musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Hovercraft. Wow!

Ok, I admit it. Up till April I had never seen a hovercraft up close and personal. And you can bet I have been hoping one would pop up in my viewfinder sooner or later.
 
My introduction to hovercraft happened up in Southsea when I got a chance to see the ferry that operates between Southsea and Ryde. This is operated by hovercraft and was definitely one of those unforgettable moments. I was photographing the Portsmouth Naval Memorial when I spotted this moving mass of spray approaching at a rate of knots. 

 

We were not too far from the terminal and I waddled across as fast as I could without breaking into a heart attack creating run. I was just in time to catch her as she approached the ramp/landing field.

 

By the time I arrived she was already deflated and unloaded and was waiting to pick up her next load of passengers for the trip to Ryde. 

She was not a very impressive vessel in this mode, and if anything looked ungainly and wounded. I changed my camera over to video mode and positioned myself at the edge of the ramp and waited for her to leave, which she did almost immediately. I eagerly followed her entrance into the water and was drenched by the spray from her props. The short video I made of it was cropped to not show the laughter or the wet jeans as I walked back to the pavement. I wanted to do that again if possible. 

Wind forward a bit, and my meanderings uncovered the Griffon Hoverworks which I spotted from the Itchen Bridge. Unfortunately none of the hovercraft they were working on ventured into my viewfinder, but I do know that they were running trials up in the Solent with one of them.

Every time I go up or down that bridge I check to see if any of the hovercraft have popped out for a quick spin, but have not been successful yet. I did have a bit of luck on 15 August when one of the hovercraft was deflated on the slipway next to the Itchen Bridge. I did spot one more higher up on the skipway, and there were two others in the area where I had first spotted them. This particular one belongs to the Indian Coast Guard. The other hovercraft on that slip I spotted in Southampton Water on the 31st of August.

Military hovercraft running trials in Southampton Water.

Military hovercraft running trials in Southampton Water.

However, recently I was once again stationed on the bridge waiting for a ship to transit when I heard an odd growling noise and this small hovercraft runabout hurtled down the slipway, made a skidding turn and headed off at a rate of knots. It happened so fast I did not even get a chance to grab a decent pic. 

Things were looking up!
On the 7th of August we went down to Southsea and once again I was photographing the Naval Memorial, and I was only able to catch a brief glimpse of her as she passed

 
Once I finished my pics I headed across to wait for the hovercraft. The moving spray heralded the arrival of Freedom 90 as it approached us from Ryde. The difference was that this time I shot video of her approach, and then I moved across to watch her leave; staying well clear of the spray from those props. She did not disappoint! 
Shooting video does mean that you don’t get to shoot stills, but I did manage a few pics of her as she belted off into the distance.

Bucket List! she is definitely going onto my bucket list, assuming I still have a bucket with a bit of money in it.
Interestingly enough, if you cross over to Hythe, very close to the pier is a monument to Sir Christopher Cockrell (1910-1999), considered to be the father behind hovercraft.


The withdrawal of the mighty cross channel hovercraft did leave somewhat of a void in unique transportation circles. But from what I hear there are at least 3 hovercraft plying their trade in this area, and I am hoping that one day I will get to travel on at least one of them. 

Postscript:

I never did get to ride the Hovercraft, but I did manage to catch them in action when I was on board Shieldhall going to Ryde and our bows were crossed by these speed machines.

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