Kim set John the challenge…..’what do you want to do on your birthday’. Little did she think that it would involve a 5am start followed by a flight and cycle ride!!
John’s ideal day turned out to be a hovercraft ‘flight’ to the Isle of Wight on one of the windiest days of the year courtesy of Huricane Abigale, and apparently the official terminology for a hovercraft journey over water is ‘flying’ not ‘sailing’
We arrived at Portsmouth (Southsea) in time for the 8:15 flight to Ryde on an elderly hovercraft. Hovertravel operate the only regular commercial service in Europe and have been doing so for 50 years. Luckily this particular hovercraft was only 25 years old. Powered by four large Diesel engines, two of which inflate the skirts raising the craft off the ground while the other two drive massive fans to push it along, an amazing sight as it moves effortlessly between land and water.
What an experience! We arrived in Ryde in 10 minutes, it’s the fastest way to get there. The journey was very smooth, it may have been windy but the sun was shining.
Next stop, breakfast! After a short ride we found ourselves in ‘Bagel Wrap’ run by a chap who does catering each year at the Isle of Wight music festival and the decor reflected his passion with posters and pictures going back to 1968 when Dylan, the Band and Richie Havens played at the first festival.
While we ate breakfast, the heavens opened so we stayed for another cuppa…….and then another as we watched the raindrops hitting puddles. Eventually we decided that although we had limited weather protection we had to move. We’d taken the Bromptons and were determined to cycle round to Bembridge.
Finally we left, cycled down the hill and along the Esplanade, the heavens opened again and the wind got stronger so we took shelter in the old Pavillion before we had even left Ryde.
Eventually, the rain eased and so we headed towards Seaview. It was wet but lovely cycle ride along the coastal path. Things got a little tricky when the path became very narrow and precarious prior to disappearing below the high tide mark and John was soaked by a wave as he tried to work out if he could lift the bikes round! He couldn’t so we retraced our route to find an alternative.
The final part of our cycle ride was rather hilly, around Seaview to Bembridge. The road into Bembridge took us past rows of houseboats which were more boat than house and appealed to Kim as a possible holiday home?
A well earned lunch in Bembridge found as sharing a table with an elderly lady from Newport who giggled every time she thought about our cycle ride from Ryde. She kindly advised us how to get the bus back…….so we did! The Bromptons were ideal, they stowed easily on the bus and in the hold of hovercraft enabling us to make the most of our visit.
The bus runs every hour, the hovercraft runs every hour. The bus arrives at the bus terminal, next to the hoverport, 5 minutes after the hovercraft has left!! But at least as you approach you can see it gracefully spin on its axis as it leaves. With 55 minutes to spare, we cycled out along Ryde Pier which was very long and very windy with nothing at the end other than an empty train station.
When we left Southsea in the morning the Hovercraft flight was at ‘Green’ Service Status, our return trip across the Solent was quite rough and although the Hovercraft continued to glide over the water with apparent ease by this time we had been elevated to ‘Amber’ status and as a result had to take a serious run at the beach to land. As we left the car-park they announced that the service had been suspended!!!
We enjoyed our day and will be return next year to try out the new 2016 hovercrafts when they arrive.