Oliver, with some minimal help from me, rigged the boat for the water in about 10 minutes. A set of wheels that have two vertical posts pop into the hull from the bottom to make moving the fully rigged boat a snap. The wheels float, by the way, so should you forget to take them out after launching, they'll be right under the boat, not on the lake bottom. You have to reach under and remove them.??
After asking a sunbathing young lady if we could run over her claimed spot, we hit the water. Once afloat in knee-deep water, the wheels come off and you're ready to sail. A paddle becomes practically unnecessary (unless you want to go backward). The drive system is there for the lulls in the wind.??
I sort of expected Oliver to hop on and give me a little demonstration on the agilities and abilities of this new beast, but no, he motioned for me to get aboard and give it a try! Mentally, I was a wee bit unprepared. This was a kayak with a sailing rig, after all.
I zipped up my life jacket, fully expecting this would be the day to need it. I adjusted the pedals to my leg length (a snap), fiddled a bit with the rudder and sheet to get familiar with the layout and before I could turn back I was headed down wind and toward deep water.
Despite my trepidation, the boat gave me a break. I experimented with the rudder, yanked in on the sheet, pushed one of the pedals forward to fold up the propulsion wings under the hull and set a course to tack. I picked up speed--or what seemed like speed at that minute.
I jibed and headed down wind, came about and got into a starboard tack. By now I was far enough out in the cove that the wind was more active. I pulled in a bit more on the sheet and the starboard pontoon lifted free of the water and I began to get some splash coming back over the bow. Now things were getting interesting. That's when I got my ruddering mixed up. I headed downwind too much and lost my burst of speed.??
That happened one way or another several more times. I don't think I'd be invited to join the America's Cup, but with a little more practice (an hour isn't enough), I'd have been flying around that lake. What I found great about sailing the Adventure Island with the propulsion system was the ease of coming about. The boat will lose speed quickly because it is so light--there's no mass to keep your momentum up. Never fear. Just pedal a bit while you're fishing for the wind on the opposite tack and you hardly miss a beat.??
As a matter of fact, if you really feel the need for speed, you can pedal while under way when the wind is light. But that, for me, goes against the concept of trying to keep cool on a hot day. Better to sit back, relax and let the breezes do their thing. If and when the wind does stop, you could roll up the sail and pedal for home, making better time than you would under traditional paddle power.
Back on shore it took us around 10 minutes to disassemble the craft and strap it into two sets of J-cradles. I figured the hull alone is a bit more cumbersome and heavier than a traditional kayak, but Oliver said that with a little practice and grabbing the molded-in handles, loading can be accomplished by a single person.
Now, let's see, where did I hide that three grand? I'm thinking I need to add another boat to my fleet....
Jeff Strout's column on outdoor recreation is published each Saturday in the Bangor Daily News ( www.bangornews.com ).
For more information on Hobie watercraft visit www.hobiecat.com.