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!

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

 

 


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