Hovercraft Day 17 June 2017

words and pictures by Bob Zannetti


If you want to do something that is a little bit different, enjoy the company of many BDC members, luxuriate in near perfect weather, see unusual objects and have a convivial lunch on an island then look no further than the South East Region’s event list. Well that is what some seventy members and guests did on 17 June 2017 when they subscribed to our Hovercraft day organised by our hovercraft guru, Julian Seymour. We met in a secure car park adjacent to the world’s only Hovercraft Museum at Lee -on – Solent and a glance at the picture shows a monumental line of Bentley motor cars from an early Cricklewood product through to the current Mulsanne.

The eagle eyed will spot a couple of Aston Martins but otherwise it was a perfect sight that endorses the sheer size of the Princess Margaret , a craft the carried passengers and cars across the channel to France in days gone by. Not everyone arrived by car, however, as John and Diana Davy arrived in their brand new Cirrus 22 aircraft which they had picked up earlier this year from the USA factory.

John undertook the unusual step of flying it back to its, now, home at Biggin Hill. I will post an account of this undertaking in ‘News’ in the near future.

A fascinating tour of the museum gave us some idea of the extent of these craft from small units for one person through to the goliath cross channel hovercrafts. This tour was conducted by Jim Gray a renowned expert and he showed us some mighty unusual craft that had been made for films.

As we emerged back into the sunshine our privately chartered Hovercraft arrived on the beach opposite the museum. This is not something that happens very often as the crowds of locals and even the museum staff were outside watching the event. I might be churlish but it gave one quite a lift walking out to the new eighty carrying capacity vehicle.

The trip over to the Isle of Wight was smooth and fast and one young man was allowed on the flight deck for the trip over and back. The young man was Rhys, Colin and Jean Lightman's grandson. In these days of security paranoia this might be the only opportunity he will ever have.

Rhys and the first officer look down from the flight deck

We arrived and immediately tumbled into Harry’s Bar for refreshment. I am pretty certain that we had not arrived in Venice as there were not hoards of tourists milling around and the staff took English money. We were in the Royal Esplanade Hotel, Ryde.

We adjourned to the dining room, enjoyed our lunch and afterwards had time for a perambulation round Ryde in, still, perfect weather.

An equally smooth run back to the museum to collect our cars and the drive home followed.

A huge vote of thanks goes out to all the people who were involved in making this event so very good and especially Julian Seymour.