I think my fascination with the Hovercraft as a mode of transportation took root way back in 1979 or 1980 – whichever year it was that my secondary school French class was whisked across the Channel for a day trip to Boulogne sur Mer, for a day of immersion in both the language and indeed the culture of France.
Well that turned out to be pure bollocks, because the people there – long used to the annual marauding hordes of British secondary schoolkids – would only speak to us in English, thus denying us the chance to destroy their souls as we mangled their precious French vocabulary at them. Also, it rained pretty steadily that day, so even the historical/architectural/cultural charms of Boulogne were totally lost to us.
What I do remember very fondly though, was the hovercraft ride across the English Channel. That was just amazing! We kept running up to the front windows to look out through the rain and ocean spray – it felt like being on the bridge of the starship Enterprise – except noisier, wetter, bouncier, and with way less photon torpedoes at our disposal…
This Channel-crossing hovercraft was a massive beast – a behemoth, in fact. With 4 massive propellers, this monster-machine carried passengers AND cars across the roughly 21 miles of the English Channel in a noisy, bumpy ride that could be completed in as little as 30 minutes!
Anyway, the Channel-crossing hovercraft service no longer exists.
However – the Solent-crossing service to the Isle of Wight does!!
I only recently discovered this wonderful way to get to the island where my relatives live, but I’ll never take the regular ferry across again in my life!!
The crossing from the mainland UK by the regular ferry over to the Isle of Wight can take from 30 -60 minutes, depending upon where you set off from.
The hovercraft, leaving out of Southsea (Portsmouth) over to Ryde, on the Isle of Wight, takes only 10 minutes to complete the crossing and usually operates every 30 mins between April & October, and hourly during the Winter months (November – March).
The prices aren’t significantly different, so why would anybody NOT take the hovercraft??
Masochistic Luddites – That’s why!!
Onboard, you sit in comfortable padded seats, with more than adequate legroom. There are large windows all around for those inclined to take in the views. There is ample storage space for luggage & other belongings to be stowed safely for the short duration of the ride.
The noise inside the passenger cabin is so much less of a racket than you would expect, and conversations may be held at relatively civilized and normal voice-levels, although the sound of the props is constant and it is very audible – but it is not overwhelming, nor headache-inducing.
I actually think it is quieter than being inside the plane I fly over to the UK from New York on. The other amazing thing is that you do not feel the transition from land to water, or vice versa. I know it is happening, but never feel a difference in the ride – it’s incredible!!
The most recent trip I took, I had the pleasure of running into two Twitter friends (and IoW residents) in the Hovertravel terminal at Ryde heading over to the mainland (who shall be known simply as Matt & Cat) and, during a very pleasant conversation, which centered mostly on just how purely enjoyable the hovercraft ride truly is, I learnt that Matt had actually written an opinion piece about how much he loves traveling by hovercraft. Rather than me savagely paraphrasing him, you can read his very own words in the Isle of Wight County Press…
and, as part of a larger piece in The Guardian…
I have to say that Matt is spot-on with his descriptions of the ride you get on the hovercraft, and the sheer geeky joy it inspires. I simply cannot imagine ever again taking the plodding, dull ferry ride when I can get aboard this modern sci-fi miracle in the world of passenger transportation, and almost literally fly over to see my relatives on the beautiful Isle of Wight.
So – rather than restate everything Matt wrote so wonderfully, I’ll just link you to the video clip that I show my coworkers, who are amazed (and hopefully a little bit jealous!) when they watch the hovercraft in motion…
So, you can probably tell that I’m a huge fan of the Hovercraft. I’m pretty sure that I’ve also made enthusiasts out of my wife, son & daughter, and maybe soon; my oldest sister will take the hovercraft for her first time on her next trip back home, and then she too will be a convert!
It’s a no-brainer for me to recommend taking the hovercraft, and if you think about it, you get 2 great deals in one. You get to ride on a cushion of air in this amazingly futuristic form of transportation, AND you are going to the Isle of Wight – one of the loveliest places in the whole of Great Britain!
Definitely don’t take my word on this though. Go – try it for yourself. Book a room on the Isle of Wight, or just go for a day-trip, but be sure to take the hovercraft. If you don’t love BOTH, well, I can only think there’s possibly a lot wrong or broken in your soul…
If you are intrigued as to the history, development, and other applications for the use of the hovercraft, then you’ll probably enjoy the Wikipedia page ….HERE