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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 December 2005, 14:54 GMT
Hover hobby is taken to the max
By Michael Lloyd
For BBC Scotland's news website

Max Houliston was devastated when James Bond blew up his hovercraft.

The Dumfries publican and musician was watching the Bond movie 'Die another day', on a plane home from Australia, when he recognised his pride and joy.

He had sold it to the James Bond company, never suspecting their intentions.

Max is now hovering above the Solway Firth in a 22-seater craft.
Max is now hovering above the Solway Firth in a 22-seater craft

But Max, with four previous hovercraft to his name, was undaunted.

He contacted the Ministry of Defence and now he's hovering above the Solway Firth again, in a 22-seater, ex-Army craft.

One of Scotland's leading accordionists, Max is also the owner of 'The Hole i' the wa' bar in Dumfries. He took up his hovering hobby 30 years ago, to get out into the open air.

"In those days, pubs didn't open in the afternoon and I wanted something to pass the time."

"I thought of buying a boat but the firth is too shallow where I was living at the time, so I found I would only get an hour's sailing," he said.

Fresh air

After reading about hovercraft, Max realised one would be the answer - as shallow water would offer no obstacle.

He tracked a craft down and was hooked the moment he began hovering.

Max said: "When you first lift off the ground you feel like a pilot, it's exhilarating."

"It gets me out of the pub atmosphere and out into the fresh air, which is lovely in this part of the world," he explained.

His latest vessel is not designed for the open sea, so Max's activities are confined to the coast - but that's good enough for him.

"It will travel down as far as Heston island and across to the English side of the firth at Workington, which is an interesting area," he said.

Even though his hovercraft has room for 22 passengers, Max isn't planning to cash in by offering trips.

He says it would too much work to run the vessel as a tour boat.

Max says it would too much work to run the vessel as a tour boat
Max says it would too much work to run the vessel as a tour boat

"If I thought on those lines I would need safety certificates and insurance for the passengers - it's just not for that, it is a hobby," he said.

Despite his passion for hovering across the firth, Max thinks it may soon be time to call it a day.

"I am getting a wee bit older now, so I think this will be my last hovercraft," he said, regretfully.

For the moment, the MAX006 continues to ply the Solway Firth.

And whatever happens the vessel, which he reckons has another 15 years of active life, won't be sold to anything other than a careful owner.

"There are already two people who are thinking of buying, but I'll hang on to it for at least another year," he insisted.

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