The Canadian Coast Guard has operated hovercraft for many years. As a school kid on work placement at BHC, I saw one of their AP1-88s under construction. These have since been replaced but they were, in their turn, replacements for the original SR-N6s. They have an operating base alongside Vancouver International. Despite having been to YVR on a number of occasions, I had never been out to the Coast Guard base. On our way back from the city one weekend, I made a short diversion out to see their gate guard. It is behind the fencing but you can shoot it from an angle over the fencing. It took me back to my childhood riding these things from both Ryde and Cowes.
I got a few stills of the hovercraft but I also decided to film some video. For those that haven’t seen hovercraft in action, stills probably do not give a suitable impression of how they rise up above the surface yet still leave a wake. Quite a cool form of transportation and I do enjoy seeing them. Hope you enjoy the video.
Regular readers know I like the hovercraft. I didn’t make a specific visit to Ryde on our last trip to see them but I did get to see them on our two ferry crossings and we also stopped at Southsea where I got to see a couple of arrivals and departures. The new hovercraft have not had a trouble free introduction but I suspect they have had a few fixes embodied. The memory of introduction problems will probably last far longer than the actual problems but I don’t know for sure whether they are doing fine now or not. All I know is that the service was running while we were there.
I was rather pleased that one of the crossings ended up getting very close to the ferry as we headed in to Portsmouth. It provided a far more interesting angle on the hovercraft than I would normally get. Combine that with some shots from the beach at Southsea and I was happy with having got some shots of the new craft which I hadn’t really seen before. During the departure, I was conscious of the potential for spray sideways as they lifted off. What I hadn’t considered properly – pretty annoying given how I know to deal with jetwash when on a ramp – is that the departing craft got quite far offshore before you got blasted with their propwash. That was mixed with seawater – an ideal combination for electronic equipment! No permanent damage though.
The hovercraft that ply the route between Ryde on the Isle of Wight and Southsea on the mainland have made a few previous appearances in this blog. I knew that the old hovercraft were due for replacement and that the new craft were coming in to service and figured that I wouldn’t be back before the changeover took place. However, the transition has not been smooth and there have been a number of technical issues with the new craft. Consequently, they have brought the old craft back in to regular use until things are finally fixed.
When I visited the Island recently, none of them were running! A large storm system was sweeping across the country and the high winds had brought a halt to hovercraft operations. This was pretty disappointing to me. However, it did have one unusual effect and that was that all four of the fleet were parked up on the slipway at Ryde during the day. Over the years the slipway has been expanded and improved from its original configuration, but it is still a tight fit for four craft. It would have been pretty interesting to see them all being fitted into place. Maybe this will be my last time seeing the old AP1-88s?
Another Isle of Wight development is the hovercraft. Much early development of the concept was done on the Island and many were produced in East Cowes. Hovertravel still provide a frequent service between Ryde on the Island and Southsea on the mainland. I got a couple of opportunities to shoot these hovercraft while visiting. On the day Pete and I went flying, we arrived over Ryde just as one of the hovercraft was coming in. Another was parked on the slipway at the time.
When we left the island, I headed up on the upper deck of the ferry to see what was going on and had two over the hovercraft come by in opposite directions. It was rather windy up on deck but I was able to get some usable shots of the two of them individually and as they crossed. Apparently, Hovertravel are in the process of acquiring new craft to replace the current AP1-88s that are in service. Given that they were built in the late 1980s, they have provided good service. It will be interesting to see what replaces them. I wonder whether the new vehicles will arrive before I next get back.
Pete and I had another detour after visiting Portsmouth. Just along the coast is Lee-On-Solent which used to be a Naval airfield and now is used for a variety of other things. One is a museum of hovercraft. They have quite a collection which I would like to see one day and Pete has taken a look at. They include two Super 4 hovercraft that used to ply their trade across the English Channel taking people and their cars on their way. We used this en route to France a long time ago. Now they are retired and part of the museum collection.
They are not alone with a number of other hovercraft stored alongside them, some of which look like they might be ones I have used on my travels as well. A quick chat to the tower, a healthy eye out for the glider operations and we were clear to do a quick orbit and get some shots. Very nice.
Continuing with the round the Island flight that Pete and I took, we ended up having a bit of a maritime excursion. It seems that anyone with a boat was out waiting for us, whatever form those boats took. As we reached Yarmouth, the Wightlink ferry was arriving so I got a shot of it. As we reached Cowes, the Red Funnel ferry was coming out so we got it too. Just off Cowes, the paddle steamer Waverly was blasting along (she really can move) so an orbit of her was required.
On to Fishbourne and two more Wightlink ferries. One was just departing and the other just arriving. They have to turn around at this point so a little dance ensues as seen from above. Then it was on to Ryde and there we get a hovercraft making its arrival. None of this was planned so I guess we were just on a lucky roll. Then, as we headed across to Portsmouth, the catamaran from Ryde was on its way so we got a shot of that too. I guess that is a full set for access to the Island!
Having taken the chance to shoot one of the LCACs while in San Diego the other week, I decided to have a trip down memory lane for some other hovercraft moments. I have some relatively recent shots of the hovercraft that operate between Ryde and Southsea. I also have some old scans of the massive SRN4 Super 4 hovercraft that used to run across the English Channel taken when I was about to make the crossing on vacation. No great explanations to follow. Just some shots if you want a look.