Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I learned to sail on a Hobie Cat identical to the one seen here. It was my first sailboat.

Sensible people take a series of sailing lessons before soloing. It was enough for me to have one lesson or so I thought. I soon learned that anyone sailing a boat like this would have to be able to Hobie Up during any outing on a lake or ocean.

If you ask any sailor who has owned a Hobie Cat it is likely the first words out of their mouth would be, "A Hobie is the hotrod of the sailing world" or "A Hobie is very unforgiving".

My first solo outing was with another family on an inland lake. It was not long before I had capsized the boat during an attempt to fly along the water on one hull.

"Flying a hull" is a balancing act. A slight of hand, a sail left too tight will tip the balance. Once the balance is disturbed you find yourself going over the bow of the boat, sometimes getting caught in the rigging and then spending a fair amount of time righting the sailboat.

The day of my first solo I capsized the boat once and "turtled" it the second. Turtling is a sailing term for the boat being completely upside down with the mast pointed at the bottom of the lake. It took the help of sympathetic ski boat owners to right my Hobie both times.

These first lessons were good ones in the school of sailing hard knocks. Lessons? Lessons?! I don't need no stinking sailing lessons!

My favorite time of year was anytime of the year when I could uncover my boat and sail it. Once I became an experienced sailor it was not unusual for me to sail alone and not get into trouble.

Those were great times. The warmth of the sun, the sound of the wind in the sails and the hum of the rudders cutting through the water. It was relaxing.

There is nothing with a sail on the water that can beat a catamaran sailboat. Nothing. The term "A Hobie is the hotrod of the sailing world" was always the rule and not the exception.

Since I was learning each time I sailed the boat it took a while but in a fashion it became easy to skim along the lake on one hull without crashing and burning. I could connect myself in a harness, hang over the side of the Hobie and hit it! It's Hobie Up time! Passengers had the same opportunity to hook up with the harness although many opted to remain seated and hang on.

When it was time to head back to the beach it became a habit to sail full force onto the beach on one hull. Showboating? Sure it was but what fun!

The Hobie, Candace and I sailed Lake Tahoe, San Francisco Bay, Tomales Bay, Clear Lake, Lake Sonoma, Diamond Lake, Lake Don Pedro, Pillsbury Lake, Lake Mendocino and Whiskeytown Lake. We rented Hobies to sail during vacations in Mexico and Hawaii.

Sailing in those places looked pretty much like this.

Our kids loved sailing on the Hobie and fondly recall upright times on it as well as times they were dunked because I was hotdogging.

I remember capsizing our sailboat one July afternoon on Lake Mendocino with Candace. Actually, the boat pitch-poled meaning a bow dug into the water causing it to pitch forward.

It had been a great sailing day on the lake. Strong, consistent winds from one direction made for long sailing runs. We were both hooked into harnesses sailing on a single hull.

It was during a long run going very fast toward the end of the lake on one hull. This was a time where balance was everything. A sudden gust of wind would capasize the boat. A shift in weight on it would do the same. Pulling the sheets in tighter would definitely upset the balance and cause it to go over.

For reasons I could not explain, when balance was everything, Candace unhooked her harness and jumped off of the boat. The boat immediately dug one hull into the water. Since I was hooked into the harness I was captive to anything the boat did. I was reduced to swinging around the mast of the boat and into the headstay and then into the water I kept thinking, "Why did Candace jump off of the boat?"

"I thought we were going over so I wanted to get off of it before the Hobie capzised.", was her reply.

"But we weren't going over!"

My legs and arms were cut by the wires holding the mast up. The two of us didn't take long to right the boat. Soon we were on our way back to the beach where Candace felt more secure leaving me to lick my wounds and finish off the day's sailing alone.

We sold the Hobie in favor of purchasing a larger, single hulled craft that wouldn't tip over. It was a sad day to see our friend of 15 years be pulled out of the driveway by its new owner. But we have lots of pictures and memories that will never fade of our summers with our Hobie 16..

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Whiskeytown Lake, Very Northern California, United States