musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Hovercraft

Heading down to Ryde

My ears pricked up when I read about the trip from Southampton to Ryde pier onboard the Shieldhall. I have done three trips on board her already, so she is not a new experience. However, there is something about this classic steamship that gets into your blood. Possibly because she is a real ship and not some floating gin palace? I did a general blog post about her in May last year, so there isn’t much to say about the ship that I haven’t said before. But, I usually find something new each time I go on board.
Southampton harbour was quiet, and the cruise ships in port were Independence of the Seas, Emerald Princess, Azura and Oceana. I was secretly hoping we would see them in Southampton Water on the way back. And, I was hoping to see lots of ships on the eastern Solent as we sailed along. The best surprise was the THV Galatea , she was berthed bow to bow with Shieldhall and was a very impressive vessel. 

And then we were off. Springing away from the quayside and turning our bows towards the stretch of water that reaches to the Solent. If you look at a map of that area you will see that with a lot of pushing the Isle of Wight would fit quite snugly into the area known as The Solent although the geology is a bit more complicated than that. The theory was that once we entered the Solent we would turn to port and sail towards Portsmouth. 

A major grouping of vessels is to be found at the refinery at Crawley, although mostly tankers, there is also a nice grouping of tugs to be found here.
These three (Ajax, Lomax and Phenix), are operated by Solent Towage Ltd. and are occasionally seen in Southampton Harbour assisting some of the cruiseships. The next important area is Calshot Castle and I believe it is quite a good ship spotting venue, especially for afternoon sailings.
Once past the castle, we headed towards Cowes before turning to Port and sailing towards our destination. 
I had done the trip to Cowes once before with the Red Funnel ferry, and it was an interesting trip so it was not new to me. However, I had only been to Cowes, so far the rest of the Isle of Wight had evaded me. Ryde is easily accessible from Portsmouth as there is a conventional ferry service to the island as well as a hovercraft that does the run rather quickly.
Shieldhall was not unaccompanied in her voyage though. A swarm of yachts and small boats kept pace with us or came in close for a second look. She is a very popular vessel and I suspect getting a chance to see her sailing is one that you do not pass by. The Solent is also a very popular boating area and there were a number of people doing things in small boats. Unfortunately there were also a lot of those unattractive modern power boats that always seem to have a blonde draped languidly somewhere on the deck. The only real traffic we passed was the Hapag Lloyd container ship London Express that was heading into Southampton. 
As we got closer to our destination the Spinaker Tower in Portsmouth started to take on more definition, as did the Spitbank Forts and the ferries passing across our bows. I was really hoping we would get close to the forts but unfortunately never did.
Eventually we arrived at our destination which was Ryde Pier  and frankly from where we were it was not really very visible, and if the Master had not sung happy birthday we would probably have missed it. I cannot even show a pic as I do not have one that I can positively identify as “that’s it!”. Suffice to say I need to physically go there and take pics on the spot, and that will give me an excuse to go on the hovercraft. 
And talking about hovercraft, that’s her, crossing our bows. 
We sailed a bit further to Bembridge , or I believe it was Bembridge, again I cannot be too sure. It didn’t really matter though because it is not always the destination that interests me, sometimes it is all about the trip to get there. At this point we turned around and headed back in the general direction of Calshot, which was a pity because I really would have liked to have gotten closer to the Spitbank Forts, there was a Brittany Ferries boat heading away from Portsmouth that I was hoping we would get to have a look at but she was moving quite quickly and we would have never caught her anyway.

Our trip back towards Calshot was taken at a leisurely pace, and there were two possible answers to that question. But, we will have to turn the page to find out what they are.

© DRW 2014-2018. Created 27/07/2014. Images recreated 19/04/2016
Updated: 30/12/2017 — 20:39

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 of 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. 


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.

© DRW 2013-2018. Images replaced 10/04/2016

Updated: 07/04/2018 — 10:05
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