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Old 02-12-2007, 12:51 PM   #1
Junior Member
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Portland, OR and Haiku, Maui and Manzanita, OR
Posts: 2
New Toy: Sailing a Hobie Adventure Island in Maui

A few weeks before I left Portland for this two week “guy trip” with my buddies I was reading a magazine article (I think it was “Men’s Journal” but I have a lousy memory) about these guys that took a new kind of sailing kayak along the coast of Costa rica looking for unpopulated surf breaks. The kayaks sounded very cool so I looked them up on the Hobie site–they’re called Adventure Island’s. After a little more research I decided to buy one. My wonderful wife Diane said “you’re going to be there with your buddies, you should buy at least two”.
So I contacted the dealer in Maui: Valley Isle Marine and ordered two of them for about $3000 each. That’s a lot of money for a kayak with a sail, but I had big hopes for these things. No point in maintaining the suspense–they’re worth every nickel.

My buddy Paul Montgomery and I picked them up from Valley Isle (stuck both of them on my Jeep), and took them down to the Kamaole I beach in Kiehi. We decided on a south side beach because we had no idea of the capabilities of these things. Alert readers will note that the picture above is NOT Kam I, it’s Makena Landing. I didn’t bring a camera along the first day.

We put the boats together and headed off for a sail–not much fuss, and it turns out that the boats sail great. They point very well, they’re very fast, and if they go into irons a little on a tack you can just pedal them through. Yes, I said pedal, they have a mirage drive that works like penguin wings under water.

We cruised up the coast under sail until we reached the Four Seasons hotel, beached the boats, got a beer at their bar and sat for a while watching the tourists around the pool (yikes, there’s some scary ones), then headed back. While we were hanging around at the Four Seasons the wind picked up a bunch and the swell got big. We were in about twenty knots of wind and five foot swells. It would have been horrible in a conventional Kayak, but no big deal in the Adventure Island. We both shortened sail a bit (the sail has roller furling) and blasted back to Kam I. It was a hoot. We loaded the boats up and headed to Jacques in Paia for dinner.

The next day we went surfing and by the time we got home another buddy from Portland, John Karamanos, was at the house. We decided the next day to do both surfing and sail the boats. We drove to Puamana Beach Park near Lahina and did some stand-up surfing in the light waves. Both John and Paul took off in the boats. John had a lot of problems figuring out the saling part, but got it a enough to move around, though he did a lot of pedalling.

John and Paul at Puamana
A few words about the mirage drive–it’s amazingly fast and seems much easier than paddling. The boat runs smoothly along in silence with just a burble of water from the hull. You steer the boat with a rudder controller that’s a little lever right where your left hand naturally falls. There’s enough stickiness to the lever to keep the rudder pointed where you left it to some degree, so you can make minimal tweaks and take your hand off the control for a few seconds if you need to.

Mirage Drive. The rudder control is to the right of the picture right behind the net-covered stow area

The big surprise about this boat is how good it is at everything, and how well thought out every bit is. It takes about fifteen minutes to put it together and double-check everything. You can stow so much stuff it’s amazing.

Towards the end of the day we took the boats apart and stowed them in the jeep. Big mistake–a few minutes later there were whales everywhere, and a big pod just offshore. I jumped onto the standup board and paddled out about half a mile. A few minutes later the pod moved close to me–a whale surfaced twenty feet behind me, I heard him before I saw him. Very exciting. I paddled back in and Paul headed out. While he was out a big whale started tail slapping close to him. The whale bashed away at the water for ten or more minutes. Amazing.

On the following day Paul took my windsurfing gear and headed for Kanaha–the wind was good. John and I headed for the South side again, this time to Makena Beach, where the top photo was shot. We didn’t get into the water until about 1:30 (a lot of poking around) but the wind was good and the swells seemed OK, so we headed straight out towards Molokini Crater, a popular dive spot. Just about every Kayaking outfit on the island warns against going to Molokini because the current between the Maui and Molokini are very powerful and it’s easy to get swept to sea. Seems like someone manages to do that every year. Some die. The next stop is Japan.

Still, we felt very confident in the Adventure Island’s abilities to make the passage, and sure enough, we did it with no drama in not much more time than the dive boats take. The idea of having three propulsion systems is very heartening on a trip like this. Backup to the backup. By this time John had a good handle on sailing the Hobie, so much so that I had to work to keep up with him. I think the Red boat is faster. At least that’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.

On the way back we had a pod of whales come up all around us. One surfaced no more than twenty feet from us. The silence of the Hobies clearly makes these kinds of encounters feasible. It was thrilling. The warm spray from the whale’s blow hole blew across my face. That’s close.

We took a cruise past Little Beach on the way back to gawk at the nude bathers. I warned John that most times what you see at Little Beach makes you want to claw your own eyes out, but this time a very pretty and well stuck together young lady obliged us by running into the surf and jumping around for a bit. My megalomania suggests she was putting on a show for us, but I think a couple of geezers in strange looking boats might not be a major object of desire.

Great day, great boats.
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