My perfect day out - a flight on a hovercraft over the Solent | Rick Jackson

Ever been on the hovercraft? It never ceases to amaze me how many people I know who haven’t, but I have the ticket to put that right and it’s not to Ryde!

By Rick Jackson
Wednesday, 20th April 2022, 7:31 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th April 2022, 7:31 pm

The hovercraft has been part and parcel of everyday life in Portsmouth since 1965. A sight and sound we all take for granted.

The Southsea-Ryde service is now the only year-round passenger service operating anywhere in the world and the current, modern craft on it were actually built locally.

So you have no need or desire to go to the Isle of Wight?

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The Solent Flyer arriving from Ryde. Picture: Mark Cox

Well how about doing what we did on Easter Day? A ‘hovercraft experience flight’?

Hovertravel and the Hovercraft Museum at Lee-on-the-Solent run a series of pleasure flights from the Daedalus slipway to give people the chance to experience the amazing things these craft can do but few rarely see.

Sadly the slipway had suffered storm damage, so our 11am flight was moved to 2.15pm and from the Southsea pad.

We took our window seats and soon enough we were lifted into the air and spun into the sea heading for No Man’s Land fort off Seaview.

It took no time at all for the 50mph craft to make it.

Soon enough the captain, or ‘pilot’, was giving us a running commentary as he performed high-speed doughnuts and ‘dropped the skirt’, the rubber inflatable bag around the craft that is filled with air to make us hover.

We sat motionless on the surface. You could hear the water lapping beneath us.

Then the engine revs built and we were hovering again.

After more crazy manoeuvres we were back on Southsea beach and were invited up to the cockpit to see the captain.

There was the awkward moment where I seemed to have outstayed my welcome after all my anorak questions – a kind of pregnant pause before I made my leave.

I would have been happy to have stayed up there for the return flight to the island!

So there it is. Why not experience these crazy, unique craft yourself?

They will do stuff they would never do in service… unless something has gone horribly wrong of course!

THOSE OLD AXED RAILWAY LINES ARE STILL BEING PUT TO GOOD USE

Doctor Beeching – two words which are a form of abuse among railway fans. The former head of ICI was given the job of saving British Railways from bankruptcy in the 1960s.

As a result of the Beeching Report 55 per cent of all stations and 30 per cent of railway miles were axed. Some say too much was cut, but locally those abandoned lines have made wonderful cycle routes.

Take the Wickham to West Meon Trail and the one we cycled last week, the Hayling Billy Line. We parked near Langstone Bridge and the kids and I cycled its coastal route to the accompaniment of just birdsong. Many of these old lines were loss-making but are now being put to good use keeping us fit!​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

PRIDE COMETH BEFORE A SIZE 12 BALL AND TENPIN HUMILIATION

I hope Easter Holiday survival for any fellow parents is going well. My first break from work since Christmas couldn’t have come soon enough.

We’ve packed in lots of activities which included the obligatory trip to Gunwharf Quays to go bowling. Being a competitive type of chap I found my perfect size 12 ball, entered our names on the computer screen and off we went.

Just so you know, my seven-year-old son and six-year-old daughter used the side barriers and the ball ramps. Anyway, no matter how hard I tried, I came last in both games. Embarrassing.

Sarah didn’t take any pictures of the scoreboard to plaster over social media for everyone to see. Lucky me.​​​​​​​