Hobie's Adventure Island (AI) has long been recognized as their most versatile pedal-powered craft, and for good reason. Fitted with a roller-furling main sail as well as amas, it can be transformed from a kayak to a trimaran sailing vessel. It can also be fitted with a single ama and used as an Outrigger. Because it can be configured in these various ways it can be employed in circumstances that best suit the conditions of the day. As a kayak it's always been a smooth and sleek performer, as an outrigger it becomes super stable and as a trimaran it is capable of going a lot faster with an extended range. Throughout the years the AI has been used for general recreational use - sailing and or kayaking - through to ambitious off shore fishing excursions and extended coastal expeditions, and everything in-between.
The Adventure Island was brought to life through the unrivaled creativity of Hobie's Greg Ketterman, who found a way to turn the Adventure kayak into the Adventure Island by adding a sail, akas and amas. At first it was noticed by the kayaking fraternity sooner than it was the sailing scene and became popular among paddlers who liked the idea of going faster, further and in harsher conditions. To many it was simply a kayak that could be easily rigged for sailing if and when desired. Over the years, however, the Adventure Island earned a favourable reputation among various user groups that were most interested in using it as a sailing platform. As such, improved sailing performance became a common request of loyal users.
Hobie's newly designed Adventure Island (released early 2015) addresses those requests in a major way. Rather than being a product that started as a kayak and evolved into a versatile sailing craft, the new AI has been designed from the ground up with sailing performance as the primary design goal, while retaining all of the features that makes the original AI so versatile. To this end Hobie have made a bunch of seemingly minor changes that collectively add up to what amounts to a completely different boat.
Before going on to describe all the new stand out features and what difference they make, lets first address the elephant in the room: weight.
Yes, the new AI is heavier and for some users this may present a bit of an issue - especially those who prefer to wheel it around on a wheelcart fully assembled. According to Hobie's specifications at the time of writing, the fully rigged weight on the new AI is around 30kg heavier (though it certainly doesn't feel 30kg heavier). This is because of the increased size and volume of the hull and amas, as well as the larger sail and mast. The solutions for those who would otherwise be challenged by the weight increase are to use a trailer and boat ramps, or otherwise assemble and disassemble the boat waterside (which is what I always do).
While I did notice the weight difference when hauling the full rig on a wheelcart, I didn't notice much difference in the weight of the hull itself, either when using a wheelcart or car-topping. I'm not a particularly strong individual and have a shoulder with questionable integrity, but I'm able to load the hull onto the roof of my car with surprisingly little effort. So at the end of the day the added weight has really made very little difference to me. After a few field tests I have concluded that the performance increase on the water is greater than the extra effort I need to put in to transport and rig it off the water, so its a sacrifice I am comfortable with.
While a vocal minority have had plenty to say about the extra weight, the fact of the matter is that there was simply no way Hobie could have achieved the kind of performance increase they were looking for without adding a bit of size, volume and thus weight. The mast has been extended by around 40cm and the sail area has been increased from 5.34 m2 to 6.04 m2, which certainly translates to increased sailing performance. A 3rd batten has been added, and all of them are now full length (very similar to the Hobie Bravo catamaran).
Most responsible for the increased weight are the re-designed amas. Hobie have pumped up the volume on these, increasing the length by around 1 metre, around 3cm in added width and approx 2 cm more depth. Due to the added volume the amas are now quite a bit more buoyant and are far less likely to submarine while heeling in strong winds. They have also been positioned further forward, which appears to add extra buoyancy towards the front of the boat, which helps to keep the bow from nose-diving.
Then of course we have the re-fashioned bow, which has been given more depth and buoyancy as well. There is around 8cm extra depth (at the rear of the forward hatch) and about 6cm added width and the centre of the forward hatch. Unlike the earlier AI, the new bow is far less likely to pitch and submarine into the water and moves over choppy water with less resistance.
This side effect is assisted with a newly designed forward raked bow for anti-pitching and wave-piercing performance. Forward raked bows have become a popular modern design paradigm for high-performance sail boats (see Americas Cup for an example) because they reduce pitching motion caused by in-coming waves (and or wind) from behind, and minimizes speed loss as a result. Some will assume the forward raked bow to be a cosmetic adjustment (and it does look cool) but really its all about enhanced performance. The rougher the wind and water the more you will notice the difference.
Due to the increased volume and buoyancy the new AI sits higher and has less draft, which (among other things) help to make for a drier ride. This is partially due to the way the bow travels over the water, but also because water is less likely to slam into the knuckle of the aka cross bars, which can otherwise result in explosions of water over the deck. In typical open water conditions the new AI is still a wet ride, but overall it is a drier experience.
This is also largely due to the new Vantage CT seating system, which provides an elevated 3D air-mesh seat back and base. Because the upholstery is permeable mesh water never gathers in the seat base, which means the user is never sitting in a puddle (with it's more traditional kayak style seat the reverse is true of the previous models). This is a huge advantage but equally beneficial is the high range of adjustability offered by the new seat, which has multiple base height and backrest positions as well as a nifty lumbar support adjustment. The ability to change the position of the seat can make a huge difference to comfort as well as pedaling efficiency. If you're getting a stiff lower back changing the position of the seat can make a big difference. And raising the seat to higher positions seems to offer a slight gravity assist on the pedaling motion, which some users are likely to prefer over a lower seated position. Its also a huge bonus that the Vantage seat can be used as a beach chair, which will come in handy for picnic stops and especially useful for kayak camping and expedition trips.
A pleasant side effect of the elevated seating position is the relatively flat surface area of the seat well underneath it. Even with the seat positioned at it's lowest position there is a bit of storage room that some users might find handy. The seat well has also been fitted with a venturi scupper which allows water to drain but won't allow it to enter, meaning that the seat well stays relatively dry. Note the newly designed seat well that accommodates the Vantage CT seat - it is vastly different to the earlier design. As such, the new seat cannot be fitted into an older hull - it requires to shape of the new seat well and added hardware for installation.
The entire top deck has been remolded featuring the updated MirageDrive well design as well as a raised deck, which keeps the area a lot drier. There is also more leg room which taller users might appreciate. Hobie have added a cammatic cleat for the rudder up-line (doing away with the les user-friendly jam cleat) and re-positioned the rudder down-line cleat to a more optimal position.
Probably because it worked out so well in the Tandem Island, Hobie saw fit to include a built-in retractable dagger-board that replaces the earlier drop-in dagger-board. It is quite a bit larger and is noticeably more effective. Although this feature does add a bit more weight into the boat, the performance difference makes it's inclusion more than welcome. Operation of the dagger-board is butter-smooth and a real pleasure to use.
Speaking of butter smooth operation, Hobie have also tweaked the furling line as well as steering. Despite the larger sail and mast, Hobie have managed to make furling and sheeting the sail a smoother process by adding a friction plate and pulley block where the mainsheet wraps over the rear deck and the absence of grab handles and paddle retaining bungees reduce the friction where the sheet runs along the side of the boat. It is now noticeably easier to pull the sail in and out. Steering has been improved in several ways, most obvious with the inclusion of an optional spacer which raises the steering handle a couple of inches off the deck. This alters the grip that the user can have on the steering handle and most will likely appreciate it. Hobie have also included some internal hardware (also used in Pro Angler models) which makes for smoother steering left and right. I was particularly pleased to see that Hobie have added double bungee cords for securing amas to the akas and equally happy to note that the amas now fold flat against the side of the boat.
We've put a fair bit of thought into how best to fit out the new Island for fishing - focusing on suitability for trolling and pelagic sport fishing with minimal drilling and deck clutter. As with any kayak there are many ways to go about it, but we're particularly happy with this custom x-bar bracket ram mount system, which allows us to add rod holders without having to drill extra holes in the boat. The added transducer scupper also affords a superior platform for installing a sounder, allowing for simple installation and more accurate readings. I installed a Lowrance Elite 5 HDI, which I feel hits the sweet-spot in terms of form, function and bang for buck.
Due to the refinements to the shape of the boat (the bow in particular) and slightly longer waterline length, the new hull travels through and over the water with greater efficiency than the earlier design. The combination of the longer amas positioned further forward and the refined bow means that the boat is far less inclined to pitch and submarine, meaning less slow-downs experienced as a result (most noticeable in choppy conditions) and is more confidence inspiring while sailing strong winds on a run and or in rough waters. The larger sail catches more wind and obviously also provides enhanced propulsion, and due to the added buoyancy of the amas can push the boat faster with less heeling.
The larger dagger-board improves performance, particularly while tacking. When deployed it also seems to offer a manoeuvrability improvement, which coupled with the refinements with the rudder system make for more responsive steering and handling. The smoother operation of the furling and sheeting lines make for easier management of the sail and the higher scalloped cut in the foot of the sail provides good visibility, even in the higher seated positions.
Its safe to summarize the new AI as a heavily refined design that incorporates a bunch of new features that will hold a lot of appeal for a wide range of users. What will come as a pleasant surprise to many is that the net result of these design changes amounts to a greater performance increase than the sum of their parts would otherwise suggest. This forward leap in performance will appeal to sailors looking to squeeze more speed for thrills, as it will anglers seeking to extend their range to otherwise out-of-reach fishing grounds. Adventurers will gain from speed for similar reasons, and will also appreciate the increased carrying capacity for provisions and expedition gear. Likewise, undeniable enhancements in comfort will appeal to all and sundry.