UH18 first water experience (22/8/04)
I met up with another hovercrafter at Preston Links on the Forth estuary. The tide was out when we got there and the slipway was unusable. The low tide line was littered with 4-6" high rocks and the beach (shingle and black grit) was steep.
We managed to unload and launch over the rocks with some bumping. The sea was slightly rough and got worse (1-2ft waves on short spacing). The UH18 got onto plane and went well in the wave direction but I couldn't get any speed up coming into the waves - the bag seemed to collapse and it just rode up and down over the wave crests with lots of spray. The salt water spray made the lift fan belt slip so I tightened it up more. We then started to move along the beach to an area that was clearer of rocks. I was crabbing along the slope when I lost control (too much speed backwards) and the back end rudder hit a big concrete bollard. It broke the end rudder off at the lower arm and dinged the corner of the hull. Luckily the rudder arm and bar were OK so I could still drive the craft. On the fourth try out on the water the engine started to misfire and eventually cut out. A spray with WD40 on the distributor got the engine running again so I drove back along and up the beach to trailer for home. When I got home I discovered that one of the forward landing pads was missing - the rocks were obviously too high! I replaced it with an extended skid. I also shaped the skid edges to make it less likely to 'catch' on rocks.
More UH18 Water experience
Over the next few weeks I visited Kielder Water several times and also met the other hovercrafter again at Loch Lomond. At Kielder I learnt a lot more about handling and control. The craft performed faultlessly with no mechanical problems at all. The only slight problem is that the lift fan belt slips if it gets wet. This can make it difficult to get onto hover again. I replaced the short lift belt with the correct length so that the variator operated properly. On the visit to Loch Lomond the new belt stretched a fair bit and I had to tighten it several times. I managed a GPS speed of 74.6mph on calm water that day. I carried my eldest son, a small outboard engine, an inflatable boat and a full toolkit on the speed runs. I also had a close call with a goose that decided to take off in front of me - I turned to the right to avoid it and it did the same thing. We ended up traveling side-by-side at about 35mph!