My family recently hauled the tandem inflatable on a one week vacation in Vieques, PR, and it was a blast. A few details...
The Trip. Don't underestimate the size of the soft-sided canvas "wheeled trunk"...it's a whopper, standing a bit over 4 feet tall, some 28 inches wide, and weighing in at about 75 pounds. The package is catagorized as both oversized and overweight by most airlines, resulting in a double charge (most airlines charge $50 for overweight, and $50 for oversize ... for a potential $200 roundtrip toll). However, after some sweet-talking, JetBlue agreed to categorize it a "windsurfer", and only tagged us for $50 each way. We have the sail kit, so that's not such a stretch...but thank you JetBlue. Other airlines have similar oversize "exemptions" for sports equipment, so do your research and be ready to plead your case.
In addition to the soft pack trunk, we found that the 2 Mirage drives, paddles, seats, life preservers and other kayak stuff required an additional wheeled suitcase...which came in at about 42 pounds, well within the normal baggage allowance. So you'll be adding 2 large wheeled objects to your normal travel logistics: it's well worth it, but plan your moves accordingly.
We experienced some damage to the canvas trunk (and the boat) on the trip down to PR, and in general, the packing case is the only element of the i14T package I found inadequately designed and built. The material is simply too flimsy for a bag that is guaranteed by it's size to get beat up by baggage handling equipment. We had 4 or 5 spots of wear-through abrasion, almost all at the corners and edges, right where you'd expect it. For the return trip I purchased a tough plasticized tarp, and wrapped the kayak in that, before stuffing it into the Hobie case, affording another couple layers of protection. I also reinforced all the edges and corners of the Hobie case with several layers of duct tape...and we had no damage on the return, though we lost some style points for sure! Hobie needs to do a little more engineering and add another layer of some miracle-tough material to the stress points of their itcase: for us, "packability" and "transportability" is why we bought this wonderful boat, and that is as much about the packing case as the kayak itself. Wheels and handles all worked great, and as awkward as it sounds, I was able to wheel it through the airports with a minimum of fuss.
The three small holes we found upon arrival (all in the black rubber underside, which is not surprising, since that ends up forming the envelope of the boat after it is folded for travel) were quickly repaired with the supplied repair kit, and we had no leaks during 5 days of hard use.
The boat. It's simply fantastic. Fast to assemble (taking about 5 minutes, using the big-lunged pump included in the kit), and extremely well made. We lashed up a homemade roof rack for our rental AWD, and had no problems hefting the kayak up and lashing it down...I even did that solo on one occaision. Again, the handles are right where you need them to be.
We used the i14T in all modes, and in some pretty stiff winds, with 4 to 5 foot swells at one wild moment. With the twin Mirage drives there was plenty of authority and power. Steering is responsive, and the remarkably low profile means you don't get blown around as you might otherwise expect with an inflateable. The only operational quibble I found was that the rear paddle had a tendancy to work itself off the attachment clips in following waves, while sailing. I found myself simply putting the paddle in the boat in choppy sailing conditions.
Before our trip, I stole the sailing rudder from our AI and installed it on the i14T, and was glad I did...especially when we attached the sailing rig. Sailing was a lot of fun, though on open waters, anything over 12 knots was a challenge with one person: the only centerboard is provided by keeping the Mirage drive flippers in the straight down position, and we found that having both sets of Mirage drives acting as a center board made all the difference in pointing up into the wind with stiff breezes. With 6-10 knot winds, the i14T was just a hoot to sail, and my 10 year son and I were able to take some nice 3 and 4 miles trips to explore parts of the island previously inaccessible to us. Next time, we think we can reach out considerably more. But I'd catagorize the large sailing rudder as a must-have, and would argue that it should be part of the optional sailing package...I simply can't imagine trying to sail without it.
On one glassy cove, we attached a 5 foot line, and my 5 year-old daughter had a ball being dragged around on a boogie board, "surfing" as she called it. That was a thigh-burning workout! On another trip, my 10 year strapped on his snorkle gear, and I pulled him across about 1/2 mile of coral reef. I could hear him humming and talking to himself through the snorkle tube as he marveled at the marine life.
The new "pull handle" rudder system is much more stable and secure than the "twist and stow" on our '07 AI (I still haven't gotten around to switching it out.) But it's much harder to use, requiring real strength to tug the rudder up and down. My wife and 10 year old both struggled mightily with the new system, and they defintely prefer the older twist & stow technology...that said, there was certainly none of the "rudder pop up" troubles associated with the old system, once you got it down and locked, and I think the re-design is big win. (We found that if you grabbed onto both the "up" and "down" lines simultaneously, working them together to relieve some of the crimping pressure, that made things much easier.)
We've been going to Vieques for 20 years, and this boat has opened up the island in a completely new way...we absolutely love the i14T.