Since you can run a Flying Fish hovercraft across the lake, bay, or river, I say it counts as a boat—and then some. You can also run it down the road, over sand bars, and through the neighbor’s yard. That makes it one kick-butt play-toy that’s worthy of your disposable income, even if you can’t use it for weekending, water skiing, or long-distance cruising.
Heck, even sailors should be interested in these things. After all, like a sailboat they depend on air to move. Except that instead of harnessing the wind with a sail, they make winds of their own with big six-blade fan and segmented skirts that direct blasts of air downwards for lift, and aft for propulsion. We came across the Flying Fish at the Southampton Boat Show, which is no surprise since these little wind machines are made in the UK. But you can get them right here in the good ‘ol US of A, courtesy of Hoverstream.
The Marlin II two/three seater model (starting at about $18,000) is designed around the Briggs & Stratton air-cooled V-twin horizontal-shaft Vanguard 35 four-stroke engine. Yes, you read that right—four-stroke. This is a major blessing and a significant step forward, because in the past most hovercrafts have depended on light two-strokes which were extremely loud and environmentally unsound. The switch to four-strokes is a welcome one. At cruise, sound levels are 75 db-A and at WOT, 83 db-A. As a point of reference, you’ll get sound levels in the same neighborhood or slightly higher when cruising in most open outboard-powered boats.
That little powerplant can push the Flying Fish up to speeds in the low 40’s, cruises in the upper 20’s and provides a range of about 100 miles. And although these craft are designed to run over the water instead of through it, they do float. The fiberglass “hulls” include a foam-filled plenum, and the company says the hovercraft will float even when swamped. After stopping on the water, the Flying Fish can “take off” in five seconds or less, unlike some other recreational hovercraft (which can’t break over the hump, and have to slosh their way back to shore).
What really stopped us in our tracks in Southampton (see for yourself in the Flying Fish Hovercraft First Look Video) was the newest Flying Fish in the family, the Minnow. These are hovercraft for kids (suggested up to 13 years old), with a single-cylinder four-stroke Villers engine, which can run in the low 20’s. I know that when I was a kid, I would have killed to ride around in one of these things. And now that I have kids, I’d be thrilled to get them a Minnow—though the temptation to shove them off and jump aboard for a ride across the neighbor’s lawn might be too much to resist.
|Draft||-6″ to -10″ (depending on load)|
|Fuel capacity||6 gal.|
Other Choices: While we’re focused on non-traditional marine play-toys, you might also want to check out the aHqua2O mini-sub, the EZYboat multi-purpose folding/sailing/powered thingamajig, or perhaps the Iguana 24 amphibious boat-car. The bravest souls among us should check out The Top 10 Coolest Looking Boats Ever, which includes a slew of (ahem) unusual craft.
For more information, visit Flying Fish Hovercraft.