diamond geezer

 Tuesday, May 29, 2018

To experience that great scientific marvel of the 1950s, the hovercraft, the only place to go is the Isle of Wight. Hovertravel run a half-hourly service between Southsea and Ryde, with extra services slotted inbetween at times of high demand. If you've never consider hovering before, here's how it works.

The Hoverbus runs between Portsmouth & Southsea station and the terminal. A ticket for a day's travel costs £1.95, and the service is timed to link with hovercraft departures. Alternatively it's a 20 minute walk. Alas the Hoverbus never hovers.

If you haven't bought tickets beforehand, you can buy them at the Hoverport. Current fares are £18 single, £24 day return and £32 return. A catamaran to the Pierhead is a few pounds cheaper. Two Rover tickets worth noting are Hovercraft + Island Line for £24 (that's as many tube rides as you like), and Hovercraft + IoW buses for £29.

Once your ticket is checked you pass through into a waiting area with a drinks machine and toilets. Now is the time to buy a Hoverteddy, a Hoverlanyard, a £1 inflatable hovercraft for your bath, the I-Spy book of the Isle of Wight or the Ladybird book How it Works, The Hovercraft.

When boarding starts a well-mannered free-for all begins, so sit near to the exit door if you want a choice of seats. The most popular seats in the cabin are beside the windows, although these can get a bit grubby after several seasplash crossings, so don't expect the view to be perfect.

Two hovercraft are used to operate the route, both recent investments, barely two years old. The seats are comfy and leathery. Staff ensure that all big luggage is stored up front, then one will press the button for the on-screen safety demo and the other will climb the ladder to the bridge and drive.

Whooosh, the air cushions inflate, then the hovercraft manoeuvres round and heads into the Solent. At low tide the first and last parts of the voyage will be across sand rather than water. Expect to cross the paths of numerous other sea-going craft, occasionally disturbed by the wash from the largest ships.

The crossing takes only 10 minutes, which is twice as quick as the FastCat to the Pier Head. Disembarkation is quick, from the landing pad straight out to the railway bridge. Congratulations, you have just floated across the Solent on a cushion of air. Futuristic travel is alive and well on the Isle of Wight.

If travelling by rail from further afield, especially with a railcard, the cheapest option is to buy a through ticket. This covers your train journey, the Hoverbus and the hovercraft crossing. Make sure you ask specifically for 'Ryde Hoverport'. By travelling via Horsham and applying my Gold Card discount, I got the fare from London to the Isle of Wight down to an unbeatable £31, for a cracking day out.

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