Group: Super Administrators
Joined: Jan. 2004
||Posted: Dec. 16 2007,06:43
Santy you are right on. The Hobieholics over there were the first cult I named and identified. It was only later I realized the problem was much more widespread, but that's another story or three. But back to flappers vs props; here's why I think Hobie is in trouble.
1. Hobie earned kudos for creative design and marketed their penguin power with great skill; unfortunately almost all of their creations have been beset with problems.
2. The Mirage Drive broke down, wore excessively, needed constant adjustment. In conjunction with the Turbo fins especially (but also the others) tended to put pressure on the through hull support which led to cracking and leaks.
3. The Twist n Stow rudder has it's own host of problems, has been know to fail at the worst possible time in bad conditions. This is actually quite dangerous.
4. On KFS alone, Matt the Flack has posted over 700 replies addressing mostly problems and issues with the Mirage driven Hobies. This is a massive public relations effort designed to keep the natives happy.
5. Hobie's MO seems to be pump em out, let's sort out the problems later. You'd think after 5 years their designs would be mature and reliable but they are not. Hobie marketing would rather pump out new and defective products. Prime example: the new Hobie Inflatable. The first couple hundred had to be recalled due to, uh, deflating...
6. The Mirage drive is not particularly reliable; worse it is inefficient. It is attached to relatively short, wide and speed limited hulls.
Hobie has had a pretty good ride and sold their overpriced creations with no real competition. I believe the Native Watercraft will change that. It too is developing its own cult following and you can be sure its proponents will be equally outspoken. But with a difference.
Early returns are that the Natives have been developed with quality and reliability in mind. Equipping them with a good prop drive falls in line with that philosophy. The video reveals that it will be light, strong, easily moveable and stored. In my mind props have a number of advantages over the faux flappers:
1. They are simple and strong. The linkage can be made quite efficient with minimal losses to friction.
2. They use a standard bicycle motion which is efficient, powerful and less wearing. Note that the flappers come to a brief but definite stop at the end of each stroke. The flappers have to change direction leading to a significant loss of efficiency, and creates turbulence. This is a more choppy, wearing motion. OTOH the prop never stops, remains efficient.
3. Prop drives commonly achieve efficiencies in the 70 - 80 % range. Compare to flappers at 20% or so. This is especially true at cruising speeds. And unlike the flappers can go in reverse.
4. The Native's patented seat allows the paddler, er pedaler, to paddle, er pedal from a semi-recumbant position. There is some evidence supporting the comfort and power possible from this position.
5. Last, the Native is more boat-like, particularly when equipped with a prop drive.
This last point is particularly important. It is no secret that I believe the better the kayak performance and experience, the better the fishing performance and experience. To the contrary, American manufacturers in particular have tended to wide, slow barges with high primary stability, mostly to capture newbies. These barges are equipped with super-sized wells, multi-hatches, even reel destroying flushmount rodholders designed for boats. All in an effort to look like - hold yer hats...
Small boats! Floating platforms to accessorize and fill with tackle. Lots of tackle. Hobie went one step further. "Paddle? Ooooo, why bother, that's simply too hard to learn, and it's too much work. Pedaling is the way!". Enter the Native, the logical conclusion of the barge trend.
The Native really is a small boat. More like a canoe than a kayak. LOTS of space. Comfy with a seat that's more like a lawnchair. But with a cat style hull that makes sense, makes it standable, increases speed and beats Hobie at their own game. And now adds the coup de gras:
Prop power. Kudos!
Now to be sure I'm not a fan of barges, but the Native is not a kayak. And oughtn't be reviewed as such. Due to it's open design going offshore is a problem. And I'm not too happy with the drive's storage position with the pointy business end of the drive unit and prop pointing up. Fall on that and you'll need more than a hook remover - try major surgery.
Hobie has met their inshore match. Bout time.
ps... be sure to visit Santiago's link (thank you) in the top post to see a video of the Native prop drive in action
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