A few weeks back, we heard from one of our local customers , the news that he’d had his Marlin II stolen. He was gutted, as you’d expect – the hovercraft simply vanished from his garden. He’s had enormous fun with it over the last 3 years. It was a well spec’d hovercraft built to order with a unique, one-off screen design, upgraded engine and lots of other options. We circulated it on social media and despite hundreds of good people sharing the alert, we heard nothing – it was gone.
But by a stroke of good-fortune, some three weeks later, a sharp-eyed policeman was visiting a small industrial yard in Ramsgate and noticed an odd looking vehicle on a trailer covered by a tarpaulin. When he took a look underneath, he realised what it was and was aware that a hovercraft had been stolen locally. We were called to identify it and when we looked, initially we thought – “No.” It was clearly a BHC hovercraft but it had been massively modified from standard. The screen had been cut around and shortened, the headlights removed and the recesses filled, the sides has large metal plates riveted to them and a hot-rod style number fin fixed to the duct. IOt even had a fake VIN plate fixed to the rear. The engine cover was missing, the dashboard (with its identification number) removed and then the red parts were all painted green. However, a closer inspection revealed red paint underneath….
Ah-ha! We build around 100 hovercraft each year and we can recognise pretty much every one of them, even when the VIN plate is removed. This hovercraft was one of only three examples of this model built in this colour scheme. We know the other two are safe and sound, so it was clear it was the stolen craft. The engine is a 50hp ‘Rampage,’ which we build in-house and following a small accident last year we made a very specific repair to the hovercraft which we soon spotted, putting the issue beyond any doubt.
The problem is that the poor thing has been brutalised! Although a colossal amount of work went into disguising its identity, there’s lots broken and missing and some of the work is very substandard. It was filthy dirty and neglected looking – it seems incredible that all that happened within three weeks of the theft! So despite its recovery, the poor owner is left with a craft that is worth a fraction of its previous value, even when he’s spent the money to have it refurbished to a safe/working standard.
It’s not often hovercraft get stolen, and to be blunt, you’d be a fool to nick one. They’re too high profile, and there’s too few around to disappear into the clutter. The club is full of enthusiasts and anywhere it gets used, it gets spotted. They attract huge attention and they’re not saleable, because anywhere it turns up within the community, it’ll be recognised.
So – we’ll fix it up, get it working and then I believe it’ll be sold – as is so often the case, the owner feels it’s tainted now, and no longer wants it. Shame on the thieves for the upset and cost their actions inflict on their victims.
If anyone has any further information about the theft, please contact Kent Police on 01622 690690, because so far – there’s no happy ending to this one I’m afraid and it would be good to see the thieves caught and punished for the distress they’ve caused.
The Marlin II Hovercraft pictured ‘pre-theft’ setting out to enjoy a cruise on the River Medway.
Barely recognisable, as discovered in Ramsgate three weeks after the theft.