Met with Steve today for a cruise on the Forth estuary. I had serious doubts about the whole idea on the drive up there - it was minus 4C and heavy fog . However, the temperature rose to a balmy -0.5C on the last 1/2 mile to the shoreline and then reached a high of 1C in the afternoon - positively tropical It was actually warmer out on the water than on the land - probably due the the higher water temperature "warming" (a relative term!) the surrounding air.
We cruised around the islands and beaches on the six mile wide estuary for a couple of hours and experienced the usual changeable water conditions (flat calm to two foot swell and chop ) before stopping for some exploration on Cramond Island. We were just about to walk up the hill when a guy ran down and asked us if we would give him a ride back to shore (Cramond Island has a sand causeway only walkable when the tide is fully out). The guy had his wife and dog with him. His wife had fallen into the sea when they had tried to get back across the flooding causeway and he had dropped his phone into the water while rescuing her. By this time the sun had gone down and the temperature was falling rapidly. They were dressed only in woolly jumpers and jeans and the woman was soaked and absolutely freezing (whole body shivering). We gave them a ride the 0.6 miles back to the shore where they arranged a taxi home.
These people obviously thought they were just going for a nice afternoon stroll - the end result could easily have been fatal! They would have been in serious danger overnight (forecast of minus 3C ) on the shelter-free island - especially the woman who had soaked clothing. If we hadn't happened to come along the chances of rescue were pretty slim (there was no other water traffic today).
After that, we cruised west up river and stopped at a couple of nice Fife fishing villages before crossing back over to the south side and back to the bridges.
Weather looked good today (sunshine and almost no wind) so I thought I'd go for a little solo cruise (as in absolutely no-one else!) on the river. The scenery is spectacular at this time of year if a bit nippy (air temp was 6C - with a 20mph wind chill on top it was almost slightly uncomfortable - even with a heater
Steve had called to say that the QE2 liner was visiting it's birthplace (it was built on the Clyde in 1967) for the last time so I agreed to meet him for a cruise. It was quiet at the launch site but there were hundreds of water craft out to escort the QE2 - everything from kayaks to luxury yacht! Negotiating our way through this mass of water traffic was a bit nerve-racking! We stopped in the corner of the harbour on a piled of gravel (the tide was in) next the the half mile low queue of people waiting to view the QE2 from a viewing platform set up in the dock. After sitting for a while getting warmed in the October sunshine we set off around the now-berthed QE2 (see pics and videos section).Next was a trip across the estuary (about 5 miles) past the Ark Royal carrier and a French carrier (the FS Tonnerre). They were lowering the rear loading ramp into the water as we were passing and I was tempted just to take a run up it into the hull - probably not a good idea . It is a landing ship and carries landing craft and (supposedly) hovercraft - I took a video looking into the hull but couldn't see an hovercraft in there.
We reached Helensburgh for some food (there is a Tesco shop/filling station within 50 metres of the beach ). After refreshment we travelled out to the wreck of the Captyannis, a sugar carrier that has been lying on a sand bank since it capsized in a storm in 1974 (it's now a popular bird meeting place) before crossing back to the north shore and cruising upriver into Glasgow - on the way we passed the tall ship Stavros S Niarchos on it's way into Glasgow from Cork. It was a beautiful sunny day if a bit chilly on the water so we floated around, engines off, for a bit in the city centre. It's a bit weird calmly floating on water right in the middle of all of the city noises! It was then time to get back to the launch point after another days cruising! Pics and Videos in the Videos and pics section strangely enough
Met with Steve at Port Glasgow again. There was a southerly wind of 12-14mph but at Port Glasgow the water was calm. We headed across the estuary to Helensburgh with the wind on our backs - the water conditions got steadily worse eventually reaching 3ft chop with waves on the beach at Helensburgh. We headed west into the Gare Loch and passed through Rhu Narrows. This loch has a 12knot speed limit which I couldn't keep to with the wind behind the craft - even on very low power I could only slow to around 19mph. As this loch has a nuclear submarine base at Faslane, the police launch is very active - we decided to turn back again into the wind and cross over to Gourock. the wind had picked up a bit again making progress very slow. the water state got steadily worse the further out we got and both of us started to crab away from the wind. In the middle the chop was over 1 metre but we eventually reached the other shore east of Greenock after 6-7 miles of sideways travel.
We then cruised upriver to the Erskine Bridge then headed home. Pics are in the Videos and Pics section.25/9/08
Travelled up to Loch Fyne for a few days work. I cruised down the Loch intending to reach Tarbert but had to give up at the main turn (about 16 miles) because of the very rough conditions - the main loch was almost flat calm but as soon as you reached the south turn the water was 1-1.5metre chop on a swell
Met with Steve and Trev at Port Glasgow for a cruise around the Clyde. Beautiful day - sunny, warm(ish for October) and no wind. We cruised upriver right through the centre of Glasgow past the old shipyards. The river is only navigable up to the tide gates at Glasgow park. Pretty interesting cruise as you pass everything from derelict industrial wasteland, modern riverside apartments, old city centre buildings and many bridges of all shapes and sizes. We even managed a few seconds on the lunchtime BBC reporting Scotland news - they have a camera pointed upriver on top of their riverside building which uis used as a backdrop for the news programs
We then cruised back down river into the main estuary and travelled up the river Leven through Dumbarton. there wee quite a few fishermen on the river do we turned around after about 6 miles or so. We then headed out towards Helensburgh where we stopped for fuel (hovercraft and human ) before carrying on across the main estuary (about 6 miles of open water) to Dunoon. The tide was in at this stage and there was only a small patch of beach we could land on. We then crossed over to Gourock - it was a bit rough and the big ferry was coming up the estuary causing some wash. Then it was back past Greenock to Port Glasgow.
There are pics in the Photos and Videos section of the trip under Clyde '08
Took a cruise up river from Berwick. Weather was excellent for this year - warm, sunny and no wind!! We came across a rescue helicopter (Sea King?) hovering in the middle of the river around a bend. I had second thoughts of hovering under it as the down wash covered the entire width of the river!. They were winching a paramedic onto the bank. I hovered over to offer help if they needed it but all I could do was give the paramedic a lift back up river to his ambulance!
Travelled 320 miles south to the river Severn for the (now!) annual Severn Treasure Hunt. Arrived early afternoon and helped a bit with the booking in and setup. It started to rain and only stopped for a half hour or so in the early evening. Managed a short 1/2 hour cruise around sunset with Steve.
Treasure hunt took place mid day. Was better prepared for the conditions this year - the Severn is an interesting river (50ft tidal range, deadly mud/sand banks, very steep river banks, huge standing waves that appear and disappear within a few minutes). I carried Dave, Steves mate, and Nathan on the hunt. We managed to complete all but two of the hunt destinations and came in 9th out of 16 - better than last year for somone who lacks any competitive instinct!. It was quite enjoyable overall. Steve and I (With Philip as passenger) took a long cruise upriver after the event (around 60 miles). We were eventually stopped at the rail bridge in Gloucester - the river level was so high that there was less than 2m clearance under the bridge!
After a very foggy start, a large group (around 21 craft) cruised down to the Severn Bridge (about 11 miles). After a short break half of the craft returned to the launch site to leave for home and the others continued south and into the river Wye. Steve had some minor technical difficulties so I stayed behind until he fixed them (only took a few minutes).
The River Wye is very tidal for the first ten miles or so but has some spectacular scenery (Chepstow Castle, Tintern Abbey, cliffs and deep gorges). Unfortunately, because of the high river levels and the low tide there were no suitable landing points until we got further up river. We passed the main group returning back downriver after 12 miles or so and continused on to the turnaround point at Brockweir. Unfortunately we missed the land mark and kept gong up river for another 7 miles or so to Bigsweir until we eventually gave up and turned.
I was returning from a cruise up to the top end of Loch Fyne when I spotted a large Navy frigate steaming up the Loch at a fair speed. It was on a parallel but opposite course around 0.25mile to my left. OK I thought, I'll just carry on and pass by safely. WRONG!! About two seconds after this pic was taken the frigate (L83, HMS St Albans) executed a 90 degree turn to port directly onto a collision course with me (I was amazed how fast it turned - about 4 seconds)! Should I turn right or left (behind the ship)? I shuffled to my right a bit towards the shore but the frigate kept coming toward me (maybe I'm paranoid but I'm certain it altered course again to make sure!). I was running out of options at this point so I tried the VHF just in case someone wasn't paying attention. No answer, so I took the next best option - full throttle and up to 45mph. I passed the bow by around 200 feet - far too close for comfort! Further on I then hit the ships wake at over 40 mph - not a very pleasant experience!!
Do navy ships observe the Collision Regulations (it would seem not as the frigate deliberately altered course onto a collision heading? Also, they obviously ignore comms on Channel 16!! OR is my radar/sonar signature too weak to be detected and there was no visual watch? Who knows - I'll steer(!) well clear of naval ships from now on!
Still on Loch Fyne! After an early morning shopping trip to Inveraray (by hovercraft of course - it's quicker and no parking problems!) Steve turned up with his Vanguard. We set off down the Loch, stopping at Otter ferry on our way to Tarbert (about 30 miles or so).
It is pretty open water - we cross sections about three miles wide at times. The water conditions can change dramatically as you travel over these areas. Weather was a bit windy at times but no rain!
The harbour was full of yachts and work boats we passed through (at the 3mph speed limit!) to reach this end shown above (which was too shallow for boats - perfect for hovercraft though!). There were no slipways to tie to so I just left the Prospector floating on the water (Steve got his nose onto the disused cobbled slip.
More cruising around the Loch - I travelled under the old road bridge next to Inveraray Castle.
Took Prospector to Loch Fyne and left it there. Weather was excellent for and evening cruise.
River cruise with Andy and his two friends. Weather was warm but river was busy with fishermen. Very windy in estuary. After turning at low speed the wind blew so much spray over the craft that the engine cut out - first time that's happened for a couple of years. After I got it home I started to check the ignition system and discovered that one of the distributor cap retaining clips wasn't attached (I must have dislodged it while replacing the lift bearings last week )!
Another evening cruise on Loch Fyne with Steve. Conditions were less than perfect - a 18mph crosswind and choppy water. By hugging the shore to minimise the weather effects we travelled around 12 miles down the west coast. The waves when crossing the open end of Loch Gair were pretty big! To travel in a straight line meant keeping the craft at around 30 degrees to the direction you wanted to go in. Both craft were fine even under these quite testing conditions
Went for a UH18 cruise on Loch Fyne with Steve in his Vanguard. We stopped at the Otter Ferry marker buoy which was completely exposed as the tide was fully out
Weather was clear and water flat calm. We carried on around the point and landed on a big sandy beach opposite Tarbert. It started to cloud over so we headed back (about 18 miles to home). The black clouds rolled over and the rain got steadily worse. Eventually it turned into a torrential downpour with thunder and lightning. Visibility closed in to about 100metres and Steve's engine started to play up (not surprising as the rain was absolutely pelting down!). We stopped for a bit of WD40 then carried on. The rain continued unabated until we got back. Finding the landing ramp was very difficult due to the poor visibility and the fact that there had been a lightning strike on the power system which had blacked out all of the shore side houses. Another interesting cruise!!
Attended a local vintage car show with Prospector and Scout. Weather turned very wet by lunchtime - the rain was so heavy I even got belt slip at one point!31/5/08 - Last day of Hoverin
Chris and Jenny heading home early. The rest of us took off up to the head of the Loch for a last cruise before heading home. The water was like a mirror - not even the slightest ripple. Temperature was in the mid 20's C - absolutely spectacular!
We all met up and took off down the Loch towards Lochgilphead. After a quick refuel at the local filling station we heading further south towards Tarbert. The wind was blowing directly against us and was picking up speed so we stopped on a sandbar. After some engine trouble with Chris's craft I had to give him a lift back. We stopped in a lovely bay on the way home and had a champagne picnic (leftover food from the wedding).
Steve and Gills wedding had been arranged for today so the rest of us cleared off in the morning to avoid the last minute preparations. We met Chris and Jenny up the Loch past Inveraray. We then travelled under the old stone road bridge, and the new steel bridge, up a very narrow twisty stream to a small inland loch. The local warden told us that it was a managed fishery and that we weren't welcome (he wasn't too worried and almost accepted a ride around the loch!).
We arrived back home just before the wedding was scheduled. Steve and Gill were married on the lawn surrounded by hovercraft. They then took off onto the loch in Steve's craft - suitably decorated with streamers and 'just married' stickers.
The weather was excellent so we decided to hover 7 miles up the Loch to Inveraray for the wedding meal in the evening. The return journey at dusk was spectacular!
It was wet and windy during the day but flat calm in the evening - we had to impose a hover curfew of 10pm to keep the neighbours happy!
A bit windy but it turned flat calm in early evening - time for more cruisin'
Weather was a bit windy but we all met up and visited Castle Lachlan down the Loch.
We then travelled up the Loch to the Creggans Inn - blue skies and hot sunshine
25/5/08 - Hoverin official start date!
I visited Chris And Jenny Campbell at their campsite on Sunday morning - weather was rough and I managed to break my front side skirt attach strips from hull when hitting wave troughs - waves were around 4 feet peak to trough in places
Weather settled later in evening so Trev, Steve and I had a nice 20 mile evening cruise on Lcoh.
15-16 & 21/5/08
More exploring around Loch Fyne - this time with Steve in his Vanguard
Did some solo exploring with UH18 around Loch Fyne prior to the Scottish Hoverin 2008
Novice training event weekend held at Charlie Peaches' place near Blackburn. The event was mainly organised by Ian Brooks to let new craft owners get a chance to try out their craft in a safe(ish!) environment and also benefit from the good advice and guidance of established hovercraft users. The field we used is used as a hovercraft race course normally so we set it up using cones into several little 'test' areas (slalom, round the pole, hill traverse, ramp emulator, etc.).
I arrived on the Friday and helped Ian set up various things ready for the Saturday start. The training started with a one hour presentation of safe cruising and was then followed by a whole day of practice. The event was very well attended (8 trainees, and many 'instructors' and helpers). The instructing bit is actually quite stressful!
On the Sunday we had arranged to meet on the river Lune near Lancaster to give the newbies some water cruising experience. I got to the launch site an hour earlier than anyone else ( thanks to a 5am wake up call from National Express coaches!!! I cruised up river through Lancaster and also down onto Morecombe bay for an hour or so until a couple of others arrived. Only two of the 'trainees' turned up (and only one trainee craft - the others had broke!) - there were 9 craft present eventually.
We set off and had a nice cruise up river (5 up in the Prospector making it a bit ponderous to control) as far as the wier in the centre of Lancaster. We parked up and watched a boatr race taking place on the other side of the weir for a bit before setting offf back down river to Morecombe sands. As it was low tide, the river meanders all over the estuary before reaching the open area. The sands themselves were not as flat as they looked - they had small gulleys and undulations as well as wood post remains and various other bits of debris scattered over them. combined with the high speeds you can get over wet sand it was less than ideal hover territory (that and the 5 miles of open sand area).
Another little trip - this time on the river. the weather is still blue skies, no wind but pretty cold (especially near dusk). We did travel out to sea a bit (keeping an eye out for fog - see above!). There was a small swell but no real waves.
Saw an otter - very rare. I've only spotted an otter twice out of the many times I've cruised the river. Plenty of swans and quite a few white geese, heron and other birds.
All in all, a nice afternoon cruise - nothing scary or bad happened - though it got very chilly as the sun set!
I decided to take a little cruise down the North Sea coast. I have traveled this route many times. There was a bit of fog around when we left home, but on the coast it was blue skies and sunshine with 4 miles visibility in all directions. We set off down coast about 3/4 mile offshore. Watched a pod of porpoise, played with a dolphin and saw some grey seal on flat calm seas (a long 6" swell). Really enjoyable
The dolphin wouldn't come close unless we made some waves by moving sub-hump - absolutely amazing creatures!
After traveling about five miles south I looked back to see a shore-to-horizon fog bank approaching from the north. Where the <expletive> did that come from Oh <yet another expletive > what do we do now?
We were ¾ mile off a rocky section of the shore so couldn't head directly for land - there was little choice but to head into the fog to return back to the harbour. No problem, I thought, we'll just head north until we reach the harbour breakwater. Not quite as easy as it sounds! Visibility had reduced to less than 20metres. There was no wind or wave action to give any sense of direction and you couldn't even tell where the sun was by this time! Being a bit concerned that there was nothing to the right (or was it the left ) except 400 miles of open ocean and Denmark, there was no choice but to use the GPS to re-trace our outbound track. Speed was reduced to a still-scary 6mph so return progress was very slow. Then just to add to the rising tension, the GPS batteries failed!! I swapped them for the spares but the GPS wouldn't lock onto the satellites again - it took ten minutes of floating around in a dead silent fog hole before it locked on again. Out came the spare GPS at this point followed by a quick radio check and a rummage around to find the flares!! Thoughts at this stage were – if I have to make an emergency call how is anyone going to find us in this - the flares won't be visible in this dense fog? The craft has the radar signature of a flea! After an urgent request from the passenger to see dry land again we headed directly for shore. We almost ran straight onto a wood breakwater as we approached the shore. Visibility was less than 15 metres at this point. After a few minutes composing ourselves we had no choice but to head out onto the water again to round the breakwater - we had to move far enough offshore to stay clear of the breakwater so, once again, visibility was virtually nil. As soon we moved offshore the disorientation set in again - you have to place complete trust in the GPS as you are totally blind. The harbour entrance is marked by a big red buoy and is only about 25metres wide - the seaward side is bounded by a large stone pier/breakwater. We came upon the marker buoy but could see no sign of the pier only 25metreas away! Trying to find the launch point in the harbour was also a bit of a challenge - we had to creep along the shore line trying to remember where the piers and buoys were located!
Although this happened on the open sea it could just as easily been an estuary or a wide river – the result would have been very similar. The disorientation was very weird – far far worse than driving a car in fog (no road edges or white lines on water!)
Lessons to be learnt (I’ve learned then – I hope you do to!) from this are:
No1 - weather is the number one threat (and fog is the No1 weather threat - way above wind and rough water that I thought were more important). The rate at which weather and water conditions can change is very scary!
No2 - carry PROPER safety gear and check it works, hopefully you will never need it but when you do need it you REALLY DO need it! Make sure you have a backup for the backup for the backup for when the main backup fails, etc...
I carry what I consider adequate safety gear (GPS x 2, batteries, lights, flares, VHF radio) However, this little episode has made me realise that a good old-fashioned compass might be a good thing to add to the list! You can NEVER have too much safety equipment as far as I'm concerned
Please don't let this little story stop you enjoying your craft (it won't stop me!) - the pleasure you get and the sights you see always make it worthwhile. Nothing bad happened this time – it was just a “learning experience” I’m sharing with you
It snowed today - first time we've had lying snow for three years! I couldn't resist trying a bit of hover-sledding with the Scout. Great fun and not as messy as I thought it would be. The engine/prop got coated with snow but the passenger area was clear. Eventually, the engine air intake got blocked and we had to wait a bit until it melted. Video clip HERE