Note: This is a three part article on the Hobie i12s inflatable. Part 1 is about portability -- unpacking and packing. See http://www.hobiecat.com/community/viewt ... 2eb55ad3b7 Part 2 shows the boat's features. See http://www.hobiecat.com/community/viewtopic.php?t=7650 Part 3 talks about on the water performance.
Part 3: Handling on the water
By the next morning, the hull still felt nice and firm, so no additional inflation was needed. There was wind on the lake which was perfect for checking out the sailing as well as wind effect on the hull.
Here's an end shot profile of the boat from the stern:
Loaded up and ready to launch:
This has to be the most stable monohull that Hobie makes. I'm sure I would fall off before getting this boat to capsize! Note also, with all my weight concentrated at one point on one air chamber, I can't even dent it much less bend it -- holds its shape splendidly.
Heading out, rudder control was good. The new up-down system worked great as long as I remembered to uncleat before changing direction. Lifting and dropping the rudder was easy and the colored handle system insured that I didn't get confused.
The seating position is a little different in this boat, and I never could quite find the right position. This was somewhat frustrating. Perhaps the seat's ability to adjust fore and aft had something to do with it and I just didn't have it set up right. In any event, I had other priorities so I just lived with it. The Mirage Drive dropped in and locked instantly -- should be called "Drop-N-Go" to go along with the "Twist-N Stow" -- don't you know?!
When the wind comes up, most of the inflatable craft here get out of the water before getting blown ashore. The i12s, however, had no wind problems whatsoever. Here I'm pedaling into an 8 - 12 kt. headwind. With a "fast"cruising effort, my GPS speed is averaging 4.4 MPH (using Turbofins).
Downwind yielded a 4.7 using the same effort. Casual cruising was about 4 to 4.2 MPH in mild conditions. In a calm area, top speed was 5.9 MPH. Paddling would normally be an emergency procedure for me, but for the sake of the test, I made an exception. I could manage 4.0 MPH paddling (max), but had to be careful of skinning my fingers on the wide gunnels.
Tooling around I managed to catch a couple of boat wakes. It was a blast in this boat -- I got up to 7.9 (GPS).
I headed back in briefly to retrieve the sail. It folds compactly and could have easily been carried aboard, but for my first time I decided to rig it ashore. The shroud support system for the mast has the advantage of being adjustable for different wind conditions. Unfortunately Hobie didn't include a quick adjustment system, so every time I wanted to make a change I had to untie and retie the stays.
Why would one need to make adjustments? For one thing, this is an inflatable boat so temperature and wind create different levels of tautness that should be compensated for. Additionally, the boat carries a bit of weather helm; I was able to compensate for this fairly satisfactorily by raking the mast forward. Having a quick tension system would be a nice improvement.
But, now on to sailing! While not exactly in the Americas Cup category, the i12s is a respectable little sailer. The Turbofins served as a daggerboard, although there was about a 10 to 15 degree slideslip upwind. For an inflatable I'll take it any day! It was fun, VERY stable in winds that were now 12 to 15, gusting to 18 kts., and quite dry (except for the usual splash from chop). Speeds ran about 2.2 to 4.4, with a max of 5.1 MPH. Here's a pic heading upwind under sail:
Here we're at the business end of the lake:
and now for a little downwind action as she scoots along toward home:
I had no expectation to like this boat at the beginning. But by the end of the trial, I not only like it A LOT, but have decided that I would love to own one! It's easy to forget that this is an inflatable. For the first time, I can think about bringing a kayak along on trips without any special vehicle accommodations! For frequent use, you can just leave it inflated and treat it like a regular kayak. For those with small kids, there is tons of room behind the seat. For diving or extended trips there is room and buoyancy to carry loads of gear. As a tender, it is quick, versatile and compact. The bottom line is, it's impossible to walk away from an outing without a big grin on your face.
Favorite aspects: Technically, the new Drive cassette and 2nd generation T & S controls are great and I see a possible future application of these on the Hobie main line kayaks eventually.
Criticisms: The seat didn't work for me. In all fairness, it may have been simply an adjustment problem -- there just wasn't enough time to sort it out. For sailing, I'd like to see the rigging improved as noted. This isn't a criticism, but I would get the sailing rudder (and Turbofins), especially for sailing.
This boat exceeded my every expectation. It has nothing in common with all those other bags of air I've watched people struggle with except the word "inflatable". It's easy to pack, has simple, fast inflation, good manners and decent speed on the water, versatile and most of all, FUN! You have to try this to believe it.
End of a great day!