The Quest paddle-only kayak has been around for about a year now, and has already attracted a loyal following. I have to say that this is one of my favorite Hobies based on its hull design, speed, and weight. I also have to say that it would probably be my all-time favorite Hobie, if it had a Mirage drive option. I have always wondered why Hobie does not simply offer their yaks, such as the Quest, with or without the Mirage drive. Folks are always complaining about the cost of the Hobie yaks anyway, and this would seem to be an excellent way to get around this criticism. It also seems like this would decrease costs all around. If someone does not want the Mirage drive, at least initially, then they can use the boat either with or without the plug. This would shave a bunch off the cost of the Hobie yaks, making them more competitive, plus one could always upgrade to the Mirage drive at a later date, should one wish to do so. Just my $.02 worth.
So what about the new Quest? I have to issue a caveat here in that I am most certainly not a Quest expert, as compared to all the folks here who actually own one. So, all you Quest fans out there, please add your comments to this thread as you see fit. There do not seem to be any major changes in the new Quest with reference to the basic hull design. I should add that at my local demo, only the Quest Fisherman model was available for testing. As I mentioned earlier when discussing the new Outback, there is a whole separate line of Hobie boats, known as “Fisherman” models.
1. The Hobie “Fisherman” Models
These include the Sport, the Outback, and the Quest, as well as the Float Cat 60 and the Float Cat 75. With regard to the yaks, there is not a whole lot of difference between the regular models and the “Fisherman” line. If you purchase the Sport, OB, or Quest fishing models, the Sportsman's Pack (including the plug-in cart, anchor kit, and cooler bag) is included in the basic purchase price. On the earlier Outbacks that did not have the 8-inch round hatch just in front of the seat, there was a flat spot and a bungee for securing a tackle box. This Plano Guide series, 2-sided tackle box was also included in the Sportsman's Kit at that time, and was part of the Fisherman package, at least for the Outback. However, now that Hobie has put the 8-inch round hatch in front of the seat, I don't know if the tackle box is still included in the Outback Sportsman's Kit since the tackle box bungee is no longer there. The tackle box is not included with the new Sport or Quest fishing models, so far as I can determine. The colors available for the fishing line are also considerably less, with only green, sand, and orange granite as your choices. However, there is one option that you can't get on the basic models from Hobie, and that is a mount for a Scotty rod-holder. This is a screw-in mount amidships on the Quest, and a starboard flush mount on the Sport. Of course, you can always buy these separately from KFS, and add them later to the basic models, should you wish.
2. The first pic below shows the entire boat. This baby is designed for speed, as well as for fishing. Note the large hatch forward, suitable for stowing rods and other gear inside the hull, for example, during surf transits.
3. Here is a view of the open forward hatch. You can get a lot of stuff in here, especially rods, relatively easily, compared to say, the earlier OB models. It's interesting to me that the new 2006 Outbacks have changed over to a Quest-style forward hatch, as well-good idea!
4. Here is the cockpit layout-very clean and compact. Note the adjustable foot-brace system forward. Hobie calls these “pedals,” but there is no “pedaling” involved as with the Mirage drive system (not present on the Quest). As kytflyr points out below however, the foot pedals are used to control the rudder (later). Note also the twin mesh pockets on either side, and the 8-inch round hatch. Note too, the relatively new deluxe seat with four attachment points, two forward and two aft. The early Quests used the basic (i.e., deluxe) Hobie seat found on nearly all of their yaks at that time that had only the two forward seat straps. I don't know if this seat is an improvement over the earlier seats or not. Perhaps some of the folks who have used either or both can chime in here. Note the two after scuppers behind the seat where the Hobie cart plugs in from below. If you are not carrying a crate or ice chest here, the posts of the cart can be dropped in from above for convenient carrying. Note also the two built-in rod-holders and the fairly large deck space behind the seat.
5. In this closer view of the forward portion of the cockpit, the foot-brace system is a little clearer. Especially note the Scotty rod-holder mount just aft of the forward hatch, and the hatch bungee. This Scotty mount will accept all the basic Scotty rod-holders that can be swiveled to either side of the boat, or forward just as easily. Note also the two sets of scuppers here also. It's not clear to me just why two sets of scuppers are needed, but it may have to do with the weight of the occupant, and how much the bow is elevated while underway. Note also the built-in handles or hand grips in the hull itself, just aft of the mesh pockets. These are present on both sides, and apparently were the inspiration for the handles now found on the Adventure. In fact, the basic hull design of the Adventure, along with its 3-foot greater length, strongly suggested to me a Quest on steroids!
The newer style Hobie paddle-keeper bungees, with the very handy pull-tab, are also clear in this pic on either side of the hull. Note too, the central cup-holder, a small tray for tackle or various odds and ends (with its own built-in drain), and the elevated flat area where one might mount a fish-finder assuming you were careful in the positioning of the Scotty rod-holder. One problem with the Quest, as compared to the Outback or Sport, is the lack of any flat gunwale areas upon which one might mount rod-holders, RAM ball mounts, or electronics.
6. In this stern view, note the abundance of storage space for a crate and/or ice chest. Note too, the deck indentations where one might install 1-2 extra 8-inch round hatches. Such a hatch at the stern might be very useful for packing camping gear and food if you planned to do some sea kayaking and touring. Such a hatch behind the seat would probably be pretty useless since you would probably have an ice chest or crate there anyway. Note also the naked stern-no rudder, although the rudder line openings are already drilled and in place.
A rudder is the one thing that is not included with the basic Quest or the Fisherman models. Now, some folks don't care for a rudder, but if you ever do any drift fishing over the flats along the East or Gulf Coasts, or down a large river system, you might be glad you had one. Without it, you will have to dig out your paddle and keep it handy for positioning yourself. So, if you think you might like one, my recommendation would be to order the rudder, and have the dealer install it before you take possession of your yak. However, it should be noted that the rudder installation and arrangement on the Quest is somewhat different than on the Mirage drive kayaks, as kytflyr mentions below, and it may be a bit easier to install on the Quest. Either way, let the dealer or factory install it for you--you will probably be glad you did.
So, there you have it-the Quest is another really nice boat from the Hobie folks that does not overlap much, if at all, with the other kayaks in their line. If you don't need a tandem or a Mirage drive, this may be just the boat for you if you like to tour or fish. Fast, stable, and a reasonable weight and length combo. Plus a lot of the stuff that is extra on other yaks comes standard on the Quest, such as the seat, paddle and rod-holders. Check it out.