March 2003

At this stage, the hovercraft had reached the point where I could have and should have started to weld it all together. I suppose I was putting off doing the actual welding of the frame, as I knew that if I messed it up, then I would have wasted many days of frame construction. But thereís only so much metal you can screw together.

The hull had now got to the point where it was too big to live on the garage floor along with the two Landrovers. When it was just the top frame it was just an inch thick and so could stand on its side between them, but once the cockpit was added, it became too big. The answer was to fit a winch into the attic of the garage, and hoist the hovercraft into the ceiling, so that it could hang over one of the Landrovers.

The Winch and the RD200

Looking in the  Northern Tool and Machine Mart catalogues, both companies advertised what looked like identical mains-powered 400kg winches, but the Northern Tools one was much cheaper, so I ordered the cheaper one, plus some webbing straps to act as safety lines.

The winch looked great, but it needed some sort of frame to support it. I have always got some lengths of 50mm x 50mm x 3mm angle steel hanging around - itís so useful, so I built a simple rectangular frame for the winch - no welding, just M12 nuts and bolts holding it all together. Strangely the winch frame was built entirely in one day with no problems.

I sprayed the winch frame components with red primer and hung the angle pieces out to dry on the clothes line. The wife didnít complain Ė well she wouldnít, she was off line dancing for the weekend. Graham, in work, had offered me a free Yamaha RD200, so after having primed the winch frame we went off to Kingston (in South West London, not Jamaica) to pick it up. OK so the engine was too small, it hadnít moved for 3 years and the front wheel looks like it ran over a brick. (It did run over a brick, thatís why it hasnít moved for 3 years). But on the plus side it was free, and it gave me a chance to take apart a bike for the first time. After struggling a while we managed to get the bike to just about fit into the back of the Discovery, with one of the rear seats folded down. Iím sure it would have been much easier if we had taken the front wheel off, but we didnít.

When we got back from Grahamís I sprayed the winch frame components with bright red top coat. OK so it will spend its life indoors, and so would never get too rusty, but it did look very nice all sprayed up.

I fitted the winch and its frame into the garage attic and it worked a treat, but I wasnít convinced that the roof joists would take the load when the hovercraft got much heavier, so I order a 4.9 metre I-section steel beam from Sparrowhawks (our local heavy metal dealer near Epsom). The following week, the 4.9metre beam arrived, cut to exactly the right length. We tried lifting the beam onto the garage wall plates using the winch Ė how appropriate! but as the truss timbers are only two feet apart, and the beam is wider than the distance between the walls (it has to be to span the gap!) it wouldnít go in with the garage roof in place. I needed to either remove some roof tiles and battens (no way, I fitted them good and proper), or trim the beam with the angle grinder. It took a lot of trimming as I didnít want to cut the beam too short Ė remember it had to span the gap between the walls.

The winch arrangement looked like it would do the job, but how was I going to attach the winch wire to the hovercraft? I decided to suspend the hovercraft from an H-shaped lifting frame using rope loops, and then lift the frame at its mid-point.

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