Catching the Carnoustie hovercraft

In the days when the service was running, I often caught the hovercraft across the English Channel to Boulogne. It had a huge rubber skirt that collapsed under it when it stopped on land. After passengers had boarded via gangway steps, huge fans would start, directing air downward to inflate the skirt. After the hovercraft had lifted itself up, the four fans would steer it into the water, gathering speed when it left Dover harbor.  The crossing took about 30 minutes, where ferry boats would take an hour and a quarter, sometimes longer.

The SR.N4 hovercraft used were very large, taking hundreds of passengers, and with cars stacked on the lower deck.  The ride was not as smooth as a ship's, and was much noisier, but it was always quite thrilling and never lost its novelty.

It was not very economic because, unlike with a ship, energy had to be expended in keeping it up.  I did take a satisfying ride in a smaller one when the British open golf championship was played in Carnoustie, quite a drive from St Andrews where I was staying.  I opted to return in a hovercraft laid on for the duration of the championship, and was deposited on the West Sands adjacent to the Royal and Ancient Club House some 15 minutes later.

Many years later I drove myself around an oval track in a one-person hovercraft.  It could only be steered by physically throwing my weight to either side of the cockpit, which was quite difficult, but I eventually mastered it.