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 now have the go ahead from the MCA - commercial operations for small hovercraft are a 'go!'

added by russ on June 20, 2014 at 09:00

After some two years of negotiations with the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA), we have finally been given the formal confirmation in writing - that Ultralight Hovercraft (up to 500kgs) may engage in certain commercial activity without a requirement for coding/certification.

 Not to be too crass about it - this means that using small hovercraft for paying work is now possible!

 To clarify the situation, I've bullet-pointed the situation below.

 

 Uses / Operations

Survey, inspection & maintenance.

Mud & Water Sampling

Geo-technics

Standby & Support

Security & Patrol

Weed Spraying

Nature monitoring/bird counts etc

Any application not involving paying passengers.

 

Operating Areas & Restrictions

Intertidal Areas

Estuaries and Rivers

Tidal Mudflats

Saltings & Marshes

Up to 1/2 a mile from the shore (beyond catagorised waters)

Within 3 miles of a safe haven (obviously, 80% of beaches are a safe haven in a hovercraft!)

Daylight/favourable weather.

 

Hovercraft Specification

Less than 500kgs unladen weight.

Built in compliance with the Hovercraft Code of Practice (HCoP)

Certified to be compliant by manufacturer.

Maximum of four persons (no paying passengers)

 

Operator's Qualifications

RYA Powerboat 2 or equivalent (two day course/exam)

 

Valid From

 June 19th 2014

Hovercraft Availability

The new Coastal-Pro is due for release in approximately 4 weeks and has been designed specifically for commercial applications and of course, to comply with the new HCoP.

We do still have a one off - the last of the current Coastal-Pro models available at a bargain price - so be quick if you're interested at £13,500.00+VAT!

This is a huge step forward for the industry and a fabulous opportunity for those who wish to be 'in at the beginning' and exploit the commercial opportunity it presents. There is genuinely now a viable, safe and cost effective solution to operations on mud flats, saltings, marshlands, beaches - with operating costs LOWER than equivalent conventional boats. Flying Fish have been very much at the forefront during the two years developing the HCoP and obviously we're delighted that it has finally been adopted by the MCA.

If you'd like a PDF copy of the HCoP, or wish to know more, please call or email Russ at Flying Fish.

Email :               russ@flyingfishhovercraft.co.uk

Telephone :        01304 619820

 

 

 

 

Mercier-Jones Hovercraft - I'm calling you out!

added by Emma on March 18, 2014 at 07:21

 

 

The hovercraft community is pretty small, and the industry manufacturing them even smaller. So it's been very frustrating to watch the hype surrounding the Mercier-Jones hovercraft which has been created in Chicago and has secured so many column inches of newsprint over the last year or two.

It's fair to say, it looks very striking, and the manufacturers have clearly spent their money on the design, styling and marketing, which has landed them huge amounts of coverage in the media. Mercier-Jones  modestly claim the aesthetic inspiration of high end sports cars like Bugatti Veyrons & Audi R8's and make some incredible claims as to its performance and how their product will revolutionise an 'old-fashioned' industry. This is 'the future of personal transportation' apparently and it's amazing new system of steering paves the way for a 'street- legal' version… oh please, its vectored thrust, it's not new, it doesn’t work and the day will never come when one of these things drives legally down the road in a civilized country.

They claim 'hybrid technology' - Ah! All those batteries will explain why - at 400kgs plus - it's far too heavy for its size, leading to an unrealistic skirt pressure which means, it quite simply cannot work - these guys might be geniuses for all I know, but they can’t defeat physics.   

My hobby - away from building recreational and small commercial hovercraft - is racing them. I race in Formula 2 - my craft weighs half what the Mercier-Jones does, and has three times the horsepower. I reckon its good for 60mph. You should see what the 200kg Formula 1's can do with their 200bhp engines.  Take a look here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6YHz6YwlBo and you'll get the idea!

I doubt the bespoke, lightweight 200bhp hovercraft in this video are achieving much above 70mph, yet the Mercier Jones is faster than these apparently! "With top speeds estimated at over 80 MPH and acceleration that will rival it’s supercar cousins, Mercier-Jones hopes to handily beat the hovercraft land-speed record this summer of 56.25 mph and go after the water-speed record of 86.5 mph." It's rather like claiming your Dacia Duster will lap Spa Francochamps faster than Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes.

Unfortunately, Mercier-Jones aren’t the first company to flood the hovercraft market with ridiculous claims  The industry seems to have attracted lots of bullsh****rs over the years. They tend to come and go, usually leaving an investor or two considerably poorer.  But I have to say, this is certainly the most far-fetched, unrealistic  and misleading set of claims I've seen in my 30 years involvement with hovercraft. I'm sure their intentions are honest and this is a huge misunderstanding on my behalf.  

One of the outrageous claims that Mercier-Jones make is that their hovercraft works.

And that's an outrageous claim because….  it doesn’t! Look here for their test video….

http://www.independenttribune.com/news/concord/video_60c6a380-1ffb-11e3-8213-0019bb30f31a.html

There it is in a pond on the end of a rope (maybe that’s what they mean when they claim it's fly-by-wire?) in a big ball of spray hovering no more than one inch off the ground!  It's a fair way from this to their 87mph ambitions, that hovercraft does not produce a thrust ratio "which is slightly better than the supersonic B-2 Stealth Spirit" I've got to ask, what exactly are they celebrating at the end? That nobody drowned?

They claim the first craft will be delivered in May 2014, really? Who would witness this and splash out $75,000 on something which obviously doesn’t work? I've only ever seen one real one on film - everything else has been computer generated images.

You may well have picked up on the fact that I'm angry about this and may ask why. Well, it's not jealousy, (though I wouldn’t mind my company getting 1/10th the press coverage they've managed!) but I know just how much damage the Mercier Jones may cause the industry with their high profile shenanigans.  As secretary of the 'Hovercraft Manufacturers Association' (HMA) I'm very keen to mature and develop this nascent industry. Together with our some of our members, I've spent two years dealing with the UK Authorities to develop a new 'Hovercraft Code of Practice' and we're constantly lobbying government organisations and commercial operators who've had bad experiences with small hovercraft - and are firmly of the opinion that they simply don’t work. The Mercier Jones is simply going to further that opinion - negatively impacting on honest manufacturers and operators who are trying to develop their own businesses.

What I don’t know is what the aim of this whole project is - they've already attracted some funding from the IndieGoGo website - is the ambition to attract more, whilst they draw a decent wage? The problem is that plenty of people are excited by the idea of a hovercraft (when I finally invent a hoverboard, I'll be richer than Bill Gates) and I've seen some rather naïve investors and overexcited buyers jump in without first checking their facts.

One thing's for sure, the Mercier Jones doesn't work - yet they claim they’re taking orders. And that worries me.

http://www.prweb.com/releases/mercier-jones/hovercraft/prweb11664961.htm

Michael Mercier, Chris Jones - I'm calling you out to protect my industry and the sport I love. My company manufactures and sells over 100 of those 'old fashioned' hovercraft each year, and I'm happy to take on any dynamic challenge you can come up with. Flying Fish hovercraft steer accurately, hover a foot above the ground, do 40mph and work with up to four people on board - you can see them on the internet cruising  on rivers and the sea, beaches, ice, snow, sand, mud and estuaries. Can you provide a single piece of evidence that any of your claims are justified?

Because, if your company is ever going to achieve  100 hovercraft sales a year, one thing is pretty important.

They need to work.

 

 

 

Happy St.Patricks Day!

added by Emma on March 17, 2014 at 05:46

A pretty substantial road-trip last weekend, saw this Volantis Extreme III delivered to Cork in Southern Ireland - just in time for St Patricks Day (and some 6 Nations celebrations...grumble grumble!)

Fully specified with a 50bhp Rampage, LED lighting, complimenting chrome kit and two-tone metal-flake coachwork..,. this is a colour scheme we've never done before and will soon be seen exploring the southern coast of the Emerald Isle!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three more Minnow Hovercraft leave tomorrow!

added by Emma on March 13, 2014 at 11:52

I'm pretty sure my toys weren't this much fun when I was a lad - a hoop - and a stick if I was lucky.

Anyway, three more Minnow Hovercraft leave us tomorrow for their lucky new owners. Enjoy yourself lads!

 

Here we are again? Still no hovercraft presence in UK flood relief efforts....

added by Emma on February 12, 2014 at 07:25

Yet again, parts of Britain find themselves underwater.

  • Environment Agency has urged people to stay away from the sea and rivers because they risk being killed 
  • Almost 300 flood alerts and warnings in England and Wales, with torrential rain expected to batter South first
  • Met Office warns rain could give way to ice and snow as bitterly cold Arctic air brings freezing temperatures
  • Third death last night as 47-year-old man's mobility scooter falls into river in Oxford off flooded pathway
  • The Met Office has issued a rare red warning for gusts of up to 100mph in west Wales and north-west England.
  • There are sixteen severe flood warnings in Berkshire, Surrey and Somerset.
 
Yet again, Flying Fish have sent numerous emails and letters and offers of help - to the RNLI, to Somerset Council, to COBRA, to the head of the environment agency Paul Leinster. We've even gone as far as contacting the offices of the Home Secretary and Prime Minister to offer our services in the flood relief efforts on the River Thames  and Somerset Levels. We've sent literally dozens of emails and not had a single response, just one or two replies fobbing us off!

Now I know these are busy folks but really - if ever the hovercraft was to prove its worth, these flood conditions are what they were designed for. Able to easily travel over any depth of water, irrespective of the gate/log/sunken car/road sign inches below the surface - hovercraft are safer, faster and more use in flood conditions than any other vehicle. When we get enquiries from people wanting to buy hovercraft for a purpose better suited to a boat, I've always advised them to use a boat... hovercraft aren't 'magic' - they do have their limitations and in many environments, there are other amphibious vehicles that may be more suitable (who didn't love the 'Quadski' seen this week on Top Gear for instance!)

But this isn't one - this is hovercraft territory! To not exploit a great British invention at a time like this is madness. 

In Australia in 2010, we helped out the SES (State Emergency Services) and they were 'wowed' by the capabilities of our small hovercraft (their own boat has caught its propeller on that gate post on Day One... result - no more boat!) and we ran round with medics, delivered insulin and provided transport through some terribly demanding conditions. It was an eye opener and our offer of help is made with that knowledge.

Look at this... What's more sensible, safer and quicker....

This?

 

 

Or this? (Australia 2010)

 

 


So, come on folks - we have two craft equipped, on standby with experienced pilots - , ready to assist in flood relief operations.

All we need is your call!

Our numbers (01304) 619820 and we're awaiting your call.


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