Hobie's dodger gets little fanfare, yet purports to offer some intriguing benefits -- better stealth for wildlife close-ups, warmth in cool weather, and spray shield. I decided to try one out for possible winter use and ordered the camouflage. They come in silver and yellow also, but I thought the camo would keep the sun's brightness and reflection off the eyes better. Here's what it looks like on the Adventure:
Composite side view
Note on this picture, the stored sail is pressing the Dodger a little off center. This is because the front sail loop is too short, not a problem with the Dodger.
Looking out from the cockpit.
The Dodger is bigger than I thought. The material feels quite heavy duty and fit for the job. There is a small flap forward for the sail to fit in, and the extreme rear section has a split flap that Velcros open and closed for entry and exit.
Two sets of fiberglass (?) rods assemble in pockets inside to give shape. The unit is then attached to the boat with six sewn in bungee loops to eyelet posts that have been pre-installed with an included kit. The eyelets are very easy to install once you mark their location. Once in position, the Dodger holds its shape well without any flopping around.
I took the sail along to see how everything fits with my rigging scheme. I run the mainsheet forward to a block in the front cockpit area and was concerned that the Dodger might get in the way of this. There was absolutely no interference or problem, however.
With the Adventure, the rudder can be operated from either inside the Dodger or outside without any difficulty.
The only problem I noted was a tendency for the Dodger to knock the paddle off its front support and can be seen here:
I have the earlier modelAdventure, so the improved bungee on the newer models may have less of a problem. Likewise, other Hobie kayak models are wider and may not have this issue. I also found that it's easier to insert the Mirage Drive before mounting the Dodger.
Operation was pretty slick. At first it felt a little strange not to be able to see the Drive. Learning how to flip the pedals onto the feet without looking took a few tries, but wasn't hard to learn. Pedaling, my bent knees lightly touched the rear of the Dodger, but it wasn't bothersome, and I forgot about it after a few minutes. I initially wondered if the Dodger would be restricting in case of capsize under sail. I concluded that it would take about 3 to 5 seconds to clear the legs and was pretty sure I couldn't drown that fast. After getting underway I didn't give it another thought.
The Adventure is the wettest of the Hobie kayaks, so it is an ideal boat to assess comfort with. My legs kept warm and dry the whole time. The wind only got up to about 10 kts and there was no breaking water over the bow, but the scuppers were sealed and I stayed completely dry and comfortable. There were no problems with overheating or humidity inside the Dodger despite my continually active pedaling for almost two hours. There was some spray and splash on the outside of the Dodger so you could see that it was doing its job. I think this would work quite well in rain also. Although not necessary, I plan to spray some silicon fabric waterproofing on it to minimize water absorption. Perhaps it has some on already since any spray tended to bead up on the surface.
I'm more familiar with the behavior of the lake birds than the bay birds, but even with the sail, I was surprised how close I was able to get to the birds down on Mission Bay. No doubt, with no visible leg motion, you can approach silently just like a drifting log. Here's how close I got with some of birds.
The more I looked at it, the more attached I became to the "Mossy Oak" camouflage. It doesn't match a darned thing, but is easy on the eyes and I really think it helps get me closer to wildlife in spite of the stark white boat. Perhaps it camouflages the whole boat? Besides, it's way cooler than my "Gucci" seat back fanny pack pouch!!
As noted above, there was no interference with sailing. The mast drops in through the open flap and the downhaul bungee is reachable from the outside by slipping the hand under the Dodger.
I detached the right rear dodger bungee to get a little more freedom of movement for the sheeting hand and for ease slipping the daggerboard in and out.. It's also necessary to enter and exit the boat.
I got in and out a few times with the Dodger in this position and didn't experience any problems.
I crashed through a flotilla of (mostly) sabots (not racing). All they could see was the sail, not the pedals operating. I'm sure they wondered how I got such ridiculous speed from such a small sail in light wind. This was totally cool to my juvenile sense of humor!
The Dodger does its job well. and should extend the kayaking season, especially for those who live in the more Northern climates where it actually gets cold!
I also plan to get another mounting kit so I can set this up for the forward cockpit on our tandem Oasis for my wife. This should keep her much drier in choppy water. Hobie doesn't carry kits by themselves, but it should be possible to order the individual eyelet posts (PN 41220001) and screws (PN 8031130).
Here's another thread on the Dodger with links to more pics: http://kfs.infopop.cc/eve/forums/a/tpc/ ... 5441025932