Note: this the third in a three part series on the PA. The other parts are linked here:
Part I: Loading and Handling
http://www.hobiecat.com/community/viewt ... e0f99f5027
Part II: Features and Accessories
Initially I was tempted to compare the Pro Angler to various other Hobie kayaks. Upon further reflection, the PA is really in a class by itself and as such, should just be described. So I'll try to do that here.
Lets first take a look at the three methods of propulsion it is capable of: pedaling, paddling and sailing.
of course, is the preferred method of operation. I started out with a one hour "fast cruise" to give some approximation of range. The boat managed a respectable 4.54 miles (GPS) in an hour. Conditions were optimal; winds light and variable, no current, tide or chop. On a shorter three mile cruise, the boat averaged 4.66 MPH.
I didn't experience significant winds or chop during the test, so can only estimate that moderate headwinds and chop would probably drop the speed about 10%, and shouldn't pose much of a problem. There is ample rudder authority (more details below) to easily handle winds from any direction and the Mirage Drive units have an outstanding record of both operating and rescue in significant wind and chop.
The test boat got up to 6.0 MPH on a sprint. This two picture sequence shows that as with all boats, as speed increases, it begins to settle into its own wake, limiting the top speed:
But with a power boat wake providing a wake to ride, the PA can exceed 7 MPH for brief periods. While not as nimble as the lighter kayaks, it still moves along at a surprisingly good clip.. This picture shows it gracefully grabbing a little surfing action on a small swell:
Extended cruising speed was about 4 MPH with the Turbofins.
With a generous beam and elevated hand rails, the boat was not really designed with paddling in mind. That doesn't mean you can't so it -- the elevated seat helps compensate. With the rudder down, the boat is reasonably controllable. You have to consciously adapt the stroke to swing the paddle wide in order to avoid contact with the side handles. Standing, paddling is quite easy from either the main cockpit or the rear deck.
Directional control is not difficult to maintain. I think a stand up paddle would be a very useful accessory with this boat!
For some years now, all Hobie kayaks have had a sailing capability. The PA is no exception. This is a totally cool feature.
One can sail along leisurely (which means not particularly fast) or use hybrid power (sailing and pedaling) to move along at a decent speed without too much effort. Even better, if the wind fails all together or you need to get upwind in a hurry, you're never stuck!
For those not familiar with the Hobie sail, set it up is almost instantaneous -- Step the mast by dropping it in the mast receiver, connect the downhaul bungee (shown here), rig the mainsheet and sail away.
No halyards or stays to connect or adjust. Once sheeted, it's easy to drop the sail and set it back up again while underway -- it just rolls up!
The PA points OK, but makes noticeable leeway with just the Turbofins acting as a daggerboard. Without pedaling, upwind progress is slow. It's easy to pedal while beating to windward to compensate; oddly, this doesn't seem to cause any additional leeward drift.
The boat has good manners -- it is very stable with the Hobie small sail and rudder authority is quite adequate up through the few moderate gusts that showed up. The rudder is balanced well. The boat sailed in the 3's and 4's and topped out at 4.7 MPH in moderate winds. I couldn't imagine anyone wanting outriggers (i.e. Sidekick) with this boat.
The PA will tack on a dime, but you need to reverse the rudder early to keep its momentum from overshooting your new heading. The boat has some lean-steer. While this works well for fine tuning your heading while cruising, it adds some weather helm in gusts, as with most sailboats.
Next, lets review some of the handling characteristics:
on this boat is remarkable! This boat almost spins like a top. With ample rocker designed into the hull and good rudder authority, the boat responds well at all speeds. Take a look at the wake at this next picture to see how efficiently the rudder channels the thrust output right out the side -- almost like a jet boat!
Here's another pic showing the end of a 270 degree turn.
The flip side of the coin -- a boat that can turn like this rarely tracks well. The PA is no exception, requiring almost constant correction to hold course. The boat reacts to the tiniest rudder input. Once a correction is made, there is a small time lag before the hull starts to respond, and there is a tendency to add a second adjustment, making it easy to over-correct. Once you get used to it, this becomes much easier to anticipate and keep the boat going where you want instead of wandering back and forth.
All in all, it's a good trade off -- excellent turning and maneuverability for a very sensitive helm.
Hobie may not be the first to combine a monohull bow with a twin stern, but has developed this concept to great advantage in offering an excellent combination of speed, handling and stability.
The tunnel stern seems to cancel some of the stern wake, giving the boat a nice boost in cruising speed for its size. notice the speed sucking distinct stern wake from a Hobie Classic in this picture...
is virtually absent with the PA...
In some conditions, depending on weight, speed and water conditions the hull emits a gulping noise from the stern area. It sounds a little like bubbles in a water cooler. I suspect the rudder pocket may be in and out of the water in some conditions. While not annoying, it is quite distinct! Perhaps it's not uncommon with tunnel hulls -- I noticed a distinct hull slap on one of the competitor's fully tunneled kayaks. Nobody ever seems to mention it, but I couldn't miss it!
Everyone seems to like the Cool Ride seat. I found it quite comfortable in all situations except after prolonged pedaling during the fast cruise test. The lack of 'give' in the seat bottom gave me a sore butt. I took an i-comfort inflatable seat and placed it on the Cool Ride and found that to be a significant improvement.
The seatback has adjustable seat straps -- a very nice feature. There is also a strap to snap the seat closed. The original lock (I am told) will break off if you forget to release it. I don't have a picture of it here, but it is the black lever on the left rear of the seat bottom. Sorry, it isn't a secret ejection lever after all!
Bottom line -- it's best to use the strap and ignore the locking lever.
the fishing ergonomics of this set-up are very well thought out. Rods can be stored quickly and securely without having to drop them in a hatch. The center Hatch tray holds a ton of stuff in almost any combination you like. The cutting board is a great feature and well located. The forward hatch tray will hold fish on ice (if you provide the ice). You can customize the side compartments with tackle boxes, lunch boxes, tool boxes, radio or TV or anything you want next to you! The cargo area can hold the bait tank AND wheels, a cooler and other bulky equipment.
Beside fishing, this would seem to make a great expedition boat. In addition to interior hull storage, you can load the foredeck, huge cargo area and afterdeck with about everything including the kitchen sink. Tents, sleeping bags, folding chairs, perhaps even a bicycle!
Hunting, photography, exercise, sight seeing -- I can't think of anything a kayak can do that this boat can't, except perhaps Eskimo rolls and rapids. The PA can launch through surf, off a dock or at most shore lines. Light enough for a roof rack, compact enough for a truck bed, it transports easily without a trailer.
Overall, I really like the boat. It feels solid, handles well, moves along nicely -- and is fun to ride!