Andy Pittman and Doug Ihrig drove to Muscoda from Terre Haute and camped overnite, waiting for the spring hoverin planned for March 25 and 26. What Andy and Doug didn't know, was what the wind would do to them!!

This is Andy's craft in the foreground, after Saturday's hoverin!

Here's Doug's version of what happened....

HOVERING AGAINST THE WIND

For those of you that weren't at the hover-in on March 25th, Mother Nature gave us a huge challenge...wind A constant velocity of about twenty miles per hour and gusting up to 40-ish, on an otherwise beautiful spring day, on the Wisconsin River. As it passed noon a few die hards made an effort to hover around the boat launch, giving rides to whom ever wanted one.

At about one o'clock, Andy Pittman and myself decided to take a crack at it. Being out earlier in the morning we knew it was going to be chilly. We took off from the ramp heading down stream west and into the wind; it was slow going at times when the wind gusted. Temperature was not too bad...we tried to stay close to the south bank but when the river bent the wind was creating two foot high waves some were turning over like on a shore.

When some of the waves hit the front of Andy's StarCruiser, it mostly broke on either side of the craft, but spray would hit us in the face. With the cold water and the wind it gave us instant ice cream head aches. So we headed for some islands in the middle of the river, for the most part this was our salvation and the most enjoyment I've had in a while. The waves were only bad if the islands were spread out real far and that wasn't too often.

Each island had sand bars on them and going down stream they were very easy to get on and the other end had a small drop or no drop at all. We made our way down having great fun and only encountered a few, two foot drop offs from the sand bars that we both saw too late to slow, so we held on and as we went off said our little prayers... Oh Sh--!

Andy pulled over about 30 minutes or so and gave me a whirl at the controls. Now I have a combined hover crafting experience of about 3 hours driving on a single engine craft, but this is as good a time as any to learn. I started off the sand bar and did pretty well, the wind was kicking us around hard, you turn the rudders and your craft might turn, slide a food, or slide twenty feet every time was different.

After another ten minutes we pulled over, filled the front tank and headed back. We figured about six miles down stream. All right, with the wind, this isn't so bad, no wind in your face, no ice cream head aches, just very fast hovering. In about ten more minutes I wanted to let Andy get back on the controls, so I headed for a narrow but long sand bar.

As I approached I found it very difficult to steer unless the throttle was fairly high. But, I knew that I needed to go slow, right before going onto the bar a gust pushed me to the right so I gave it a little more gas (first mistake!). Quick, down throttle on the lift...next all I remember hearing is SMACK!

Luckily Andy or myself were not injured, but the craft's back port side struck the root part of the log and punctured the side. Well, little more than punctured, three feet of the wall was destroyed and about five inches in the floor. Cracked the wood on the top rail and the engine mounting support. Ripped the bag skirt about 10 inches and ripped some of the glass that was supporting the screws for the skirts itself.

We weren't planning to go far, thus we did not have many tools on us. Also, the bar was in the middle of the river closer to the south side which didn't have a road near the water. We moved the craft away from the log to assess the situation. We decided to see if the craft floated so we could use the thrust to move it in the water. If we could keep it on the starboard side it might work. After moving it thirty feet to the water and getting part of the craft in the water, we took a branch from the log about ten feet long. Stuck the small end in the rip into the skirt towards the front of the craft as far as possible. It went in about five feet which left a foot or so sticking out the end of the craft (the rip was four feet from the end of the craft). We then lifted the corner of the craft and shucked the log under the port of the hull. The only rope was the straps from the two life preservers, so we tied them together, one end tied to the craft, the other on the end of the log to keep it under us for extra flotation. Took off the battery case top to use as a water scoop, and put all the weight we could on the starboard side.

Here we go, turned the lift and thrust fans on and I started pushing the craft with Andy in the water, as it got into the water I jumped in and got toward the starboard side, but the limb was big enough to act like a rudder in the sand and keep turning us into the sand bar.

We made it about fifty feet by constantly pushing off the sand, then to our utter delight we saw a white hovercraft heading our way. We came back ashore and turned off the engines. It was Vernon Weber. He had some thread so he sewed the rip in the skirt, then we placed the wall of the craft that was still attached to the skirt down on the floor, placed the life preservers on top of that and then the rest of the wall. Removed the limb obviously, Andy was able to place his left foot on the foam which created enough lift to hover. We were about 2000 yards from a boat ramp going down river so he went for it.

Before Andy left Vernon went up stream to see about any other suitable exit sites. He came back and got me and made our way to the boat ramp. We filled up and all jumped in and headed back. As we came around the bend and barely made out the bridge (the ramp was just on the other side), his lift engine died. We made it to another sand bar, checked the float valve for water, and then changed spark plugs. At this time Mick Rockweiler in his HoverTrek, came looking for the three of us. The lift engine fired and Andy jumped in with Mick. We passed Verdon Weber just before the bridge and then to the ramp.

All in all, it was an adventure which is what I wanted. What did I learn? If you have a bag skirt, bring thread and needle if nothing else, an oar might be useful also.

At least now, Linda Weber has a new worst wreck picture for everyone.

Doug Ihrig

Here are the pictures of repair in process. The craft was fully repaired and painted in 7 hours.

 
 
 
  Thanks to the beauty of repairing fiberglass and foam, this type of hovercraft is back on the water in no time at all, with very little expense incurred!

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