Hoveraction

19 08 2009

 

Well, they may not be gold-plated, maintained and crewed by bunnies, nor armed even  with the latest  Metalstorm defensive measures, but Broome is in fact home to one of the few hovercraft companies operating in Australia, the Spirit of Broome.

Last week after 6 years of meaning-to, I finally got to give them a go along with a number of hangers-on, and was glad to say it was totally worthwhile. With Broome located on the edge of  the massive Roebuck Bay, essentially a  mudflat system subject to some of the largest  tidal movement to be found in the world, little else makes perfect sense for exploring said bay like a hovercraft.

Skimming the mudflats

And so at roughly 8am, we made our way to the launch site, endured the brief intro and safety talk and boarded our craft. With a minimum of fuss the engines  fired up, the “cushion” of air on which we rode lifting us gently up, the huge fans on the back spin up for drive and we’re off.

Heading Out

The Spirit of Broome  operate two craft, a smaller one we didn’t see, and this one, a 12-or-so seater capable of a cruising speed of 35 knots in the right conditions. Conditions for our trip were near perfect, little wind or wave action and a fantastic low Broome tide that made the advantages of this kind of travel so apparent. We skimmed effortlessly across mud, sand and pockets of water, transitioning all without the slightest trouble. From water to land and back, there really was no change in momentum as we made our way past the town and further up the bay system.

 

Best part was travelling only about 15 – 20 minutes and visiting remote areas such as Redcliff, an isolated stetch of beach totally inaccessible by any other means at  low tide, except perhaps by chopper. Didn’t see any of them when we stopped on the beach here, just a glorious expanse of pindan-red earth joining scrubland with the foreshore.

Redcliff

140 Million Years on display

Our “pilot” was well schooled on the area, filling us in on the lie of the land and its history. We looked briefly in the rocks for mudcrabs, a local delicacy, but none were to be found today.

He also gave us a facinating insight into the prevalent dinosaur activity in the region, showing us numerous examples of different dinosaur footprints scattered around the immediate area. This photo shows a number of us, each standing in the footprint of a huge plant-eating dino that walked this way millions of years ago when the area was still part of a massive continent-covering forest.

In the footsteps of time

Finally we headed back, across the water this time. The whole trip was about an hour, and a thoroughly worthwhile and dare I say, unique experience. We kept an eye out  for whales, a number of them have been spotted recently off Cable Beach but saw none in the bay today. Cruised passed the boats moored at the port, including one of  Paspaley Pearls’ huge white pearling motherships.

Broome Port jetty 

So in all, a great trip, highly recommend you all do it when you’re here, I can think of at least one best-selling author for whom the experience might well prove worthwhile when the time comes to upgrade the fleet.

Thunderbird 4 returning to base

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8 responses

19 08 2009
yankeedog

Now that’s a cool hover! How much does one of those cost? You bet I’d like to have one-it’d be awesome to take one of those on the river. It actually looks like a good practical design for a family GEV.

19 08 2009
drej08

YD! Man, I can’t believe I didn’t get the cost, rest assured I will get back to you on that. Yep, the first thing I think I said when we started out, was “gotta get me one of these…”

19 08 2009
Abe

Whoa! Sweet ride, drej!

20 08 2009
chazfh

Hmm nice ride but missing certain MilSpec goodies…

I once did the hovercraft run over the channel, just before the route was closed due to bad weather. It was sea state 5-6 and i had real problems drinking my glass of fizzy wine.

There is a slim chance we might be up your way in Oct, slim but still a chance will know within a week.

21 08 2009
Dr Yobbo

Looks like the only way to fly.

The Poms seem to have a hovercraft as their rain covers at the cricket. I guess since it gets used that often it’s worth the investment…

22 08 2009
drej08

Abe, thanks, and for dropping by!
Chaz, yeah hovers don’t like waves, hope you managed to overcome those probs…
Doc, definitely!

1 09 2009
bangarrr

Any gold plated options? 😉

1 09 2009
drej

Bangar, sure, right next to the atomic reactor on the list that you’d need to power the thing carrying that much extra weight 🙂

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