It most definitely wasn’t your average boat ride. In fact, I’m not sure you could have called it a boat ride at all.
When we happened upon Rob Hoban and his small hovercraft at a Ladysmith maritime event recently we looked askance at the low, broad amphibious craft that he and his wife were offering 20-minute tours with. But neither my husband nor myself had ever been on a hovercraft so, curiosity piqued, we climbed aboard after donning flotation devices and hearing protection, and off we went.
Rob’s hovercraft is a smaller model, seating three passengers. Built in Shelton, Washington, it is one of the most fuel-efficient high speed watercraft in existence. The hovercraft uses a cushion of highly-pressurized air to lift it above the surface of land or water, thereby avoiding any friction that would normally be generated The giant fan at the back of the vehicle creates a massive air draft downward, which pushes the craft upwards. The fan is operated with the help of an engine at the rear of the craft. A flexible skirt of heavy rubber quarantines the air under the craft, providing the lift that makes a hovercraft…um…hover.
It’s kind of a weird sensation skimming along mere inches above the water, listening to the hum of the giant fan at the back that propels the craft. And it was also an interesting experience having to lean in various directions in concert with Rob as we ran into various currents and wave situations – almost more like riding a motorcycle at times.
The agility and speed of the hovercraft were impressive, along with the fact that we could go where no other water craft would dare venture. We could glide over mudflats and rocky outcrops and at one point, landed with a gentle clunk on a beach. A mere push of a button and we were up and running/flying/sailing again – hard to know how to describe it, but it was amazing.
After 20 minutes out we came back with a few splatters of mud and sea spray. My camera, unfortunately, had to be kept covered most of the time due to the spray coming over the low windshield, so not a lot of photos from this experience. But it was fun, interesting and a great opportunity to experience the sensation of a hovercraft at not too great expense. And, as is the case with most of the stuff I write for this blog, I learned something new. Twenty minutes well-spent!
Rob and his hovercraft are based in Ladysmith, and offer hover-tours and charter tours. There is not a regular schedule for these, so if you are interested in riding with Rob best to contact him via the Vancouver Island Hovercraft website at