Noisy and uncomfortable - but we still love to hover

COMMENT: Bandstand event is a victim of its own success

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I suppose we take it for granted, but whenever we have friends come down from London to stay, the first thing they want to do is take a trip on a hovercraft!

To us, it’s just another mode of transport we use. We’re familiar with the sight and sound of ‘hovers’.

But to a Londoner, it’s unique and exciting.

In 2015 Hovertravel will celebrate 50 years of operating. That’s an incredible achievement when you consider how interest in the hovercraft has generally died out in this country.

Back in the 1960s it was heralded as exciting a piece of technology as a spacecraft or a supersonic jet.

But far from being glamorous, it’s very noisy, uncomfortable and not very fuel-efficient.

Our local craft need two big diesel engines to hover and another two for the propellors to make them move.

Yet the hovercraft always grab the attention of passers-by on Southsea seafront.

Seeing those black skirts fill with air as the crafts rise into life is all very dramatic. Then they slide down the pad into the water and away.

I explained to friends that we could take the catamaran over to the Isle of Wight and enjoy the views from the open deck.

The ability to do this was lost when the old passenger ferries were retired in the 1980s.

But nope, a trip on the hover it had to be.

I couldn’t really see out of the window as it was covered in salty water and my seat was rather low down.

But as the doors closed, our friends’ excitement increased.

Up we rose and then came the swing back down into the sea.

The noise and vibration levels went up, as did the speed and the bumping up and down.

Any view we might have had disappeared in all the spray.

But it still makes perfect sense to this day. With a mile of sand at Ryde to get over at low tide, the hovercraft is in its element.

Wightlink had to invest millions in a rebuild for Ryde Pier recently. All Hovertravel has to do is look after its skirts!