Things are on the up and up for Australia's small band of recreational hovercraft enthusiasts as they prepare for their biannual rally at Lake Bonney in South Australia next month.
A more common sight in the 1960s and 70s, the "magic carpets" that fired many a youngster's imagination are undergoing a resurgence as engineering advancements continue to improve the machines.
They include a gradual switch to electric engines, which will make the craft far quieter on start-up and more energy efficient.
Australia Hovercraft Association secretary Paul Moody said hovercraft are in fact more like an aircraft than a boat. So much so that "hovernauts" say they "fly" rather than drive their craft and have to apply aircraft-like principles to get them to work, he said.
Take steering. Paul said that because the craft is not attached to the land or water surface in any fashion, "you have to turn the wheel in the opposite direction to stop it turning, which is not like a car or a boat".
"Most people when they first get on have no idea what they're doing and think the thing is totally out of control.
"But after about 10 hours, you become quite skilled and can fly them anywhere, or take them sideways and backwards."
Paul said he was drawn to hovercraft early on.
"I was a kid of the 60s and was attracted to the whole Jetsons-type thing. Then I became an engineer and got interested and began to understand the physics and engineering behind the things.
"It became a nice little niche area to play in. And it's cheaper than building a plane - you can build your own hovercraft for about $10,000 or buy one built outright for about $30,000-$40,000."
Paul is also secretary of the Hovercraft Club of Victoria, whose home is Lake Narracan in the Latrobe Valley, east of Melbourne.
"We have a whole lake and shoreline to fool around in, swap stories and ideas and take long cruises over the horizon."
Hovercraft were developed in the UK in the mid-1950s by (Sir) Christopher Cockerell, who concluded that a cushion of air would make boats go faster by reducing the friction between the vessel and the water.
The story goes that he tested his theory using empty cat food tins and a vacuum cleaner.
Alongside engineering achievements like the Concorde supersonic jet, it was hoped hovercraft would open new word of transportation. Cockerell even envisioned nuclear-powered hovercraft.
In 1969, a British team undertook a Trans-African Hovercraft Expedition through eight West African countries, covering about 8000km, mainly following rivers and waterways.
Perhaps the hovercraft's crowning achievement was the giant SR-N4 that criss-crossed the English Channel carrying 416 passengers and 60 vehicles.
Unlike ferries, commercial hovercraft had the advantage of not requiring extensive docking facilities. And they were fast: at 65 knots, the journey from Dover to Calais took just 30 minutes.
But by 2020 the service had become unviable, the victim of rising fuel costs, competition from the Channel Tunnel, abolition of duty free and the craft's sometimes less than smooth ride - despite promises of "airline-style comfort", the SR-N4's disparagers dubbed it the "Vomit Express".
But while hovercraft never made it into mainstream commercial use, the vehicles are still used in many other ways, on and off the water, on surfaces ranging from sand to snow.
They have been deployed by the US Navy and Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force, mainly as landing craft.
A UK charity called HoverAid uses hovercraft to bring medical care and clean water to remote parts of Madagascar. They were also used in Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Nicaragua and Papua New Guinea.
And recreational racing is popular in the UK, where super-duper craft can go from zero to 100 km/h in under four seconds, and reach 120 km/h going full tilt. All without brakes.
"It's a bit like Mario Karts, it's crazy," Paul said. "We prefer to use them for leisure."
While hovercraft have never been as popular in Australia, there was a flurry of manufacturing in the '80s.
In Queensland, Christopher Skase's Mirage resort had a few; another was used for joyrides on the Gold Coast. They also operated on Port Phillip Bay and Sydney Harbour (the Blue Dolphin) for a spell.
Today, a company caters to tourists in Broome, while a couple of operators in Brisbane and Perth do commercial work in places where other vehicles can't operate - for example, very shallow water or mudflats.
The chief limitation bedevilling Australian enthusiasts is that small or sport hovercraft are officially considered boats, meaning they are required to motor along at no faster than four knots within 50 metres of the shore.
"That's not good for hovercraft," Paul said. "We struggle doing that, because the nature of hovercraft is that they travel best close to the shore, where the water is shallow.
"The result is we don't operate in public areas, which is why you don't see us much."
But at Lake Bonney on September 23-25, you most certainly will. All are welcome.
For more information, call Paul on 0409-624-127 or click HERE
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