« Reply #1 on: Jul 06, 2010, 10:50 am »
... by Steve Holland

Winter Trip on Loch Fyne
The New Year of 2010 for the NE of Scotland saw freezing temperatures and snow which is all very nice when your sitting with your feet in front of the stove, red wine in hand and a half decent film on the box. You wouldn't go out on a freezing sea loch on the west coast of Scotland would you! Err yes you would if you hadn't been out cruising on the water for some time, had to get your hover fix and wanted some very very fresh air. So then it was down to loch Fyne on snow covered roads towing a large trailer!!! The road down from Ellon was 'interesting' but we made it down without event albeit much later than planned. We unhitched the Vanguard on John's front lawn next to the loch in the dark. We were staying in a very nice farmhouse B&B part of which was built in Jacobean times. It was situated up on the hill above Furnace just a few hundred metres away. We were warmly received by the owner and immediately offered a complimentary glass of malt whiskey which was gratefully accepted, I like it here I said to myself. A good night's sleep was followed by breakfast at 9 o'clock the next morning. On opening the curtains after our breakfast we were treated a stunning view of Loch Fyne in the winter sunshine.
There is no tiring of the loch and the surrounding countryside; it is simply beautiful no matter what the time of year or weather...............well almost.
We were just about to leave the B&B when John called to say he was on his way. John wasn't too sure about coming up to Furnace but had 'cracked' and loaded up the Prospector earlier that morning.
John would not be there until later so we got ourselves suited and booted down at the launch area for a solo craft trip. It was cold, very cold so we decided on the foam filled lifejackets over float suits. This is a good set up for warmth if a wee bit sumoesk in terms of how we looked. The intercom was connected and linked to the VHF which works well as a set up. Being able to talk to your passenger can transform a hovercrafting trip making it much more relaxed, enjoyable and safer as well.

Some pre flight checks and an engine warm up then we were off down the short run of pebbles on to the Loch. The first time you go out after a while there is always a little adrenalin rush and this one was no exception. Did I say it was cold earlier well I lied; it was freeeeeezing the wind chill was incredible. We headed for Inverary taking small detours on the way.
Apart from the cold it was all good. The weather was perfect and the craft was fyne too cruising around 20mph!  We lunched on our return at the Furnace Inn, the three cheeses macaroni went down well. The food here is always excellent although it was eating with jackets on as an open fire and a stove plus heating didn't seem able to get the temperature up... It was warmer than outside so we weren't complaining. Early afternoon and we went back to the launch site for another trip out. My mobile rang; it was John he was out on the water. He was nearby at Castle Lachlan. We headed out and met up with John and the prospector. We had quick tour of the castle ruin before heading off for Lochgilphead.
Apart from the cold conditions were good although the wind, even behind the screen was not cold it was painful. The Vanguard had been well behaved up until now but gradually the carb icing issue raised its head. This was my fault as I had decided to remove the very functional but awkward half dustbin engine cover not long before this trip. The symptoms are a gradually slowing engine which becomes rougher with time. Often if you allow the engine to tick over or stop it for a while the resulting heat build up melts the ice in the carb. This happened as we neared Loch Gilphead where incidentally the harbour had frozen over and was not navigable. John and I went to get fuel and food. The queue was long, John was ahead of me and by the time I reached the tills was standing in an 'interesting place near the door. As I joined him I realised he was thawing himself out under the entrance door heaters!!!!! Back at the hovercraft we had hot tea compliments of John which was that little bit more welcome than usual and handy for pouring over my carb to help melt the ice inside. Because of my engine troubles it was decided that it would be better for Dawn to go with john in the prospector. We set off back for Furnace passing Goat Island and stopped after a few miles at a picnic spot near Ardcastle wood. From there it was back home to the Loghouse and a much needed thaw out!!!!
There is a lot to be said for winter hovering. It, in my view is more dramatic than going out at other times of the year. If you are well prepared (carb icing aside) and go out with other experienced operators to ensure safety isn't compromised you will most certainly have a memorable trip and for the right reasons.

Steve Holland - 6th January 2010
« Last Edit: Jul 25, 2010, 9:08 pm by John Robertson »