Open water to the south open water to the north where do we go? In a hovercraft anywhere you want! There wasn’t much south of us but a dam to dangerous to mess with so north it was and with that we flew north of the ice arena to see what the river was like. Just past the bridge and open water was some of the smoothest ice I have ever seen on a river. It was covered with just enough snow to make it like small rolling hills, which gave you the sense you were flying in an open field. Seth like any 18 year old was off and running flying ahead of us then around us then circles around us. It was fun to watch him enjoying and experience few young men his age ever get to engage in. There he was flying about 60 mph over a river that you wouldn’t think to travel over with any other vehicle and he was doing it like a guy on a jet ski in summer. Talk about freedom! I was telling someone about our experience and they said, “That sounds dangerous that river ice is so unpredictable” I just smiled and thought, “If you only knew”. My son Paul was with me in our 800 working on getting just the right video moment and me I was just cruising with my heated enclosed twin prop 340 hp dream machine, going where few people have or can go. I would venture to say that few if any of the people in our area had ever seen this river the way I was able to see it that day, wide open no other traffic on it just me, my two sons, and my little granddaughter and her friend, cruising the river on a lazy winter day in January. We truly owned the river that day simply because we were hovering. We played around and took in the sites for about another 10 miles then the ice became rough and it was no fun so we turned back south and brought our incredible adventure to a close. Hovers do what others can’t come join us.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
One of the worst things you can do as a hover pilot is to do something that causes you to run into something and over the years I’ve done my share of running into something so I’ve learned to resist the temptation to show off and think through what I’m about to do this was no exception. I wanted to check and make sure nothing was close to where I was about to make a turn and I wanted to make sure as I did I didn’t blow someone or something away with the 120 mile per hour wind that pumps off the back side of the prop, and in this case the twin prop. After surveying my surroundings I determined that my maneuver would be a simple low RPM 360 degree spin just to get a feel for what we could do in tight quarters with this big hovercraft. The Hovertour 800 performed beautifully and completed the turn. I have to tell you I was impressed with the agility of this big twin prop. On ice this hover takes on characteristics that it simply cannot have on water due to the surface limitations. What I mean by that is the effect of the hover on water is different than it is on ice air pushing down on water causes the surface to give but on ice the hardness of the surfaces causes the hover to give. In hovering what that means is increased performance. On water you have to overcome the hump, which is the wave of water that is pushed out from under the hovercraft when you blow air across the surface of the water. The hover on ice and land does not have this to overcome so it performs better. The ideal surface is either smooth ice or heavy snow. Both of these surfaces give you maximum lift with minimal resistance. The result is high cushion with faster speeds. A hover that will do 40 on water will do approximately 60-70 on ice if there is no wind resistance. Today was smooth ice moderate wind so I knew we were in for a pretty interesting day.
Friday, March 25, 2011
When we first got to the ramp Seth was the first to get unloaded and onto the ramp leading down to the river. No one had been down the ramp since September so the snow was piled up in front of it, after accessing the situation we determined Seth could just fly the GT over the top of the 4-foot bump and fly out onto the ice and with that he was on his way. Me I was in the Hovertour 800 so it was a little more of a challenge not because it wouldn’t go over it but taking that 1200-pound hover over an obstacle requires some thought. First I had to determine if it was wide enough to allow me to have some kind of level area to fly over, you don’t want to get on top of an obstacle and teeter totter on it. The next thing to consider was would the front of the hover begin the assent before the back of the hover bottoms out so you don’t bridge yourself and loose cushion. I had never run the 800 over such a challenge before so it was more of a guess than a calculation. It looked like it would work so what do I do? I went back to where the 800 was hovering patiently and got in and slowly began to proceed to the point I believed I could fly over the hump. When I got to the point of no return I was a little nervous, by then people were beginning to gather from the ice arena that was just to the south of where we were launching and I thought, “Great now if I mess this up every body will see” nothing like adding a little embarrassment to the equation. Sometimes everything goes just right sometimes it doesn’t this was one of the times things went just right and at the precise moment I needed to I gunned the 340 horse powered V8 and we went up and over the hump like I knew what I was doing, flew down the other side and out onto the river. What a relief I looked good and very professional, which is much better than looking like a fool. With that out of the way it was time to enjoy the wide-open river. I thought how do you follow that up and what do you do for an encore, I had just the maneuver in mind.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Winter, river, ice, and danger seem to go together, however when you own a hovercraft they spell fun and adventure. Now don’t get me wrong you still have to use some common sense. First flying on rough ice is a pain not that you can’t do it in your Hovertechnics hovercraft it’s just not fun it’s like flying on two foot chop you can do it but it is not fun. On the other hand flying on four to six foot waves is fun but that’s another story. The Rock River is a mixture of good and bad but one day in January we found a great combination it was fairly smooth ice and covered with a nice blanket of four inches of snow that was fairly heavy and yet had about one inch of powder on top. You couldn’t ask for a better combination. The temperatures were a little on the cold side at about fifteen degrees. We launched from the ramp in downtown Rockford. Normally in the summer this area is filled with boats and you can hardly move without bumping into someone. Today however with near perfect conditions for the hovercraft there was me in my Hovertechnics 800 and my son’s in our Hovertechnics Hoverjet GT and no one else was out there just us we owned the river for the day. It was ours to go where we wanted and when we wanted. My youngest son Seth is all about the flying if you let him he would fly everyday in any weather my oldest is more about the video and getting the perfect photo’s of our hovering adventures so between the two of them they both had a great day on the ice. Me on a cold day in my heated 800 you couldn’t have asked for more. The family having fun and no one out there but us, if you don’t own your own hovercraft you really need to get in touch with us for less than $200.00 per month you can own your own two-person hovercraft. Trust me when I say there is nothing like a hover. When you are out there on the river and for miles it’s just you and whoever else owns a hovercraft you truly own the river. I will share more of this experience next time.
Monday, March 21, 2011
When I first started flying hovercrafts I knew nothing about their ability to hover over objects and not be affected by the surface of the object like a conventional boat would be. I fly on the Rock River in Illinois a lot since I’m from the area and the river is only a few miles from my home. There are certain obstacles you would not attempt to go over with a 16 to 20 foot hover that you could go over with at 10-foot hover and a low head dam is one of those obstacles. I had heard about a dam at Rockton IL and I thought I would visit the location to see if I could get around it or what the chances were of flying up the dam. The river is split at that point and some of the water is diverted to a hydroelectric plant so the water level is reduced. During the week when no one was around I flew up there and checked it out. As I surveyed the water flow and the face of the dam I decided that I might be able to fly up it, I also determined that if I tried and failed it was low enough only about 7 foot high, that I could abort and allow the hover to turn and come back down. Let me state right here I am basically a chicken when it comes to danger and I avoid it as much as possible. So what I am about to tell you any one attempting this should check out and think through the stunt before you enter into an embarrassing situation. There are low head dams I would not attempt this on but this particular dam is probably one of the safest if you can call it that. I flew back and forth in front of the area I was planning to fly up several times and then backed away twice, at about ten feet from the base I made my approach and gunned the hover up and onto the face of the dam a few feet not completely up it. Once I had done that I knew I could make it over the face of the dam so I let the hover slide back and did a 180 away from it. With confidence I now approached it and gunned the hover one more time and easily shot up over the face of the dam. That opened up about another 6 miles of river for me to fly. Because of the hovers ability to fly over water land snow ice and even low head dams it opens up a lot of areas to us hover pilots. We can start out where everyone else has to stop. In my area alone powerboats have two different locations to take their boats and the stretch of river allows them only about 10 to 15 miles to cover. I figure with my hover in my immediate area I have over 200 miles of river to explore. And with this little adventure it grew by 6 miles. Have you ever gone over a dam? I am one of only a few people who can boast to having done it in reverse. You have to get a hover it’s a blast.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
I typically launch in areas where other people can’t go so I don’t have to mess with the hassles of all the boat ramp stuff. One particular day I decided to launch from a pretty public area and several people came by where I was to ask me questions about my hover and pretty much to see what I would do with it. The boat ramp was fairly busy so I just parked in the boat trailer parking lot about 75 feet from the boat launch and began to take the straps off my hover. After trying to show off one time and nearly sheering off my prop I have learned to do my unloading in a certain pattern to avoid looking like an idiot. So I was working my way through my routine taking the prop strap off first then the rear straps and finally the nose strap off which keeps the hover from flipping off the trailer in transit. People were watching but not totally until I released the pivot lock and swung the trailer around ninety degrees to the unload position and fired up the engine. It was at that point the people around the boat ramp, which numbered around 100 started to really take notice. While I was letting the hover warm up I got my gear out of the truck and put on my life jacket and earplugs then my protective eye wear. I walked back to the hover got in and throttled up and with that it rose off the bed of the trailer and slid to the ground. The single prop hovers that I fly are interesting just sitting still when you are at idle they are revved just enough to keep them on a low cushion while on the trailer so it sits their barely moving almost like it is breathing or like an anxious race horse prancing anticipating it’s run, the hover rather seems alive. When you throttle up it immediately leaps up and slides off the flat bed. So I slid to the ground and brought the hover to rest on the pavement and got out of it. I had to return the trailer to its traveling position so it would be ready for me to reload when I got back. When I went back to the hover I checked over my shoulder to see if there was any traffic around me and when I did I saw a police officer sitting in his squad car. My heart took a little jump, as I thought for the first time in my young piloting experience, “I wonder if there is a law against launching your boat from the parking lot 75 feet from the ramp?” I sort of chuckled as I mused over the thought and figured well what’s he going to do give me a ticket? Can you see me standing in front of a judge and he says, “So you launched your boat in the parking lot?” I took one more look at him and he smiled gave me a thumbs up and with that throttled up and headed for the river. The ramp was busy and I had already spotted a nice slope to the riverbank where I headed to take the hover into the water. It was kind of weird waiting to pass in between vehicles that were lined up to back their boats into the water from the ramp. A gap allowed me to pass between two of the 8 people waiting to unload their boats so I shot through the gap and out into the water. You can’t hear anybody that might be talking around you but I have stood on the shore while my sons have flown out in a similar fashion and it is always the same, “Dang did you see that!” so I’m sure there were a few of those being said that day, probably by the policeman in the squad car.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
We returned to the Lake Geneva side of the lake only to find three planes landing on the ice and of course the crowds gathered around them because they were unique till we showed up I had several people inquire as to where they could get a hover and we took a few pictures in fact one of those pictures headlines our web site if you log on you will see Linda standing on the side of the 800 looking out at the airplanes. We then proceeded to load up our hover on the fly on fly off trailer and with that concluded our Lake Geneva Adventure. I think the really fun part about having a hover is that you can do and go where others can’t and the uniqueness of a hover is that it’s a boat, snowmobile, and an ATV all in one incredible machine. What is even better is unlike one of these a hover is all of those and more if the conditions demand that you change vehicles by the time you find out it is too late. For instance if you’re cruising along on your snowmobile and suddenly there is no more ice it’s a little tough to go back and get the boat you’re sunk and treading water. The hover just keeps on going ignoring the change of surface and giving you FREEDOM! You would never think to take your boat on a partially frozen lake or river but the hover doesn’t care it calls to you saying “let’s go play on that!” and if you’re daring enough and if you’re adventuresome enough you heed to it’s calling and plunge into your Adventure! I invite you to come join us because like I always say “Where everyone else has to stop we’re just getting started”. If you enjoyed this little adventure visit our blog again. For information about hovercrafts visit us at www.hovercraftusa.org
Friday, March 18, 2011
It was at that point we saw a crowd about 300 yards to the west of us, and realized it was the point of origin for the iceboat racers. Giving them a wide berth we stayed far to the north of the race and practice area and came along the west shore of Fontana dropping down behind the crowds and the action. It was fun to watch the heads turn as we glided across the ice dropped south of the crowd then circled back to the north resting in the center of all that was going on but in a way that was polite and not intrusive to the activities that were going on. It was really interesting to see how this monster gently danced through the crowd of people almost as if I was pushing a baby buggy around a busy street. I had closed the shutters in the rear for high cushion low RPM and virtually no speed. We were traveling a little more than a walk through the group of people, one of the things I’ve learned over the years is to be courteous to those around you when you are in a group of people and they for the most part are fascinated by your hover. However if you are loud and intrusive then they are simply annoyed. Usually event folks want to pay attention to the event and not someone else who just happened by for a visit so we try to keep as low a profile as we can. The people at the race event were very nice and had a few questions about the hover and what it could do and where a person might get one. I felt kind of like a bush pilot showing up in a remote village that had never seen an airplane before. Some were inquisitive others you could tell were looking wondering but too shy to ask. By the time we reached that point in our little adventure we both had to find a bathroom so we inquired and moved on to that point I also asked a few questions about who to talk to about setting up rides and lake adventures around there and got a few names. I would like to have hung around a little more but you never want to stay so long that your host would rather have you leave. Timing is everything and I would rather have people catch a glimpse of us have lots of unanswered questions and then we leave while they are really wanting us to stay. It leaves the door open for other opportunities later. So after a few more questions we got back in the hover and left to head back to the other side of the lake.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
After lunch we fired up the hover again and set out across the lake. Over in Fontana there was an iceboat race going on. Iceboats are basically a sailboat with outrigger ice skates on it; the things go incredibly fast and are a blast to watch. I got to tell you that little voice inside of all of us men that starts to shout out “you can beat them” was screaming at me, but I, being of a more mature age did what any mature man would do and showed restraint checked all directions to see if there was any other racers out and about that I should know about. When I saw there were none I continued at my leisurely speed for about 10 seconds then the voice yelled at me one more time and I couldn’t help myself in fact it was not me it was some possessed person that gripped the throttle on that beast and twisted the handle grip. I swear all I did was hang on for the ride. It is all really a blur to me now, but I do recall that throaty sound from the engine belching to life and I believe I heard it speak to me and it said “it’s about time you weenie” and with that the craft began to pickup speed and if what I recall of the situation is accurate that iceboat was eating my dust! I remember being brought back to reality by a gentle hand touching my back I think it was one of those “God” spiritual type of moments and with that gentle touch I was released from the grip of that youthful speed demon and brought back to my senses. It was at that moment I felt that gentle touch grow more insistent and realized it was Linda smacking me on the back yelling slow down! With the reflexes of a cat I immediately hit the button for the hydraulics and closed the stationary hover shutters and the hover slowed and I let off the throttle but I was still cruising around 70 mph and decided that a 360 was my best option for slowing the craft so I opened the shutters slightly throttled up and took the twin prop into a quick 360 which was actually rather fun so we did another 360 then another and finally came to a complete stop and did two or three more 360’s. I thought that was a nice end, which could have been considered my victory lap and a spin out in the winner’s circle! I wonder if the other guy knew we were racing? Oh well I had fun with it, victory was mine, and I’m sure I impressed my wife. Sorry no picture of the race I was a little too busy to take a picture but here is another mansion.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Lake Geneva was the playground of the rich and famous for several years while Hugh Hefner had the Playboy mansion up there so some of the homes along the lake are rather large and impressive. One of those mansions is the Wriggly mansion, which is an old school building that stands out in a stately manner. The grounds are well kept and yet the place has kind of a haunted look about it. Then there were some other homes along there that were pretty cool and I thought if this was summer we could have a picnic right here. Since my 800 sports the GM 350 V-8 liquid cooled engine it has a heater and defroster like an automobile, I had the winter front and the crew enclosure so it was fairly warm inside the hover cabin, even though it was only 25 outside Linda and I were very comfortable wearing sweaters and jeans so we decided since it was so comfortable we would stop and have a picnic in front of one of the mansions. So there we were on that twenty-five degree day in February sitting in front of a mansion sipping a soda and munching on a sandwich talking about how we were the only ones doing the things we were doing. Do you know what it is like to have the knowledge that you are one of only a handful of people who first can do what you are doing and secondly are doing it? So far that was a good day! I was looking around at all the people out there on the ice there were some walking around close to shore, some ice fishing, some playing on the ice with sleds, some were ice skating, there were even 3 airplanes that came in later and landed on the ice, but we were the only ones, possibly in the entire world, sitting in a sixteen foot hovercraft having a picnic in a comfortable 65 degrees. Guys do you want to impress your lady friend take her on a picnic in a place and at a time when no one else could possibly do it and then say to her “honey there is no place I’d rather be than right here with you right now because I love you” then hand her a little “I love you” gift, now that’s romantic. You really have to try this guys it really racks up the points ya know what I mean!
Monday, March 14, 2011
So where to go? I had never been on the lake before so I wasn’t sure where we wanted to go. That’s the cool thing about having a hover it is seldom about where can you go it is more about where do you want to go. You don’t have to worry about the thickness of the ice and with 40 gallons of fuel on board I really wasn’t worried about the distance I probably had enough fuel to circle the lake about 400 times. This Hovertour 800 is fairly thirsty on water lapping up about 9 gallons of high-octane gas per hour but on ice its is all together different it barely runs more that an idle at around 30 mile per hour. So I figured we were only using about 1-2 gallons per hour. Even at $4 per gal I could afford to cruise all day on this. With that in mind I pointed the hover toward the middle of the lake and twisted the throttle and with that the 800 lunged forward and let out a throaty yelp as if to say “its about time you let me stretch a little”! You know that feeling you get when something cool is happening and you are there but you almost feel like you are watching it in slow motion? That pretty much sums up how I was feeling that day and when the 800 was cruising 8 inches off the surface and hitting about 60 miles per hour I thought I need to show some restraint here so I hit the button on the handle bars and slowly the hydraulic pump began to close the rear shutters and slow the crafts acceleration slightly and we tapered off to a speed of about 40. It is hard to describe the sensation you get skimming over the surface at that speed I guess it would be like being strapped to the front of an airplane while the pilot is either just lifting off or just before he touches down on the runway only you never lift off more than 8 inches and you never touch down more than 8 inches. Did you know that at 40 miles per hour on a lake that is 3 miles long you could reach the other side in about 4-5 minutes? There was no speed limit out here on the lake so it was how fast do you want to get there? I really wasn’t in a race and the purpose of being out here was to take in the sights so I thought lets drop this thing down to around 15 miles per hour and see what this shore line looks like.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
After unloading we were ready to launch. Linda and I had never taken the 800 on a long ride before just little hops on a frozen river and I didn’t know what to expect out of its performance on such a wide-open lake. Earlier that summer I had an engineer tell me he thought based on the design the craft would probably hit somewhere around 200 miles per hour given the right conditions and enough room to reach that speed. Today was that type of day and the lake was big enough, all that remained was my nerve and it wasn’t being very supportive of anything even close to that speed. You know as a guy something inside of you wants to try it just once but at my age I’ve learned to put that little boy in check. However I couldn’t help showing off a little and since all the people around me were avoiding the open water of the docking area I thought it would be fun to head right toward it. I started out slowly and moved the hover over by the docks and then gunned it and flew over the ice like an eagle soaring toward its next meal with the occasional wing tap on the surface my big yellow hover attacked it’s challenge and conquered it without even slowing down. The Hovertour 800 on the ground is a beast and you would never be able to move it but once on cushion it's more like a seagull or a duck floating on top of the water. I keep telling people the hover is awesome on ice because it's also a boat and will float you go where you want and don't worry about the conditions. Thin ice no ice it's all the same. The first time I flew a hover on thin ice and it began to crack as I traveled across it I almost panicked I swear all of my instincts were screaming "your gonna die" then my brain kicked in and I remembered it would float and then it became an experience you have to do to understand. After crossing the open water and returning to the ice I did a 360 spin just to make sure the crowds around me were looking and saw what I had just done. I wasn’t disappointed you could tell they were all impressed. Ok so it was a little show boating but when you got it you might as well flaunt it. With that I pointed the 800 toward open ice and we were under way.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
One of our recent backwater adventures was an ice adventure. If you have never been on a hover on the ice you have got to do this. February 16th is our anniversary so we decided to go to Lake Geneva WI for the weekend and try a little adventure in our Hovertechnics Hovertour 800 twin prop hovercraft. Saturday was around 25 degrees and no wind I really like no wind days when your hovering it makes it so much nicer. We took off from the shoreline on Lake Geneva in front of The Cove Resort and Convention Center. It was the first time I had ever driven on the ice with my car so I was apprehensive even though there were dozens of other cars on the ice. I probably wouldn’t have had so much of a struggle if I hadn’t been towing a 2,000-pound hovercraft behind me. We managed to get into position and I got out and used the hydraulic jack to lift the front end of the hover trailer about three feet off the hitch beam. All that was left to do was to start the hover and let my 2,000-pound twin prop 340 horse powered beast gently slide off the trailer. Funny how that GM engine sounds like a muscle car even when it’s on a hovercraft, I hit the switch to close the shutters on the back side of the prop so that I got maximum lift with no thrust and the Hover 800 rose like a morning mist into the air and slid backward onto the ice and our Lake Geneva Hover adventure was ready to begin.