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Sid's Hovercraft - Frequently Asked Questions

By Sid of Stone Marmot

Aug. 25, 2008

See Sid's Hovercraft (Data) for more information.

Why did you build it? 1) I had always been interested in hovercraft since I was very young. When I was 11 years old, I made a simple working model of a hovercraft from a cigar box, an electric motor, and a model airplane propeller. 2) I wanted some sort of watercraft and the waters in the Tampa Bay area are very shallow, with almost all the boat traffic concentrated in a network of dredged channels. A hovercraft can go in those other shallow areas. 3) I was considering building an airplane and wanted to see if I could stick with a major project like that. I also wanted to see what kind of problems I might have with something similar but where a problem would be less catastrophic.
Did you ever build that airplane? No. After taking a few flying lessons I learned that, while I love flying, I really didn't care for piloting.
Why did you paint it as you did? By far the number one question I got while I was building it was, not how big is it or how much it will cost or how does it work, but "What color are you going to paint it?" As an engineer, I found it strange that people were so concerned about something so trivial, so I painted it gray as a kind of protest. Then, as I made more modifications and repairs and was having trouble finding matching paint, I decided to give it a "camo" look so that the paint didn't look mismatched.
Was it noisy? Initially, but I made a lot of changes specifically to make it quieter. Since the lift engine was a lawn mower engine, you would expect the craft to be at least that loud. 1) I designed and built a new and much bigger muffler for the lift engine. 2) I made the lift and thrust systems as efficient as possible so that I could run at lower engine rpms, which is quieter and more fuel efficient. 3) I also added cowlings lined with sound absorbent materials for both the lift and thrust engines. The result was that the noise from the lift and thrust systems was about equal at normal cruising speeds, or about 75 dB total at 50 ft. (15 m) away, which is the noise level of a typical street.
Do you still have it? No. I got into kayaking, which got me to almost everyplace I could go with the hovercraft, and some places I couldn't. Kayaks are also a lot quieter, easier to transport, requires a lot less maintenance, better exercise, more environmentally benign, and cheaper. Also, just prior to my getting rid of the hovercraft, personal watercraft (jet skis) started becoming popular and a lot of places where I used to launch and run my hovercraft were becoming off limits to all motorized craft to try to discourage the jet skis.
How did you transport it to and from the launch site? I put a wooden flat bed on a boat trailer. I made a fold-up wooden ramp which hooked to the back of the trailer and stored under the flat bed during transit. I would have the hovercraft hovering and winch it up or down the ramp onto the flat bed trailer.
Do you miss not having the hovercraft? No. It was a lot of fun. I learned a lot. But I've moved on to other things, such as kayaking and music. But I do miss the other hovercraft enthusiasts I had met over the years. There's just not enough time in life to do everything I want to do.

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