In the weekend FT of July 2, I read an article on the hovercraft service to the Isle of Wight. It took me back to my 2 hovercraft journeys in 1981 from Dover to Calais and back, on the Princess Anne and Princess Margaret.
Hovercraft – a strange beast!
In 1981, I had my second world adventure, visiting England, France & the US, flying Scandinavian Airlines (transiting in Copenhagen), being driven around England in a green Ford Cortina by my parents, and the amazing journey’s across the channel on these strange beasts. Hovercraft can travel across land, water, mud, ice as nothing else can, and the experience was surreal.
The first sight of it at Dover
Though 35 years ago, because it was such a strange experience, I still remember it vividly. We left our green Ford Cortina in the car park, and check at the seaside terminal was like for a plane. My parents (who have already featured in my 1st blog), my elder brother, younger sister and I walked across the tarmac to this strange beast sitting on it. It was very large, with a lower deck for cars and upper deck for people. The black rubber “cushion”, now deflated, was at the bottom.
Crossing the English Channel
I do remember getting a window seat. As the engines started, the rubber cushion started filling up with air and we rose higher and higher. Then it started skimming over the concrete tarmac towards the sea and I was mesmerized. It moved from the Dover tarmac onto the water of the English channel without batting an eyelid. My family’s prelude to Brexit! Continuing over the sea, she picked up speed. There was a slight swell and we bobbed up & down a bit, but there was no sea sickness. Looking out of the windows I was hoping to see some ships, but unfortunately did not. The trip was quite uneventful, but the novelty of it kept me excited.
Arriving in Calais
Magically almost, we soon reached Calais, and the beast slowed down, slid equally smoothly from sea to tarmac, taxi-ing on it. The engines were shut off and the huge propellers started rotating slower and slower. Simultaneously, the rubber cushion started deflating and we sank lower & lower. We de-hovercrafted and walked to the Calais terminal, where the rest was like a normal arrival by plane or ship. We then took the train to Paris. What happened there is another story!