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The Joy of a Hobie Cat – Building my boat
Here is a short film of my new Hobie Cat on . I shipped this boat from San Diego where I purchased it as a kit from Fast Lane Sailing. It arrived in San Pedro in February 2010 in many pieces, and Vic Tharp, my brother-in-law and I assembled it with the help of Gato and several other friendly Belizeans.
This boat was easy to build and is an absolute thrill to sail!
Sailing my Hobie Cat getaway in Belize
Sailing My Hobie Cat Getaway in Belize
There are few things as exhilarating as sailing faster than the wind on a small catamaran, feeling the salt spray in your face. Out of 16 days at our vacation home on Ambergris Caye, Belize, I sailed 14 days with Katie’s brother, Vic Tharp, and with our friends Doug Yunker and Dan Jackson, and sometimes joined by Katie, Dan’s wife Michael, and Doug’s wife, Jennie. Some days we sailed clear south of the island, and then turned North to sail almost as far as one could to the Northern end of Ambergris Caye. The wind was terrific every day. The weather indescribable. And the company wonderful.
It took a few days to work out the kinks, and the short video I posted illustrate some of that early on, with me coming close to flipping the boat a few times. What it does not show is the day I rammed the dock at full speed, having lost steerage of the boat after the main sheet cleat would not uncleat, and the rudders kicked up in the shallow water. Unfortunately my brother-in-law, Vic, was not prepared for this. The impact threw him against the mast and produced a very impressive gash on his forehead.
The amazing material from which this boat’s hulls are constructed proved everything the manufacturer claims. If this was a fiberglass boat we would have had serious damage. Other than a slight deviation of the starboard hull’s bow to the right , there was not a scratch on this impressive Rotomolded Polyethylene Plastic material. Or like the first time I took Dan Jackson out. We sailed in an amazingly strong wind, probably 22 knots, and had serious trouble turning the boat with the reef looming dangerously close directly ahead. After several tries we managed to get her jibed, just in time to avoid the reef.
Very soon after the turn, we hung up on a shallow part of the reef, the boat coming to a screeching halt on the rocks. I contemplated getting off to push, but realized that the sharp rocks in the shallow water, almost a thousand yards from the beach, would shred my bare feet. So I hauled in the main sheet, and she took off like a rocket, scraping over the rocks. No sooner had we freed her of the rocks or a very strong gust lifted the port hull out of the water. I tried to uncleat the main sheet, but the cleat just would not let go. Dan lost his grip and slid down the 45 degree angled trampoline. The combination of the wind force and the balance of a grown man on the leeward side of the boat was a recipe for disaster. Dan says the last thing I yelled as we went over was “AWESOME!”
With the boat now on it’s side, the main mast float preventing the mast from “turteling” (going down below the boat, which makes righting her very difficult), the trampoline acted as a sail, and the strong wind blew the boat downwind faster than we could swim. Dan made his way to the mast top, hand-over-hand hauling himself by the luff end of the main sail. He swam the mast head into the wind, and I climbed on the floating pontoon, taking hold of the righting line which is attached underneath the trampoline. I threw my weight out to get the sail and mast out of the water to allow the wind to assist me in righting the boat. She came up so fast that she flipped again. I managed to hold on to the boat as the trampoline acted as a sail again, blowing her downwind at an amazing speed. Dan quickly realized that he could not possibly catch up, and within minutes was 50 or 60 yards from the boat. Fortunately there is a lot of boat traffic, and two boats stopped by to assist. Unfortunately I do not remember the name of the boat that rescued Dan. Two VERY NICE guys in a Captain Morgan’s boat lassoed the mast head, moved her back upwind, allowing me to repeat the process to right her. With tremendous speed she came up, but this time I was ready, and threw my weight towards the windward hull to preventing her from going over again. I quickly set both the main and jib to prevent her from sailing onto the reef, and was able to jibe regardless of the strong wind. The water was so rough that Dan’s boat was unable to come alongside to allow him to board the cat, so I yelled over the howling wind for them to deposit him on our dock. Having an incredible sail in this strong wind, I sailed her back to the dock where Dan was already waiting for me. I docked her and threw the line to Dan to tie her down. All-in-all a great adventure and a good learning experience.
When I assembled the Hobie in February 2010 after shipping it from San Diego to San Pedro in many pieces, I thought I remembered well how my Hobie 16 was rigged in South Africa more than 35 years ago. So I did not consult the manual for the setup of the main and jib sheets and tackle. I was quite unhappy with the performance of these vital parts of the boat, particularly the fact that I had constant trouble uncleating the main sheet, and that the jib was quite difficult to pull in very tight in a heavy wind. My friend Dan studied this setup, and concluded that there was something wrong with the way I had it set up. We downloaded the manual, and after studying the rigging, reconfigured the main block and sheet setup, and redirected the Jib sheets according to the manual. Amazing how well it now works. My advice: Read the manual!
With the new boat rigging I quickly became much more comfortable with handling her, and did multiple trips for long distances up and down the Ambergris Caye coast. With a North-Easterly wind we were able to do miles and miles without tacking, all the time in wonderment at how fast this boat is, and how well she handles.
Like Dan said… how blessed I am to have Hobie in my backyard!