We were still congratulating ourselves on how sleek our boats were when Leif and Susan arrived with their Hobie foot-propelled kayaks. Expecting to need patience while we traveled with them, we were somewhat surprised to find that instead we had trouble keeping up.
These craft are wide, made of roto-molded plastic, made to carry their transport dollies with them, require equipment for two modes of propulsion, need rudders to steer, and have cup-holders. You’d think they’d be slow; but because they allow the use of the bigger muscles in the leg, and perhaps because of some mechanical advantage, they are remarkably swift. The little blue single-place runs with our sea kayaks (and on a long day might pull away, as upper bodies tired). The long yellow one enjoys the efficiency of any double kayak, and always seems to arrive in half the time needed by the rest of the party, even allowing for some diversion along the way.
There are other advantages too. For one who likes to do some diving during the day, the two-person model provides a stable platform (and room for a crew to stay on the surface). For other activities, the manufacturer boasts that hands are left free for fishing, photography, etc. Various models in the line are designed with sailing in mind, and the most complex can have outriggers also.
The Hobies do a good job of accommodating the few items that you’d like to take along for a day trip, but are short on space for serious equipment. They offer a better chance of staying dry than some boats, but paddling is necessary near the beginning and end of most trips, providing the opportunity for dripping or other clumsiness: the penguin-like fins under the boat need to be dealt with just as things get interesting.
We expected the boats to be hard to handle also, but they seem to do fine in chop and Leif has gotten pretty good at negotiating the (admittedly tiny) surf that we tend to have here. I’m still clinging to the notion that our sleeker boats are more seaworthy, or more capable at wilderness camping. On the other hand, puttering next to our Fathom down on the wet sand one day I heard tourists approaching and waited for the customary compliments, only to hear at last, in a disappointed tone, “Oh, it’s the old kind. . .”