I went to Paddlefest today, an annual gathering of yak venders in the SF Bay Area. I went specifically hoping to get a look at an AI. I got more than a look.
I'll start with my positive impressions. The sail is extremely easy to manage. The roller furling is controlled by two lines. A small line is pulled to reef or completely furl the sail. The other control line is the sheet. It is, of course, used to trim the sail and, if pulled harder with the "furling line" loosed, to unfurl it. Both lines are secured with cam cleats.
The "tiller" is a small plastic hand-operated handle, perhaps 6 inches long. It falls right to hand on the port rail. It swings through an arc of something less than 180 degrees. Under sail, the tiller is responsive and generally self-tending. IOW, you don't need to keep adjusting it - at least not in the light airs I experienced today. The vessel responded well to wind (when I found a little), accelerating quickly. There was no daggerboard in the boat when I took it out so I am unable to give you an accurate picture of how high it might point. I did keep the Mirage Drive peddles "centered" so I had some underwater lift. Without a daggerboard, and in winds less than 10 knots, I was able to tack through about 90 degrees.
The vessel is very stable with the amas attached. For comparison, I took an Adventure (straight, no sails or amas) out as well and it is much more tender, though I was able to swing my legs over the side and sit comfortably. In calm water the "non-Island" Adventure should be fine as a fishing or photography platform. I wore only swim trunks, a T-shirt, and a rain jacket (and PFD of course). No wet or dry suit meant I wasn't willing to push the stability envelope. I regret that, as I'd really like to know how far I can heel, if the boat stiffens as it heels, and where it "breaks". But, as I said, with the amas attached and extended, there is absolutely no concern about stability.
The cockpit is roomy (I'm 5' 8").
The Mirage Drive moves the boat well with little to moderate effort, even with the windage from the mast. I did get a bit of thigh burn which surprised me, as I ride a bike to work (25 miles, hilly terrrain). I think it is because the pedddling angle is different from that on my bike, so the muscles used are slightly different. In any event, the burn didn't last. I decreased my effort and still made way.
Adjusting the Mirage Drive peddles is simplicity itself. Pull a pin, slide the forward peddle to a comfortable distance, aligned the other peddle to the same mark, and you're finished. It took about 30 seconds.
Now the "gotchas".
Apparently, the vessel needs to be set up properly. Just throwing it together in a hurry may lead to problems. To whit; the rudder was not properly adjusted and, halfway through the first sail, I could no longer turn to starboard. In the midlle of my third 270 degree turn to port, a kayaker pulled alongside and told me my rudder was only partially submerged. When I pressed the handle to engage the rudder (beside seat, on port rail), it came off in my hand. As it happens, when not fully extended, the rudder is blocked from turning to port, thereby preventing the boat from turning to starboard (did that make any sense?). BTW, before the second sail of the day, the rep locked the rudder in the down position at the rudder hinge. What a pleasure to be able to flop over onto a port tack, without turning 270 degrees. Also, watch your cap when you throw a tack. The foot of the sail brushes low overhead.
In light airs, not to put too fine a point on it, the vessel is a pig. The sail is just not big enough to move all that weight without a breeze. That is actually not a condemnation. If the sail was large enough for light air, it would be too large and cumbersome, and the stick too tall for anything much over 10 knots. Besides, in light air the Mirage Drive moves the vessel right along so you don't really need the sail.
When not under sail, the boat wanders and the tiller needs constant attention. I tried and tried to find a point where the rudder would be centered and I could manage the yak by leaning to turn, but never found it. Perhaps with time onboard, that situation would improve.
Despite what you may read in the advertisements, it's foolish to leave the shore without a paddle. For one thing, how are you going to back?
Some water came through the Mirage Drive hole and got my swim trunks wet.
While I'm thinking about the Mirage drive, it is very easy to drop in and secure. I read something about having difficulties placing the Drive, and some discussion about misaligned Drives causing cracks. So far as I could tell, that should not be any problem. The Drive just drops in and the cam locks turn to secure it. I saw no indication that it would be a complicated or difficult process.
And now that I'm back to singing the AI praises, my strongest impression was of good engineering. Someone put some thought into this vessel's design. Hats off to you guys behind the scenes.
As to color, you can have the AI in any color you want, so long as it's yum-yum yellow or red. I'd really prefer something...more muted but I understand, I suppose, the reasons for limiting production runs. And, yes, most folks drawn to sailing vessels are probably also drawn to bold colors.
It turns out I can have something else - at a price. I'm told I can buy an Adventure Fish ($1950), in Moss (beige for those of us with only the 24 color crayon sets), and get the sailing kit ($1550) with Ivory (off-white) amas and white sails. By my math, that equates to a $500 premium over the $3000 cost of an Adventure Island. Of course, with an Adventure Fish you also get wheels, tackle box, three bags, and a paddle leash, worth maybe $150(?). So assuming you want all that, the premium drops to $350 for muted colors (or anything other than y-y yellow or red).
The caveat is, of course, you need to buy the '07 models. The '06 models will not accept the sail kit. Oh, and you'll have to cut a round hole to step the mast on a converted, non-Island Adventure.
Well, that's it. I may have forgotten something but I'll be happy to answer any questions if I'm able.
So, does this qualify as longest first post?
An adventure is really just a sign of incompetence. Every thing that you add to an explorer's heroism, you must subtract from his intelligence. ~VilhjÃ¡lmur Stefansson (Arctic explorer)