I am way behind on completing this review. I started writing it the week after Mother's Day, and here it is a month after Father's Day and still not finished. Time really flies when you are busy, sick and tired. Any excuse, here goes nothing.
This year, The Queen and I finally celebrated her first "official" Mother's Day. When I asked The Queen what she wanted for Mother's Day, her response was that she wanted a weekend of camping and fishing. Due to some complications, a weekend of camping was not in the cards. Efforts to arrange for a guided fishing outing also failed miserably. I never would have guessed that it would be so hard to get a fishing guide to take my money. Oh well. Such is life in the big city as they say.
So, Mother's Day Sunday found us searching for last minute options to get on the water and put a line in. Enter the marina at Lake Granbury. They have boats, kayaks and canoes for rent. Well...kayaks and canoes at least. They have boats which they have rented in the past, but the lake level is so low that they are not renting them out right now because they feel it's almost a guarantee that the boats will come back damaged due to people not knowing the lake and running aground. People like me for instance.
So, our initial plan was to rent a canoe. That plan lasted until we saw a Hobie Mirage Oasis kayak on display in the marina pro shop. A kayak that you can pedal with your feet instead of or in addition to paddling it with your arms? Where do we sign up? We, of course, asked if they had one for rent. They informed us that, yes, they did indeed. Money was exchanged, and we were led water side where a bright red kayak awaited our pleasure.
After a brief explanation of how everything worked, we were on our way.
I should take a moment to give a brief disclaimer. With the exception of a camping trip with The Queen in 2005, the full extent of my canoe experience took place in Boy Scouts in pursuit of the merit badge. I had never sat in a kayak much less used one. So, this was virgin territory for me.
While we are on the subject of disclaimers, let's get the FTC stuff out of the way. One of these days I will get around to writing a standard disclaimer for reference on all posts subject to noted exceptions. That day is not today. For the record, neither Hobie nor Lake Granbury Marina gave me anything for this review. I paid for the kayak rental out of my own pocket. My opinions are my own. Deal with it.
You can go to the Hobie website (http://www.hobiecat.com/mirage/mirage-oasis/) to get all the geeky technical specs you want on the kayak. They have several models to choose from. Some are traditional paddle only models, but about a half to two thirds of the models are Mirage pedal system models. So, having directed you to the best source for minutiae, let's get on with addressing the things that I think deserve particular comment.
First, the fold down rudder system is awesome. Release a cord, and the rudder drops into place at the stern. Pull the cord, and the rudder comes out of the water tucking neatly out of the way. I have only one minor gripe about the rudder system. It can be controlled from the front or rear seat, and you need to be sure that the cord is released from its stays at both seats before it will raise out of the water. Found that tidbit out the hard way. The dual controls is nice because it eliminates the need to switch positions if you want the other person to steer for a bit. Also, it eliminates the need for one person to waste pedaling/paddling energy while the other person uses their paddle to create drag that turns the boat. It's a more efficient system all the way around.
Speaking of efficiency, let's get to the Mirage system. There's a cool video on the Hobie website that shows you exactly how this works. Rather than tell you what it does, just go click the link above, watch the video and come back. I'll wait. You back? Good. Don't ask me how that works as well as it does. I don't know. Just accept it, and let's move on. The Queen and I used our paddles sparingly...as in very little. The Mirage system is that good. The folks at Hobie made it easy to stow the paddles on the gunwales of the kayak, and that's where they stayed most of the time. My one gripe with the pedals is that I never could figure out how to adjust them. Supposedly they are adjustable, but that trick eluded me. At 6'4" tall with a 36" inseam, the pedals were set way to close for me. I felt like I was ready to give birth. Let's just say I am glad that there is no video of my efforts. Having said that, after two hours on the water, neither The Queen nor I were tired from our efforts at cruising the lake for fish.
Other cool items of interest. The back rests were very helpful to me in particular. The seat cushions were functional, but I wouldn't want to spend all day on one. The water tight storage compartment in front of each seat, while not huge, was spacious enough to hold some snacks, wallet, keys and cell phone. Hobie very thoughtfully included fishing rod holders just behind each seat on either side that were quite functional and easily accessible. There are cargo areas on the stern and bow deck areas complete with bungee cord cargo nets. The kayak is not stable enough to access the one on the stern while on the water. At least, not for me. The Queen had no trouble with the bow cargo area; however, she had the advantage of having it in front of her.
The only major complaint I have is the price. These puppies are not cheap. New, the Mirage Oasis runs north of $2500 from what I have seen on the net. Used ones do not appear very often; and, based on the few I have seen for sale, they hold their value fairly well. BUT, and this is the key, "normal" kayaks from other manufacturers are available for considerably less at big box sporting goods stores such as Dick's, Academy and Bass Pro. So, it boils down to the classic value proposition. Are the neat little extras and the Mirage system worth the extra scratch. For an older fart like me who just wants to cruise the lake once in a while, you betcha. For a younger guy who wants to take on major whitewater, probably not.
As always, your mileage may vary.