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

 

We're back racing in two weeks.

added by russ on August 29, 2014 at 05:40

Well, its that time of the year again!

Our new Cobra Formula 2 Hovercraft is pretty much ready, so we're off racing at Towcester Race Course, Northampton, in two weeks time. This time, we've dropped the stupidly-powerful-but-bloody-heavy GSXR600 engine in favour of a 440cc Snowmobile Engine from a 2007 Lynx MXZ Z440. Roughly 100bhp but 32kgs... should be quick but it'll take a lot of sorting out and setting up. 

We'll also have the new Coastal-Pro there, so if you'd like tocome along and see it, you'll be very welcome.

Just to whet your appetite, here's a taster - our Cobra F2 racing from Prudhomat, France in 2013.

Crushing the bad guys!

added by russ on June 18, 2014 at 09:21

 

 

#

BE CAREFUL OUT  THERE!

Looking over the information on our website recently, I realised we may be selling ourselves short. Our 'about us' page is typically wishy-washy and reads much the same as everybody else's. Time to change it I think - because be honest… I’m not sure that’s really us.

There’s no industry on earth that doesn’t contain it’s fair share of rogues, charlatans, wide-boys, dodgy-geezers and downright-thieving-bastards. Even doctors and priests get themselves locked up from time to time. And the hovercraft industry is no different to any other. In some ways, the world of hovercraft is valuable turf for fraudsters and sharp-salesman. Why? Because many people who buy hovercraft have little knowledge or experience of them and are ‘babes-in-the-woods’ when it comes to being sold to.

Two quick examples – in Australia, there’s a guy selling hovercraft who’s notorious for his (shall we say) 'sharp' practices. Three or four years back, two excited future owners of his hovercraft met at a club meeting and were describing the hovercraft they’d ordered and paid a deposit for – they’d both visited the factory over the last few weeks and seen their hovercraft in manufacture. One told the other his was black… so was the other guys….it had a Yamaha engine… so did the other guys…it was on the line being built right now and was just having its screen fitted….they’d have it in two weeks….so would the other guy.

Yup, you guessed it – they'd both been told the hovercraft they’d seen was theirs so they’d both recently paid their balances. One (or both) of them was being robbed and I can only imagine the moment when they both realised that they may have been ‘had.’ We’ve since heard two separate accounts of buyers who have had to take legal action against the same company to get deposits back for hovercraft that simply never got built. And this clown’s still in business?

 Come on Australia, grow some balls and close this idiot down!

In the UK is a company whose hovercraft truly suck. Truly, truly suck. They look great and their marketing is superb… but quite simply their hovercraft, (which is the same size as, but weighs twice as much as) the Flying Fish Marlin (itself not a lightweight racing craft by any means) cannot and does not work properly. Hovercraft aren’t magic, they can’t break the laws of physics and weight is the ultimate killer of a successful hovercraft. Yet they sell decent numbers of hovercraft - in fact they’re our closest competitor. Not one of their hovercraft have ever been seen at a UK cruising event (in fact, I’m told they ‘advise’ their customers to stay away!) as the community would probably fall around laughing if they did witness the noise/spray/20 mile range and slug-like performance from a 120bhp turbo engine(!) For ten years, we've been inviting them to come cruising, race us, offer craft up for an independent review…we're still waiting!

Ask yourself why!

Unfortunately there’s several other examples I could give such as the industry favourite, the ‘revolutionary new hovercraft’ idea – there’s one being marketed in Chicago, USA right now. Can’t work/won’t work (the only video of it in action is farcical – it’s on the end of a rope, creating a rainstorm in a pond!) but as it’s been styled to look vaguely like a Bugatti Veyron, and has no fan duct (ah, now, there’s a clue – see?) they’ve attracted a bundle of cash from naive investors and deposits from even-more-naïve buyers – the poor little lambs. But at least their $75,000.00 purchase will get them a nice looking pond ornament/garden sprinkler for the herons to shit on.

Even the government can get caught out - one UK Fire Service bought two Italian built, counterfeit copies of an US design… and guess what? They didn't work, are incredibly dangerous and basically languished in the shed for  six years - making BBC headlines when it was announced that £150,000 of taxpayers' money was wasted on them! We could have sold them two equivalent hovercraft which do work for around a third of that…

So why the rant?

Well, quite simply, our business gets damaged by the charlatans. Hovercraft manufacturing is a small industry and the problem is, when people buy a substandard hovercraft from a dubious company, what we hear is along the lines of ‘small hovercraft don’t work – I tried them.’ And that’s not fair, because if you tried the new Land Rover out and it was a dog, you wouldn’t state that '4x4’s don’t work.' We as an industry, still have some why to go to establish ourselves and the conmen and idiots do so much damage to the legitimate companies struggling to improve the image of perfectly good craft.  

So, how about that Flying Fish crowd? What do they do differently?

We get complaints occasionally – all businesses do. We’ve made silly mistakes that have been missed on the pre-delivery inspection and have been occasionally been a little late delivering. But, we do our best to sort any problems out quickly and efficiently and constantly improve what we do. We chase feedback, not avoid it, we build in reliability so that we don’t have to see your hovercraft again until its either service or upgrade time.  We don’t lie to people (I can do without the grief to be honest!) and if we don’t think a hovercraft is the best vehicle for your application, we’ll tell you. We want happy customers, an easy life and we want you singing our praises and back for more hovercraft in the future.

We have trained dealers in several overseas countries – as well as the UK. We’re formative members of the Hovercraft Manufacturers Association (HMA.) We – together with Griffon Hoverworks – pretty much wrote the 2014 MCA Hovercraft Code of Practice. We don’t take deposits for hovercraft models that we haven’t built yet. We head up cruising events for the hovercraft club (UK club members have clocked up a total of some 2000 miles at club events and private cruises in 2014 already) which constantly improves the breed. We race hovercraft which gives us enormous  amounts of information to find its way into production craft.

Above all else, we offer Money Back Guarantee – we can’t be fairer than that can we?

That’s us. That's what we do - that’s why we sell more hovercraft than any other company in the world. We aim to keep growing, both in terms of the company, and the hovercraft we manufacture.

So here’s our Top Ten Tips.

AVOIDING 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 weeks – any longer should make you nervous.

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


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