The market for rotomolded plastic kayaks is enormous, but the realm of rotomolded sailing kayaks is much smaller and has for some time been dominated by Hobie’s two Mirage Island model trimaran kayaks. By combining the company’s proprietary pedal-driven Mirage under-the-hull paddling system with efficient, but easy-to-handle sailing rigs, Hobie has succeeded in creating a new class of fun, yet versatile, small sailboats.
Like its recently departed founder, the famed surfboard shaper turned beach-cat guru Hobie Alter, the company is always striving forward, so I wasn’t too surprised to learn it has made a big investment in upgrading both the single-seat Adventure and the double-seat Tandem (of which the Mirage Island line is comprised). New features include fuller hull and ama forms with reverse wave-piercing bows; an improved Mirage Drive system with proper bearings for smoother, more efficient operation; a pivoting centerboard instead of a daggerboard; larger amas; and a stiffer two-piece carbon-fiber mast carrying more sail area.
All well and good. But on test-sailing a new Tandem out of Fay’s Boat Yard on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, I quickly concluded the most important new features are Hobie’s excellent Vantage CT seats. These are more elevated than their predecessors, lightweight, quick-drying and infinitely adjustable with great lumbar support, so that creaky older guys like me who are normally crippled by crummy kayak seats can ride very comfortably in them for long periods of time.
Shoreside I found the boat a bit heavier than I expected—it certainly helps to have two people hoisting the 130lb main hull around—but assembling the beast is dirt simple. The folding ama arms snap on to the hull in an instant and can be easily extended or folded on the go. Stepping the sailing rig, which features a free-standing rotating mast around which the surprisingly efficient fully-battened sail is furled, is as easy as dropping a lightweight pole in a hole.
Most controls can be handled from either cockpit station, but in this case I ran everything from the back end while my sailing partner restricted himself to popping the centerboard up and down. In the end I was grateful we had moderate conditions for our test sail, because one thing’s for sure: this is not a dry boat, and in any sort of breeze or chop you will be happiest wearing a bathing suit. That said, the little trimaran definitely behaved like a real sailboat, pointing close to the breeze and maintaining good speed—up to 5 knots (per my handheld GPS) in 7 to 10 knots of wind. In a much stronger breeze, I’m guessing it provides a fast, raucous blast of a ride.
One thing I noticed is how flexible the craft is, as we seemed to undulate over the small waves we met. I can only assume this helps the boat cope with larger waves and keeps the ama bows from burying themselves too quickly when running at speed. I also liked how easy it was to use the Mirage Drive to augment our speed when the sailing got slow. I usually feel like I have failed as a sailor when I resort to auxiliary power, but on this vessel it felt perfectly natural (and not at all guilt-inducing) to give a few pedal strokes when I wanted to keep boatspeed up.
My only real quibble concerns the little rudder-control lever. It is stiff with little mechanical advantage and works best if you pick a setting and leave it there for a while, rather than constantly working it. I suspect this would be particularly important in strong conditions. My one suggestion for future improvements would be to somehow make the helm smoother and easier to operate.
SA/D RATIO 37 (Tandem); 32 (Adventure)
D/L RATIO 17 (Tandem); 18 (Adventure)
What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios