So much hovercraft cruising in the North West of England right now!

Great to see yet another hovercraft cruising event held up at Ulverston, near Barrow-In-Furness. Morecombe Bay is one of the finest - if not finest - hovercraft cruising locations in the country and of late, the North West hovercraft Club has really turned up the wick with both cruising and the upcoming, racing, events.

So last weekend was an 'all BHC' affair with five of our craft at the event - two Marlins , two Coastal-Pro's and a Snapper - all out enjoying the scenery. Everybody reports great fun, safe cruising and perfect reliability. It really doesn't get better than that!

For more information, contact either ourselves or take a look at the NW Hovercraft Club Facebook page.

And a date for your diary - Sat/Sun 22/23rd September is the final roun dof the UK Hovercraft National Racing Championships, which takes place in Oswaldthistle, near Accrington. Cheap to get in and a blast to watch! Details below.


“Win on Sunday – Sell on Monday!” Why Racing Matters!

It was Carol Shelby, or Richard Petty – in any case, one of the US motorsport legends - that said of motor racing “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday.” Whilst that was more aimed at the marketing opportunity of a NASCAR win, to a degree, the same holds true for we hovercraft racing, even those that - like BHC – don’t manufacture racing hovercraft for sale.

The hovercraft we sell are used for a multitude of things, many for recreational cruising, driving events businesses, commercial and utility use. Some have found a home in rescue organisations, others for unexploded ordnance detection – one is even used for blowing the dew off of a golf course’s greens! But we don’t manufacture racing hovercraft which is a conscious decision, because the pace of development means pretty much every craft would be different as new methods, materials, designs and technologies emerge. We’re a manufacturer who designs, not vice-versa.

Hovercraft racing has been a passion of mine for many years - it’s an awesome sport which is largely untouched by commercial pressure, a big part of its appeal. Development is organic, and largely in the hands of amateurs with just one or two manufacturers – Leicester based RLG Innovations are absolutely at the forefront of design and innovation - other manufacturers such as Raider Hovercraft and BBV make superb machines too. Racing craft are fast – really fast in the case of the Formula One’s. Figure 0-60mph in under 4 seconds, with a top speed over 80mph and race tracks which take you from land to water at top speed – all this with no brakes remember! The thrill of pushing hard in a well sorted hovercraft you feel ‘in-tune’ with is truly an amazing feeling.

Here at BHC, we’ve raced for many years – certainly not ultra-competitively or in a totally committed manner, but we’ve picked up plenty of race wins, a national championship in Formula 503 and for two years, national championships in the brilliant but short-lived ‘Coastal Championship’ which saw hovercraft racing in one-hour endurance events on a rising tide over beaches and foreshores. The Marlin really lent itself to that, and cleared up in its class both years - certainly the most fun I’ve had in a hovercraft.

But what’s come out of all this racing is less about the marketing benefits (Sky Sports have yet to pick it up!) and kudos that the giant motor manufacturers enjoy – and more about how much technical information we’ve picked up, how much we’ve learned, and the development that has fed into our production hovercraft. It really has been a practical lesson – every single aspect of racing hovercraft design provides a benefit when the knowledge is applied to our customers recreational or utility craft. Skirt design – one year I tried three different designs before finding the right balance. Plenum chamber design – ie airflow within the craft. Fan setup – finding the best performance from the available power. Hull design – what breaks, where and why. Duct efficiencies – blade types, numbers and rotation speeds, together with duct design. Steering, materials and construction – every single aspect of hovercraft design can be tried and tested for performance and reliability at a hovercraft race.

And that’s not all – I make no secret of the fact I’ll stalk the paddock checking out what everyone else is up to! Literally no two craft are the same, and everyone is trying different things, some with more success than others, but everything I see and discuss simply adds to the knowledge base. And even now, when I haven’t raced for a few years, I still have regular technical discussions with racers and designers – people I’ve met through the sport (in fact the whole idea for this article came about during a chat with an Italian hovercraft designer yesterday, who’s found some real gains in flow design in the hull of his new F1.) Our hovercraft simply would not work as well, or as reliably, if I hadn’t hung out with some truly talented, creative and dedicated hovercraft designers and racers for so many years.

The reason I write this article, is that we’ve so often seen new manufacturers come along with new products. Sometimes they’re very stylish, pretty and shiny. Sometimes they’re plain outlandish, often they come with some gorgeous looking CAD images or computerised images. But rarely do they perform as they should. With just one or two exceptions, other than ourselves there are no manufacturers of small hovercraft in Europe that have any experience of racing, and it really does show in the products they sell. Without the impetus racing provides, the experience just isn’t forthcoming and this means they’ve not gained the experience required to build effective (let alone safe!) hovercraft.

Here’s a few examples. One UK Manufacturer builds two models of hovercraft. One is made of High Density Polyethylene. It’s the same size as our Marlin, but weighs nearly twice as much. It features a complex, unreliable 120bhp engine and despite the fact that the Marlin is just 37bhp, doesn’t even get close on performance and has a terrible reliability record.

They also build an integrated 6/7/8/9 seat (the claim keeps going up!) integrated hovercraft (ie one engine/fan) which anyone with any experience knows is way too big for a single fan set up. The Coastal-Pro is much smaller, yet it’s faster and lifts much more due to its twin engine/twin fan design.  

Over in the US is a company making a hovercraft which is styled on a Bugatti – boy have they got some press attention! All the images used (to collect deposits…. ) were of course computer generated and there’s no film of it working because it simply cannot. Anyone who’s got any practical experience of hovercraft deign can see – it simply cannot work – ‘physics’ says so!

Here in the UK, one ‘collective’ without any sporting experience claim they are about to re-release a 1970’s hovercraft design back to the market, clearly unaware that design has moved on!

There’s lots more examples, but the reality is that there’s no substitute for practical, sporting experience. What sets BHC hovercraft apart from many manufacturers is that we’ve raced hovercraft for many years and then we apply that knowledge. Coupled with that is the fact that we then use our own hovercraft – a lot! And we use them, not in a grassy field, but in the harsh marine conditions where customers use their own craft. Salt-water is terrible stuff. It corrodes and rots everything it touches – which is why all our hovercraft feature stainless steel and alloy as the only two metals! There’s no mild steel, as used by some manufacturers who know no better.

Where does that leave us? Well, I guess it’s “Win on Sunday, Sell effective, working hovercraft on Monday!”



My favourite ever Marlin ‘Beast’ Hovercraft!

Two admissions.

I'm ONLY posting this because I think it's quite possibly the best looking Marlin we've ever produced.

And secondly, when our Sales manager Dave told me what he had in mind for our next demonstrator, I thought it sounded terrible.

I was wr...wr...wro... I may have been mistaken. :-)


Metalflake blue GRP hull, Savage Engine, Marine quality fabric and alloy/stainless components throughout, 'Angel Eye' headlights and full lighting kit.... this really is a striking looking hovercraft - goes like stink too!



Happy Christmas!



We’d like to wish all our customers and friends a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. It’s been a busy and productive year here at BHC, and we look forward to more shenanigans in 2018, with new products and events planned.

One last piece of news before we wrap up for the year – we’re delighted to welcome Dave Larkins on board as our new Sales Manager. Dave’s position means we’ll be better placed to keep in touch, update and inform our clients and respond in a timely manner to all enquiries. It’s an exciting step forward for us to have a dedicated manager acting in this role which will support the rest of the management team.

We’ll be back to work on Tuesday January 2nd 2018. Enjoy your Christmas!

Best Wishes from Emma, Imogen, Ivan, Russ and all the team at BHC.


Busy times with hovercraft hire

Well, we're some 14 weeks into a contract to provide hovercraft hire services in Tilbury Essex, where a substantial pontoon is being a built as part of the Tideway project.

Each day, we run the crew out to the barges, and collect them after work whilst buzzing round throughout the day on other jobs. Our other role is to provide emergency response. These really are the jobs that provide a tough challenge for our craft, and drive development leading to better and better products.

At the moment, the weather's behaving itself, but as we get into the new-year, it's going to be...brisk!



The Curious Tale of the Stolen Hovercraft…..

A few weeks back, we heard from one of our local customers , the news that he’d had his Marlin II stolen. He was gutted, as you’d expect – the hovercraft simply vanished from his garden. He’s had enormous fun with it over the last 3 years. It was a well spec’d hovercraft built to order with a unique, one-off screen design, upgraded engine and lots of other options. We circulated it on social media and despite hundreds of good people sharing the alert, we heard nothing – it was gone.

But by a stroke of good-fortune, some three weeks later, a sharp-eyed policeman was visiting a small industrial yard in Ramsgate and noticed an odd looking vehicle on a trailer covered by a tarpaulin. When he took a look underneath, he realised what it was and was aware that a hovercraft had been stolen locally. We were called to identify it and when we looked, initially we thought – “No.” It was clearly a BHC hovercraft but it had been massively modified from standard. The screen had been cut around and shortened, the headlights removed and the recesses filled, the sides has large metal plates riveted to them and a hot-rod style number fin fixed to the duct. IOt even had a fake VIN plate fixed to the rear. The engine cover was missing, the dashboard (with its identification number) removed and then the red parts were all painted green. However, a closer inspection revealed red paint underneath....

Ah-ha! We build around 100 hovercraft each year and we can recognise pretty much every one of them, even when the VIN plate is removed. This hovercraft was one of only three examples of this model built in this colour scheme. We know the other two are safe and sound, so it was clear it was the stolen craft. The engine is a 50hp ‘Rampage,’ which we build in-house and following a small accident last year we made a very specific repair to the hovercraft which we soon spotted, putting the issue beyond any doubt.

The problem is that the poor thing has been brutalised! Although a colossal amount of work went into disguising its identity, there’s lots broken and missing and some of the work is very substandard. It was filthy dirty and neglected looking – it seems incredible that all that happened within three weeks of the theft! So despite its recovery, the poor owner is left with a craft that is worth a fraction of its previous value, even when he’s spent the money to have it refurbished to a safe/working standard.

It’s not often hovercraft get stolen, and to be blunt, you’d be a fool to nick one. They’re too high profile, and there’s too few around to disappear into the clutter. The club is full of enthusiasts and anywhere it gets used, it gets spotted. They attract huge attention and they’re not saleable, because anywhere it turns up within the community, it’ll be recognised.

So – we’ll fix it up, get it working and then I believe it’ll be sold – as is so often the case, the owner feels it’s tainted now, and no longer wants it. Shame on the thieves for the upset and cost their actions inflict on their victims.  

If anyone has any further information about the theft, please contact Kent Police on 01622 690690, because so far - there's no happy ending to this one I’m afraid and it would be good to see the thieves caught and punished for the distress they've caused. 


The Marlin II Hovercraft pictured 'pre-theft' setting out to enjoy a cruise on the River Medway.

Barely recognisable, as discovered in Ramsgate three weeks after the theft.





Credit where it’s due, a spectacular refurbishment by “Hovercraft Africa!”

Some time ago, Tim Dawson, a Brit hovercraft enthusiast residing in South Africa, came across a couple of decade-old, sad and neglected Marlin I hovercraft.

The Marlin I is an old machine now, and the craft we produce now bear very little technical similarity with the hovercraft Tim acquired. So, he set about a major refurb of these second-hand hovercraft with advice and parts from BHC to update the craft somewhat. Confronted by UV degraded gel-coat, seized engines and transmissions, I have to say, the finished hovercraft look amazing.

The refurbishment is well documented in his video HERE

Tim has set up a business, Hovercraft Africa, which operates the craft for commercial work - and we have asked him to come on board as our agent in South Africa, so you can contact Tim for a demonstration or advice.

For more details, visit

Here's some before and after photos, pretty impressive eh? :-)




Choose how to buy your hovercraft, hull only, complete kit or finished hovercraft!

Buying a ‘Bitsa’ Hovercraft – What are they? How to save money buying a new hovercraft!

Occasionally, you may see that we advertise what we call 'Bitsa' Hovercraft. The name comes from the fact they are made from 'Bits of This and Bits of That' where have GRP parts which come out of the mould with a slightly sub-standard finish.

We can't fit these parts to a production craft. But the parts we use are structurally fine, they just have flaws such as a scratch, chemical 'pickling' or a slight crack/light damage. Once we have enough parts to match up the colour and make it viable, we turn these parts into a ‘Bitsa’ Marlin. Coastal-Pro or Snapper. It is sometimes built with (for instance) a reconditioned or low-hour engine, slightly used or discoloured skirt, maybe a slightly lower final spec than standard where it excludes instruments or trim. We're very demanding on our quality standards, and in actual fact, what we reject may well be considered acceptable by other manufacturers.

In all cases, the craft are built to our usual high-standard, and come fully warranted as per our standard production craft. The specification changes are clearly explained before sale, so that you can be 100% clear exactly what you are getting. In most cases, the craft simply has cosmetic flaws within the fiberglass parts, easily covered by graphics (or mud!)


All the hovercraft below are 'Bitsa' hovercraft, and as you can see - they all look great!



This Coastal-Pro even works as a promotional vehicle!


Buying a second hand hovercraft – some advice.

General Advice

In this chapter of our hovercraft buyers guide one, we’ll examine what to look for when buying a used recreational hovercraft. Over the years, lots of hovercraft manufacturers have come and gone – some producing great hovercraft…some less so. Even some current models are pretty poor and have quality or performance issues so you do really need to be careful. A used hovercraft that was junk when it was new…is still junk after 6 months or 6 years! The same applies to home-built hovercraft that come onto the market – even given good plans, the build, component quality, and specification vary enormously.

Just like when you buy most vehicles, your options are to buy either privately, or from a business. It’s likely that buying from a business will be more expensive but your purchase should come with a warranty, basic training and support, and being covered by consumer law, is probably a safer option for inexperienced or first time owners.

Just like we said in the initial part of this guide, the first thing you need to do is to decide what you want to use the hovercraft for. Is it for playing around a grassy field? Or cruising on salt water estuaries? The demands of the marine environment is significantly more and generally, a properly prepared cruising craft will cost more money than a basic machine to provide fun playing around in a grassy field.  

Hovercraft from UK manufacturers such as BBV Hovercraft and Vortex Engineering (and ourselves!) are likely to be ‘marine-ready’ is that is what most professionally manufactured hovercraft are built for. Look for stainless steel and alloy components to resist the dreaded salt water, decent buoyancy and flotation, freeboard and 4-stroke engines.

You may well come across an ‘unfinished project’ – either an unfinished refurbishment, or unfinished self-build hovercraft kit. Enthusiasm and cash often run out during the project and the resulting ebay sale can be a good buy if you have the knowledge and skills to finish it. But spotting what’s safe and effective in a hovercraft design is pretty tough if this is your first foray into the hobby. Before you go ahead, it may well be worth joining the HCGB - Hovercraft Club of Great Britain and asking for advice on the club’s Facebook page - the club forum is pretty much dead now, Facebook will get quick, helpful responses though. Take photos and find out as much as you can – it’s a small community and it’s quite  likely that somebody will even know the history of the craft.

Quite a number of older home built hovercraft will be powered by small 2-Stroke motorbike engines. These ‘Challenger’ hovercraft were often built from Hovercraft Club plans and have dated badly – they are little use for real-world cruising and unfortunately, they’ve also had their day as a competitive racing hull, so they’re little more than a casual play-around toy. 

The other type you may come across is a home-built hovercraft built from design plans. These can range from one to as many as six seats of 20ft or more. Provided the build quality is good (which can be very difficult to ascertain for a novice) these can be a pretty good buy and allow you access to proper cruising events and experiences. They’re competent enough as cruisers, but preparation for salt-water may be sub-standard. As mentioned above, inspecting the quality of the build and components is critical, as no two are the same.

Inspecting the hovercraft

Having found something that looks like it might do the job, go along for a look. Here’s our advice for some of the things you need to look for when inspecting a potential purchase.

Just like the tyres on your car, hovercraft skirts are a disposable service item. A lot of hovercraft coming onto the market will feature a spectacularly well worn skirt. Material has shot up in price recently and a new skirt can be upwards of £500.00 so make sure you allow for it. If you see ragged edges or thin/de-laminating material – the segment needs replacement. Marlin (for example) skirts segments are around £9.00+VAT (or a whole skirt is approx £450.00) each so it’s  simple matter to count up the cost to get the skirt back into shape – most wear occurs on the front and read quarters. As long as you have a pattern (or even a sample) then a skirt can be made to sit any model – we’ve found ourselves with patterns for around 20 different models and can usually make replacements for other models. Avoid ‘cheap’ materials such as curtainside – it’s works badly and wears out quickly. Neoprene coasted Nylon is the right material.


An old ‘bag’ skirt will be patched and repaired, and be worn on the ground contact line. They can be very specialist to replace, requiring expensive material and glues, a lot of time and experience to replace – be ready for a substantial bill if a bag skirt needs replacement. In all honesty, unless it’s a big hovercraft (6 or more seats) a bag skirt is a liability. The better option for larger hovercraft is a ‘bag and finger’ (or ‘loop and segment’) skirt which combines a bag skirt which has segments below giving better performance and lower repair costs – the bag is not in contact with the surface and the segments can be more easily and cheaply replaced. 

Fibreglass (GRP,) other laminates, aluminium & wood are all good materials to build a hovercraft from. Plastic (such as HDPE) are best avoided. Through hard use, over the years, hulls will get knocked around in minor bumps, they’ll get scratched and dirty. That should all be visible, but look carefully at mounting points (fan frame/engine/steering etc) inspecting for cracks, distortions or damage repair. These are important mountings and need to be strong.


Make sure you look underneath the hull as that’s where it can take a real hammering, especially when badly driven over rocky terrain! Partly fill the plenum chamber with a garden hose and see if any water escapes – if it can get out, it can get in!

 Wood is tricky, there’s wood and wood. Marine ply is the best so you need to check the hull isn’t built from cheap material, and rotten. Look at the bottom, hovercraft often get put away wet which can cause wood to sit & rot.

Just remember that repairs add weight – hovercraft hate weight!  The good news is that GRP, wood and aluminium can be repaired fairly easily. Aside from the fact it’s too heavy to build a successful hovercraft from, another problem with plastic/HDPE is that it can’t be easily repaired.   

Engines in hovercraft can get a hard life – many poorly designed craft need lots of power lots of the time to operate - and car engines can be spinning constantly at 5-6000rpm. Given that these are often sourced from an old, scrapyard sourced donor vehicle that may have had another 20,000 miles in it, when fitted to a hovercraft, their life expectancy can be just a few hours. Flat 4 Subarus & BMW motorbike engines are both popular choices but getting pretty old now in 2017 and should really be rebuilt before fitting.

Small commercial engines (Kohler, Briggs & Stratton, Honda etc) are increasingly popular and designed to run at a higher load racing for a larger amount of their life. Aside from their economy and low noise levels, they’re light, simple, cheap to repair and service.

2-Strokes are a liability! Noisy, expensive to run and unreliable. They particularly loathe salt-water, but offer high power-to-weight ratio. They'll offend everyone within two miles with their noise however.

Whatever engine the hovercraft is fitted with, look for obvious signs of wear or neglect, noises, smoke and oil leaks. If you’re not confident on this, a friend knowledgeable in engines is very useful.

Fan / propeller & transmission
This inspection is critical. An old/damaged fan or propeller, badly mounted can be – literally – lethal. Walk away (or allow for replacement of) anything home made, or old fashioned ‘Truflow’ brand blades which are no longer available. Any sign of purple or green in a MultiWing or Hascon blade means it’s in need of replacement. Any cracks or significant chips in the blade means it needs to go - a new set can run to  £150.00-£200.00 or so, depending on the number. With propellers, check it’s a branded, microlight specification unit, and check for signs of erosion on the leading edge, caused by sand and grit in the air flow literally sand blasting the edge. Look for damage and cracks. Check the belt (cover may need removing) and check for fraying or tears but on balance I'd always replace an unknown belt - just like a cambelt on your car, they can fail without any prior visible wear or damage at high hours and quality varies enormously. Check for play and roughness in bearings and cracks in the fan/engine frame or mounting points where they bolt to the hull. Check that the fan guard(s) are complete and well fitted.


Steering and elevators (if fitted) are usually controlled by ‘bowden’ cables – they can corrode over time when used in a salty environment, so check they operate freely.

Performance : One of the challenges of hovercraft is that of performance. If it doesn’t work properly, it may be that it doesn’t work at all. It may not be able to operate over water due to skirt-drag or inadequate thrust, it may not hover properly because of poor fan or skirt design. Steering may be comprised due to poor rudder design. All this leads to the obvious conclusion that it’s very wise to try the hovercraft out before you part with any cash.

Our Advice in Summary

  • If you haven’t owned a hovercraft before, then buy a hovercraft in full, working order – NOT one that requires work or refurbishment.
  • Decide on the use for your hovercraft and research the model to ensure it is suitable.
  • Racing hovercraft are completely unsuitable for cruising and marine use.
  • Phone the manufacturer for advice and find out what spares are available.
  • Ask around, join the HCGB talk to experienced club members and operators.
  • Don’t buy a poor / unknown brand or design
  • Be doubly careful of the quality of components and construction of homebuilt hovercraft.
  • Double check safety, construction & guarding of rotating parts.
  • Budget for a full service, skirt wear and any obvious repairs.
  • Ask if it is possible to test the hovercraft.


Below - a good example of a hovercraft advertised on ebay which is well worth buying..... (or not!)

(Seriously, this was on ebay last year and he wanted money for it!)



Below - An awesome bit of kit, £10,000 gets you a missile capable of 0-60mph in under 5 seconds. BUT - not suitable for cruising or salt-water use.





An old-fashioned 'Skima' Hovercraft - ugly by today's standards and ancient design means it's very, very loud! (photo : James Hovercraft / Hovercraft Museum)