You read that in every How-to novel writing advice, the call of adventure that the hero or heroine spurns at first… I wish to share this incredible moment when I boarded and rode an experimental hovercraft.
The name of the vehicle was… Starship. Don’t laugh. It was a miniature orange two-person hovercraft, in demonstration at an event organized by my father (a hovercraft specialist) for an aerospace association that do not exist today. A jobless geographer atthe time, I had volunteered to help him with small things. We were in a hangar by the St-Lawrence River, under a gray sky.
One visiting engineer had been invited to test it, but he said he would get drenched (and he was an experienced, gray-haired guy, I suspect he knew what to expect bouncing in a small craft next to the engine, while I didn’t). So, I offered to go instead. I put on a thick and loose and dark wetsuit over my light and elegant September clothes and sat behind the pilot.
The first assault on my senses was the deafening noise of the main engine (see in the pic, right in my back) and the propeller pulling the air down to lift the hovercraft, screaming at one hundred and ten decibels that made even the red composite hull shake. It was impossible to talk, and the earmuffs might have been cotton candy for all the protecting they did.
After the flat concrete, the cold, cold September water of the St-Lawrence River rushed at us, sprayed droplets everywhere. Water seeped through the seams of the wetsuit, enclosing my legs in a moist embrace. The smell of tar and exhaust, the stench of dead fish coming from the posts of the bridge we were passing nearby gave a moldy taste on my tongue. But nothing beat the excitement of flying over the water in an experimetal hovercraft!
The hovercreaft jumped over chopping waves, propelled so fast every bone of my spine and basin was vibrating at the same pace. I grabbed the hull on my sides, not sure the orange lifejacket would be of any use if a sudden swerve shook me off. The craft reached the faraway bridge at piers in less than a minute!
At our dizzying speed bouncing over the wavelets, the air rushed at my face with countless droplets, my carefully combed hair was askew, but I still remember today how exhilarating those five minutes had been!
My grateful thanks for the gallant Starship pilot, who may have retired since the pic ws taken (I didn’t get your name, alas, so say hello if you recognize yourself!) Note how on the pics the pilot did not wear the earmuffs; he probably lent those to me for the test drive.
And kudos to the fellow engineer who took this picture and sent it to my dad, Jacques Laframboise, a few weeks later. We thought you might like this as a little memento of a happy day, he had written, noting the dsate September 23rd, 1987, and a time 2 min 45 sec, which may be the time elapsed in the hovercraft test drive. Alas, that friend didn’t write his name, and my father has flown into the great unknown in 2014.
It had been 34 years, and I still count those three minutes as the most exciting in my life!