It's about Freedom, Adventure .. and Fun!!
Hovercraft cruising is a unique activity that combines the relaxation of motor cruising with the excitement of a fast sports boat - without the navigation problems or launch hassle of either! It's also the most environmentally friendly motorised water sport available!
What is a cruising hovercraft?
A cruising hovercraft is a two to five seat amphibious recreational water craft. Unlike other watercraft, it “glides” over the water surface on a cushion of air rather than being in the water. It is unlike any other craft and its capabilities, limitations and low environmental impact are little understood.
Racing hovercraft are a different design to cruising hovercraft in terms of noise, speed and marine safety - they are unsuitable for cruising use. Cruising craft are based on sound marine engineering and provide economic, quiet and comfortable leisure use.
Where can I use it?
Cruising hovercraft can be used any place that a boat can be used. They have the same navigation rights (and responsibilities!) as other watercraft. Tidal water is normally freely navigable, you can also use rivers (only on the tidal sections without consent) or inland waterways such as lakes (consent will probably be required).
If you want to see what hovercruising is all about then take a look in the Video Lounge where you will find many clips - (there are plenty more on YouTube!).
There are many hovercruising meetings held throughout the UK during the year where everyone is welcome (check the calendar for details)
Hovercraft are essentially zero-draft boats - they don't actually need any water at all! They can travel into areas that boats cannot reach providing a totally unique experience for the passengers.
The HCGB has a Code of Conduct for Cruising to help hovercraft pilots operate safely and considerately.
If you are a club member then you will find the How to find a Cruising Site guide will help you find suitable launch spots. In addition, we provide a UK map of Launch Sites with suggested destinations and any local navigation and safety information. Many other documents are also available to members to help with water access (Environmental Impact Report, Managed Access Scheme, A Guide for Water Authorities, How to Organise a Cruising event, etc.). The HCGB provide active support to members who have access problems in their area.As a member, you can register your hovercraft with us and gain access to several unique areas around the UK.
Why not just use a boat?
- Boats can't safely operate in shallow water or where there are underwater obstacles or debris
- Boats can't be landed on the shore without worrying about tidal movement - hovercraft can!
- Boats need to anchor or moor or be removed from the water (a complicated and potentially risky procedure) - hovercraft can be driven back onto land and "parked" until they are next used.
- Hovercraft use much less fuel than a typical motor boat.
- Boats have surface piercing hulls and propellers and water-polluting exhausts - hovercraft have none of these things, they don't generate a damaging wake or pollute the water!
- Boats need slipways or smooth hard surfaces to launch from which are tide state dependent. Hovercraft can be launched, without causing damage, over grass banks, mud flats or almost any surface onto water (and can even safely cross beaches or mudflats to reach the water no matter how far out the tide is!).
There is little difference in sea handling capability between a hovercraft and a boat of similar size. In good conditions, a boat might be able to carry a heavier load but, as good conditions are unusual in UK waters this isn't much of an advantage!
The most common question people ask about hovercraft is "will it float if the engine stops?" - the answer is YES, cruising hovercraft have full positive buoyancy and can be safely stopped on water indefinitely (fishing and just floating around are popular activities).
How do I get a hovercraft?
You can buy a new cruising hovercraft from several UK Manufacturers - take a look at the manufacturers and suppliers page, Second hand craft do occasionally come up for sale but not that often (the Hoverstuff for sale section on this site lists club members craft for sale).
Seemingly bargain craft sometimes appear on eBay but they are best avoided unless the seller can demonstrate that it IS actually a cruising hovercraft and not just a toy! Take a look at the HCGB Buyers Guide - it contains very useful information on second hand hovercraft and some of the pitfalls to avoid when buying.
An alternative is to build your own hovercraft - it's not quite as daunting as it might sound! With good plans, components or kit it is fairly straightforward (check out the Plans and Suppliers page)
Unless you have extensive knowledge of hovercraft we strongly recommend that you don't try to design your own! They are much more complicated than they might look - the chances of your design being successful are not good!
How do I learn to drive a hovercraft?
It actually isn't too difficult to master the basics once you get over the initial "floating around out of control" stage! The HCGB run basic training courses during the year (keep an eye on the general forum for announcements and check out the the training day presentation) which will quickly get you past the first stage and also provide you with very important safety knowledge. The RYA also run many suitable safety courses - the most appropriate for hovercraft use are "Basic Navigation and Safety" and the "Marine Radio - (Short Range Certificate)" courses.
The HCGB operate a pilots licensing scheme which will help you to further improve your skills.
What about insurance?
Insurance for hovercraft is currently (2009) available from two brokers: OnRisk and Bay Marine (we do not endorse or recommend these companies - check that the insurance they offer meets your requirements). Unless you have a valuable hovercraft, third party liability cover is usually considered adequate (and may be a requirement at certain launch sites).