What to do with your hovercraft!
Good quality, reliabl,e recreational hovercraft can be used pretty much as you’d use a boat – but with the advantage of being able to cruise at low water, exploring shallow water bays and estuaries, waterways and beaches where no boat can go. Around the UK, there are lots of hovercraft owners, some fabulous places to use your hovercraft and clubs who organise cruising events.
Hovercraft are the most environmentally sound powered vessel available, so you can rest assured that – as long as you use your craft responsibly – you’ll cause no damage to the ground over which you travel or the environment in general.
Below are a just a few of the places we’ve enjoyed hovercrafting.
Medway – A regular and favourite haunt for the Flying Fish crew, the Medway and Swale covers a huge area, quite well protected in poor weather and extremely tidal. This makes for big areas of sand and mudflats so it’s most fun at low water. There’s Napoleonic Forts, World War I submarines and lots of other fascinating places to explore amongst the saltings with easily accessible pubs and café’s!
River Blackwater – With organised cruises taking place based at Steeple Bay campsite, the Blackwater has been well hovered! You can cruise right up to Maldon, and back down past Osea Island and Mersea Island to the river entrance. In good weather, you can head south to the River Crouch.
The River Severn – With a well attended and organised yearly cruise taking place at Berkeley, the Severn is just built for hovercraft! you can take a cruise down to the Severn Bridge and even have a play on the famous Severn Bore – just for kicks! A favourite club cruise, it’s well attended with a good social too.
Morecombe Bay– Up in the North East is Morecombe Bay, over 300km2 of intertidal mudflats and river estuaries. With Blackpool nearby, there’s plenty of accommodation and ‘apres-hover!’ to compliment the daytime adventures exploring this amazing venue.
The Wash – A huge tidal area on the east coast, with a big holiday park in Hunstanton making it a great venue for families. The venue of numerous ‘mud-races’ over the years, with gullies and beaches everywhere! With the huge tidal range, it’s no coincidence that the RNLI have a hovercraft based here for mud rescue.
Scottish Locks – There are annual cruising events held on Lock Fyne and a strong hovercrafting contingent locally who make use of the great scenery with regular organised events.
The Rhone Raid – Quite simply the best thing you can do with a hovercraft! ‘The Rhone Raid’ takes place each year in the first week of August. Starting from near Dijon, usually in fabulous weather, it heads south down the scenic Saone & Rhone Rivers for a 1000kms over the course of a week. It’s an international affair, and family friendly, which has run annually for over 20 years attended by anywhere from 12-25 hovercraft and 40-80 people, mainly French & English. Each hovercraft has a road crew towing their hovercraft trailer behind a car or camper, meeting up at the lunchtime halt, and at the campsite each evening. All campsites are right on the river, the craft hovering up out of the river, where a large marquee has been set up by the organisers. At 7pm, the local Mayor brings along some local wine for ‘Appero’ and a remarkably good three course dinner (cooked in the back of a large van!) proceeds wine fuelled entertainment late into the night. There’s an amazing camaraderie to the event, taking you through a beautiful part of France, with unspoilt scenery.
There’s always a dozen or so organised cruising events each year but when you’ve attended some club events and met some other folks with hovercraft, it’s likely you’ll end up exchanging numbers and arranging informal cruises. It’s good fun to use your craft with a buddy and safer if you’re being more adventurous! This is how the we tend to do our own cruising – we often extend invites to other owners to come along if we’re headed out.
Generally speaking, you can use your hovercraft as you would a boat of equivalent size, so rivers and inland waterways are all possible venues – we’ve explored the Thames, crossed the English Channel and completed literally thousands of miles of coastal cruising around the UK. There’s a strong social side to hovercrafting, which you can get involved with as much or little as you like. It’s a great ‘dads and lads’ hobby (or mums and daughters of course!) and often organised events are two day affairs with a barbecue on Saturday night.
A word of caution…
In the UK at least, there is no legal requirement for a license or qualifications to drive either a boat or hovercraft. However, like any other boat, it’s crucial you prepare properly for its use. Hovercraft aren’t magic, and failure to respect the sea can land you in trouble, whatever you’re driving. We advise joining the hovercraft club and – initially at least -, using your craft with others at organised events. We’ll teach you how to drive your new craft as part of the ‘handover’ when you come to collect it, but if you have no maritime experience, we recommend gaining some basic boating qualifications from the RYA. Before using your craft in a maritime environment, you should equip yourself adequately with all necessary equipment, clothing and safety gear, register it and carefully check the weather and tidal charts before setting out.