THEY’RE barely bigger than a bathtub and have top speed of just one knot.
But three tiny vessels, built for the calm waters of a boating lake, have proven their worth in the choppy seas of the Solent.
A mini-police boat, mini-ferry and mini-destroyer made the crossing to the Isle of Wight yesterday to raise money for the Chernobyl Children’s Life Line.
MiniPort Portsmouth managing director David Ritchie said the 1:25-scale boats performed admirably.
He said: ‘We always felt they were capable of it, but I was surprised how well they performed.
‘We had no reliability problems whatsoever. They were absolutely brilliant.’
The boats are usually found in ponds at Gunwharf Quays and the Historic Dockyard and are a popular family attraction.
It was a visit by children affected by the aftermath of Chernobyl’s nuclear disaster that gave the MiniPort team the idea for the Solent crossing.
Mr Ritchie said: ‘There were a group of 14 children who came over with the Chernobyl Children’s Life Line in July last year and went on the mini-boats.
‘They absolutely loved it, and we were looking for a way to promote the boats.
‘It was a perfect match, really.’
The effort raised almost £1,000 for the charity, which funds holidays for the children, who mostly come from Belarus.
Mr Ritchie said the four-mile voyage across to Ryde took four hours and the mini-boats were accompanied by two bigger power boats.
A police boat provided an escort out of Portsmouth Harbour, cruising alongside its smaller version.
Mr Ritchie said: ‘We got out of the harbour around 9am and then ran into quite bumpy seas, which was predictable.
‘From there we turned and headed straight across to Ryde.
‘The tides were not too strong and the boats stayed absolutely upright.’
Mr Ritchie said the electric-powered boats were designed with the help of a naval architect. He said the crossing had generated a lot of interest.
‘People are amazed that we’ve done it.
‘I’ve had more people come up and ask me about the boats today that I have in my whole life.’
Donations to the charity can be made at justgiving.com/miniport.