A couple of times a month I find myself sitting in the window of the Hovertravel hovercraft at Ryde, ready to set off for Southsea.

That moment when the craft rises ponderously from its haunches, then slides gloriously sideways into the sea, is one of the most exciting bits of any journey I ever go on.

I know it has had its problems recently, but it still remains, for me, a miracle of the modern age.

The hovercraft was a rare treat when I was young, and although now it is no longer such a novelty, the exotic excitement of a trip on this extraordinary vessel has hardly dimmed.

There’s the feeling of flying — in fact, the reality of flying - without any of that tedious business of getting to an airport and climbing into an aircraft.

Those hovercraft go fast, and when you’re sitting there watching the waves whip by it really is an exhilarating feeling — a shame it’s over in ten minutes.

I am lucky enough to live within earshot of the Ryde end of the cross-Solent hovercraft route, and I will confess to going down to the seafront from time to time simply to watch the big beasts come and go. The little platform of the nearby railway bridge is one of the best places to do this, and there is often a whole gaggle of gongoozlers gawping at the arrivals, and holding their hats when the blast of sandy wind hits and another hovercraft slides down the apron.

Shoreline birds scatter as the craft pick up speed and head for the mainland in a cloud of spray. The machines have a balletic poise and motion that is like nothing else, and the distinctive roar of the powerful engines has been a feature of Ryde for as long as I can remember.

It beats me why this isn’t a major stop on the tourist circuit. People pay far more to go on tedious rides at Thorpe Park or Alton Towers, with the added penalty of queueing for hours with a bunch of moaning kids.

I mean, I’ve no doubt that Nemesis Inferno is a memorable experience, but what if you could have all that, and then get off for a few hours fun in Southsea? And not just any bit of Southsea, no, it’s Clarence Pier, where there is a rollercoaster, a Wimpy bar and, unexpectedly, a greengrocers.

Set far from the bustling town on the southern side of blustery Southsea Common it’s like an honorary bit of the IW which has somehow been annexed by the mainland. The busy hovercraft coming and going just add to the air of retro-future otherworldliness.

Hovertravel tells us that it runs the world’s only year-round passenger hovercraft service, and it has always amazed me that the hovercraft is not far more popular around the world. I’m puzzled, but somehow proud, that the Solent is the only place where this awesome technology is used.

Yes, it’s noisy, and no, you can’t drive your car onto it but my, it’s exciting, fast and such great fun.