Recently we enjoyed a day trip to Ryde on the Isle of Wight. Taking the fast catamaran from Portsmouth to Ryde – a journey of 22 minutes – we were overtaken by a hovercraft. This service from Portsmouth (Southsea) to Ryde takes just 8 minutes. It also has the benefit of arriving onshore, rather than at the end of Ryde Pier, which is a 10 minute walk from pier head to esplanade.
In yesterday’s online BBC magazine there’s an article asking ‘What happened to passenger hovercraft?’. It reported on possibly the only scheduled passenger hovercraft service in the world, noting why the Southsea to Ryde service remains,
The Hovertravel service between Southsea and Ryde survives because hovercraft are best suited to short routes like those across the Solent, says Robin Paine, co-author of On a Cushion of Air, a history of hovercraft. “There is also a need because the tide at Ryde goes out half a mile – hence the reason for Ryde Pier to accommodate conventional ferries, whereas the hovercraft can deliver people straight into Ryde.”
Interestingly, the article mentioned that two new hovercraft will be in service in 2016, giving a welcome boost to travel by hovercraft, as the article concludes,
“We will be a shop window for any existing or potential ferry operator who wants to be fast and frequent like us,” says Loretta Lale, Hovertravel’s commercial manager. “Our service has always attracted global interest and when the world sees what a 21st Century hovercraft can do we anticipate considerable interest.”
There’s an image gallery – HERE – of the progress in building the new craft.