Enjoying our kayak at St. George State Park, Florida.
Puerto Balandra, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.
Puerto Balandra, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.
Lake Havasu, Arizona.
Redfish Lake outside Stanley, Idaho.
The kayak in its rolling case.
The other pieces that don't fit in the case: seats,
paddles, pedal/flippers, lifejackets.
Playa Cove, San Diego, California
Bahía Falsa, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.
It's all gotta fit in this bag...
Valve for inflating/deflating.
Tight squeeze going into the fiver basement.
Once there it takes up a lot of space.
Getting ready to hoist the kayak.
In the Garhauer racks with the
A thermorest butt-saver cushion.
Our commuter vehicles.
Hobie kayak mold rocks back and forth to distribute
the molten plastic inside the mold.
Hobie Cat factory, Oceanside, California.
New kayaks ready to go.
Pedaling into the mountains at Redfish Lake, Idaho.
Lake Havasu, Arizona.
Hobie i14t Tandem Inflatable Kayak Review
One of the best additions to our RV and boat has been our Hobie
i14t inflatable kayak (manufacturer: http://www.hobiecat.com/
kayaks/mirage/i14t). It is easy to launch and is a very stable
platform with three inflatable chambers: two pontoons and a floor.
We've tried Hobie's identical hard-shell tandem kayak and found it
to be a lot more tippy. We can stand up in the inflatable kayak and
not lose our balance.
The kayak can be driven either by
traditional paddles or by Hobie's
Mirage Drive pedal system. These
are removable pedals/flippers where
with each pedal stroke the flippers flip
back and forth. Apparently the idea
for this system came to its inventor
one day while watching marine mammals on Discovery channel, and they are wonderfully
effective. The best part is that it makes kayaking a hands-free affair. The kayak is steered by the
person in the rear who has a small dial control connected to a rudder.
We now take only one paddle with us and
we use it only for quick steering situations
(the kayak has a very wide turning radius
otherwise). Being hands-free we can take
photos and use the binoculars with ease.
There are two kinds of pedals, the
standard ones which are slightly shorter,
and longer ones that
are harder to push
but make the boat
go faster. We have
the standard pedals.
There is also a sail
kit which we don't
This kayak does not fold
up to a small size. Once
packed away in its case it
stands almost chest high.
It is also about the same weight
as the comparable hard-shell
kayak. However it can be
packed away in a truck bed or in
the basement of a fifth wheel
trailer, unlike a hard-shell which
must be carried in some kind of
There are quite a few extra
pieces besides the hull: the two
Mirage pedal systems, two
seats, two break-apart paddles,
the pump and two life jackets
Assembly takes about 15 minutes and is very straight-
forward. First the kayak hull is laid out on the ground. Then
the three chambers are each inflated independently via
three valves at the back end of the kayak. They can be
inflated in any order, and its just a minute or so of easy hand
pumping for each chamber.
Then the seats are set in place
using clips and webbing straps.
The paddles are assembled
and stored in place on the sides
of the kayak. The life jackets
are slipped under the bungee
cord storage area in the back.
And off we go.
Putting the kayak
away is a little trickier, as it needs to fit back into its case. We lay the
case out on the ground and put the kayak on top of it with the stern
end at the cover-flap end of the case, and then we deflate the three
The kayak is folded up by first curling the bow in on itself and then
folding the boat in thirds. The bow section folds towards the pedal
opening in the stern of the kayak. Then the stern of the kayak is
folded up and over the top.
At this point we pull the sides of the case up
and around the kayak and pull the webbing
Then we fish out the top flap of the case from
underneath and fold it over the whole thing and
pull its webbing straps tight.
Now the case is ready to be rolled around. There is also a shoulder strap that can be attached so you can lug the kayak with
you as you walk.
Neither rolling nor carrying the case is easy. The kayak is quite heavy and it's a big awkward package. I have read of people
finding the case so flimsy that it ripped and had other problems when traveling as checked baggage. If I were to travel with it
that way a lot I would have a strong canvas carrier made for it. The wheel system is also rather delicate. On ours the axel bent
from the weight of the kayak and then the bag dragged on the ground. It could be bent back into shape, but it is a weak system
and not for long distance use (like through endless airport walkways). Rolling it a few steps from our disassembly spot in our
campsite to the trailer, or from a boat ramp to the truck is not a problem.
The big heavy kayak hull and its bag are just part of the total package. There are also those pesky seats, pedals, paddles,
pump and life jackets to contend with. All this is easy in a truck or trailer, but carrying all this on public transport by airplane or
bus would be a challenge.
The kayak neatly fits into our fifth wheel basement, but once it is in there it is just about all that
will fit. All the other favorite basement goodies like camp chairs, barbecue, buckets, tools and
generator, not to mention the seats, pedals, paddles and lifejackets etc. all have to fit around
this beast. However, the days on the lakes and rivers are well worth the hassle.
The kayak has brought us lots of fun times
on the boat. It has been useful as a
platform for waxing the hull, but far more
important, it has given us a little exercise
and a nice slow pace for exploring the
anchorages we have stayed in.
We always keep it inflated on the
boat and we use Garhauer kayak
racks to store it outside the
lifelines in when its not in use. We
rigged a simple bridle system
using the two pedal holes to hoist
it into the kayak racks using the spare
halyard. Once up, we leave the seats
in it and store the pedals, paddles and
life jackets in the cockpit lockers on the
boat. It takes less than five minutes to
rig up the bridle and either hoist or
lower the kayak.
We also bought two self-inflating thermarest seat
cushions. We slip these under the seats and it
really helps with overall butt fatigue and the
inevitable numb foot problem that creeps up if we
are out in the kayak for a long ride. The seats on
the hard-shell kayak are a little more comfortable
and less inclined to put your feet to sleep.
We visited the Hobie Cat factory in Oceanside California where the hard-shell kayaks are
made (the inflatables are made at another plant). Molten plastic is poured into moulds and
then swished around for a few hours to completely fill the mould. Then when the plastic
has cooled the mold is opened up and out pops a new kayak hull.
It was a lot of fun to see all the new gleaming kayaks lined up.
The inflatable kayak is definitely more delicate than its hard-shell sister, and most cruisers with Hobie Mirage tandem kayaks
carry a hard-shell instead of an inflatable. We have had to fix several leaks in the bow chamber and reattach many small pieces
to the hull using JB Weld (i.e., the anchors for the seats and for the bungie cord in the back). They fell off due to the relentless
heat in Mexico. I also sewed a Sunbrella kayak cover to protect it from the UV rays. For tropical cruisers spending more than
one season in the tropics, I would recommend taking a long look at a hard shell tandem Hobie rather then the inflatable.
However, it is such a fun little boat -- stable
and easy to clamber in and out of for snorkeling -- that we are happy with our choice, even if it means babying our baby a little
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