin £6,250.00+VAT

For more details, contact info@britishhovercraft.com or call us on 0044(0)1304619820

 

Hovercraft Cruises - Date for the diary late 2014.

added by russ on October 2, 2014 at 06:38

Amongst the many 'hovercraft hats' I wear is the slightly dodgy sounding 'cruising director' for Hovercraft Club of Great Britain events.

Following last night's South East branch meeting, we've put together some dates for some late season cruises as below.

As usual - all hovercraft are welcome as long as they are reliable and safe in an uncontrolled (and demanding) marine environment. These are club events, not strictly Flying Fish ones but you'll need to join the HCGB to come along.

Saturday 4th October 2014 - Launching Gillingham Strand

Saturday 1st November - Long Reach Ski Club

Saturday 29th November - Long Reach Ski Club

Friday 26th December - Boxing Day cruise. Probabaly a 'round Thanet' keep-warm, pub-based cruise launching from Sandwich, Kent.

All dates are weather dependant - please contact me for more details of you'd like to come along.

Download the CRUISING GUIDE :    CRUISING INFORMATION.pdf (194.46 kb)

 

 

 

The Medway & Swale Boating Association (MSBA) Meeting at Kent Boat & Ski Club

added by russ on September 3, 2014 at 09:10

 

 

It's fair to say I live and breathe hovercraft! Apart from running Flying Fish alongside my wife Emma, I'm also secretary of Hovercraft Manufacturers Association, Chairman of SE branch of Hovercraft Club of Great Britain (HCGB), and 'Cruising Director' for the HCGB (which frankly, sounds a bit weird.) I also race in the national championships and still thoroughly enjoy taking a hovercraft out for a spin on my favourite patch - the River Medway & Swale.

 So it was with some interest that I stumbled across the Medway & Swale Boating Association (MSBA) a little while ago.

To paraphrase their aims (from their website) :  “To promote and protect all waterborne sports and pastimes on the tidal Medway and Swale.”

The hovercraft community has been using Medway and Swale for a very long time, why wouldn’t we be part of the MSBA for the modest joining fee?  If you've seen any of my videos from Hoverclub events, you'll understand why - it's very tidal, loads of mudflats and shallow water to explore - and an amazing history with Napoleonic forts and WWI shipwrecks to visit.

So I decided to join up on behalf of the Hovercraft Club of Great Britain. As I'm involved with organising club events 8-10 times  a year, which usually launch into the Swale at the Long reach Ski Club, I felt it was important that our sport was represented within this new Organsiation.

Last night, along with Carl & Geoff, two of our growing list of active local enthusiasts, we went along to the Kent Boat & WaterSki club at Cuxton to see what it's all about. We were made very welcome and met loads of interesting folks who work and play on the Medway & Swale. The MSBA looks a very valuable resource and a great way of ensuring that the river is used responsibly - but that we water users don’t see more of our rights diminish as a result of increasing legislation and the 'environmental takeover' of the seashores. It was an interesting meeting and I'm pleased the Hoverclub now has a representation on it.

One issue was the contents of some previous minutes which indicated that reports were being made to Peel Ports (the harbour authorities) of illegal hovercraft launches from Gillingham Strand. I had to question this as the minutes seemed to indicated that the MSBA agreed with these complaints. The feller who's made these reports is a member and has my respect for saying 'that was me' and explaining why he made these reports. Basically, his position is that as somebody who runs a business on the Medway, he's sick of seeing so many laws and rules flouted by water users  and not being enforced. I can see that - if you're going to have rules, then enforce them. We explained that hovercraft are not PWC's - legally they are boats and the MCA categorises them as such and are therefore entirely legal to launch at Gillingham Strand. Further discussion centred on usage and speed limits - explaining that hovercraft create less wash at speeds over approx 8 knots which is the approximate speed where the hull is completely out of the water, resulting in no wash! In our experience, most harbour masters understand that and allow a small amount of leeway on the tightest speed limits - after all most speed  limits are made largely to prevent dangerous wash in busy and confined moorings.

And one point to remember. In the UK, you have a common law right to navigate on tidal waters. Restrictions may be made, permissions may be required, but you do have that right and it cannot be removed with a byelaw. Just remember that if you are ever told otherwise.

Bearing in mind that there have been literally hundreds of launches and hovercraft operating in the areas, to the best of my knowledge there have been absolutely no accidents involving hovercraft, very few breakdowns or recoveries and to the best of my knowledge and no prosecutions or charges brought against owners.

Statistically, hovercraft are the safest  means of passenger transport and its to my own personal delight that this amazing record also applies to the recreational hovercraft.

Hovercraft have considerable environmental advantages compared to other powered vessels.

  • They do not pollute the water like a PWC or boats - the exhaust is vented to atmosphere not into the water.
  • Recreational craft achieve approximately 20mpg, so use much less fuel than a boat of equivalent size.
  • They do not create any wash so they cause no damage to river banks
  • They have no protrusions underwater, so cannot strike marine mammals such as porpoises, dolphins or manatees. The lack of propeller  or jetdrive also means they do not damage the seabed in shallow water.
  • They exert 75 times less pressure on the ground than 12" of tide, or 100 times less than a man walking.

Hovercraft do have a rep for being noisy but modern craft using small commercial spec air-cooled engines are around a quarter of the noise of earlier two-stroke models.  The noise is directional in nature and due to the low frequency dies away very quickly. At 100m it is not any more intrusive than many other water vehicles.

One key point is that recreational hovercraft use tends to be 'get in and go' and are used in much the same manner as many people use a rib or small boat.  Club events are usually organised so that the group travels to an objective. Our last four hovercraft club cruises this year covered 23/32/50 and 45 miles - we don’t just go round and round in circles near the shore.

Being part of the Medway & Swale Boating Association looks to me like it will be a valuable and useful part of organising events and continuing the growth of the Hovercraft Club of Great Britain - and our thanks for allowing us to be part of it.

 

Contacts

Medway & Swale Boating Association

Hovercraft Club of Great Britain

Flying Fish Hovercraft

 


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