Best of Both Worlds: Sailing Kayak

More than a kayak, the Hobie Adventure Island features a boomless sail rig and an advanced pedaling system. Photo compliments of Hobie.

BANGOR, Maine--With the temperatures as warm as they've been this summer, paddling a kayak is at the bottom of the list of?my most favorite things to do. Sitting in a breeze and sipping on a cold drink is much more attractive.??

But I've found the answer to my Aquarius leanings that satisfies the need to get out on the water and beat the heat at the same time, thanks to Doug Oliver at the Ski Rack in Bangor, Maine.

Oliver called last week to entice me to try a sailing rig on a kayak.??

Perfect, I thought, not much energy expended, movement across the water and from the cockpit of a kayak. What more could I ask for? We met at Gould Landing, Pushaw Lake. We had the place to ourselves--along with about 40 others seeking relief from the heat.??

There are numerous sailing rigs offered in the kayak aftermarket, and I'll admit I have eyed them with a degree of curiosity tempered with a little skepticism. After all, it doesn't take much more than a wink to flip a kayak if you're not paying attention. So putting a 12-foot mast amidships, affixing a sail and heading out on the water would seem to be akin to Russian roulette, wouldn't it?

A little less risky, I figured, are those smaller sailing rigs that allow you to run with the wind. They're pretty small and something you could drop quickly in the event of a sudden blow. But you'd need a rudder on your kayak, and I've got a skeg, so they've been only a curiosity.

Enter Oliver and his Hobie Mirage Adventure Island kayak. It's essentially a 16-foot sit-on-top kayak equipped with Hobie's Mirage drive--a pedal-powered set of flippers under the boat that flap just like penguin wings do underwater. If you've ever watched these critters, you know they can motor under water.

Hobie designers must have been paying close attention, too, because they devised the leg-powered drive system that will out-power a kayak paddle (actually one person can out-pull two traditional paddlers in a tug of war). The flippers/wings will fold up close against the hull for shallow water or beach landings.??

And what's really neat about this drive system is that it can be installed through a slot in the hull in seconds, or removed equally as fast. The Mirage Drive fins fold up next to the hull for beaching and in shallow water by simply putting one foot forward.??

Hobie has several models of sit-on-top kayaks with this drive system, but none with a mast and sail--until now. Oliver said he saw the new offering at a trade show last fall, and immediately decided against ordering one, figuring no one in the Bangor area would be interested. Wrong. He had two requests from customers, filled those orders, and has moved more since.

But I'm a little ahead of myself. The Adventure Island designers drew on their extensive experience with Hobie catamarans, long known for their speed and prowess on the water. They started with a sit-on-top kayak, designed a neat fold-back centerboard and scupper hole in which to install it, bent up some aluminum tubing to fasten two roto-molded outriggers to the main hull and designed the system so it would fold back against the hull for easy transport to the water.

A mast step was molded into the hull that allows the sail to be furled by rotating the mast with a line. The sail simply rolls up around the mast, or unrolls when you pull the main sheet. A jam cleat holds the sheet to ease control under way.

The rudder is operated with a small lever at your left hand. Turn it left and the boat goes left--right and the boat goes right (the opposite of a tiller and it did get me mixed up a little). And another lever, behind your right hip, operates the rudder lift you use when you're landing.

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