Mailport September 2014 Issue

Mailport: September 2014

Hobie memories

Jared Thibodeau (above) and his father, Frank, have enjoyed many adventures aboard Airhead, a Hobie 16.

In response to your May 2014 editorial on the passing of “Hobie” Alter, I’d like to share a Hobie memory: At the ripe age of 14, my son, Jared, negotiated the purchase of a used Hobie 16, Airhead. On gusty days, I would be “invited” to take the helm, so he could dance on the wire as the hull flew. Eventually, our small lake became too confining, so we ventured into larger bodies, ultimately taking the Hobie to our favorite cruising ground and home to our 41-foot Sceptre, Penobscot Bay, Maine.

Launching out of Rockland, Maine, in full wetsuits and PFD harnesses, we had a nice summer breeze of 10 to 15 knots. We packed lunch and drinks, somehow thinking we could spare the hand to hold and eat anything. With Jared on jib and wire, me with tiller in one hand and mainsheet in the other, we blasted out of the harbor, rooster tail and all. The rudder was humming like a banshee. Jared was out on the wire, leaning back for all he was worth, and I was hanging off the stern of the flying hull. The GPS showed boat speed in the mid-20 knots.

We flew by an inbound ferry at the breakwater with its passengers snapping photos as we jumped the wake. We chased down innocent sailboats; one in particular was a well-crewed, larger J/Boat with Mylar sails whose helmsman was so nonplussed at our sudden appearance on his windward beam, that he looked away. 

Normally at 8 knots or so on our Sceptre, crossing the bay to North Haven is a pleasant, dry experience of roughly 30 to 45 minutes, usually with a tea in hand. On a Hobie 16, there’s no free hand for anything, and you’re there in a blink of the eye. 

As we neared the Goose Rocks lighthouse, we both felt a touch cold, even in our wetsuits. The spray and splashing through the mesh tramp had been constant the entire crossing, so we agreed to run up onto the sandy beach of Widow Island. There, in the lee of a blessed little boat house, we sat and enjoyed the morning sun’s warmth, had a drink, and ravenously ate our lunch, even though we had just finished breakfast in Rockland not an hour earlier!

Gathering our wits, and taking a reef in the main, we pushed off and headed where no keeled sailboat dare. We enjoyed a less edgy sail, thanks to the protection of the islands and a shortened main. It is an incredible experience to sail so close to land that you can smell the pines, passing over “dinghy deep” shallows, and weaving the eye of the needle as you please.

By the time we returned to Rockland, we were two spent puppies, a 16 in these conditions is an athletic event and just maybe a little fool hearty.

I’ve had reasonably sized ocean-capable sailboats. I’ve raced Stars and had Sailfish and a Lightening, but in my book, the Hobie 16 gives more bang for the buck and challenges sailors of all levels. It can reward you with invigorating sailing and indelible memories.

Even with our larger boat, which I‘ve sailed across the Atlantic and logged thousands of miles in, my son and I make time to drag Airhead to new adventures, which they always are. My hat is off to Mr. Hobie Alter for a fabulous design.

Frank Thibodeau
Airhead, Hobie 16 and Sceptre 41

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