Michael Lampi's Boat Reviews
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This message was posted to the IHPVA mailing list on June 19th, 2000


Very Informal HydroFest Boat Experiences (VIHFBE)


I know some people out there are dying for some info on HydroFest, soI'll scoop Ron Drynan on a small portion of the event.

HydroFest was excellent. Ron did a fantastic job of organizing things, and managed to recruit an excellent group of volunteers to keep things running smoothly. Great work, Ron!

Besides taking lots of video, some of which unfortunately did not turn out due to defective tape, I had the chance to try out a number of commercial "water cycles". This included the WaveBike, the Wave Walker, the Nauticraft Sprite (and an Escapade, too), the Surf Bike, the Sea Cycle, and the Velosea Soleau. I saw but was unable to try the Hobie Mirage and tandem [Hobie] Mirage boats, and the ShuttleBike.

The WaveBike is fast, quiet and dumped me in the water the moment I started pulling the amas inboard. It also placed first in the 2k criterium.

The Surf Bike is fast, quiet, cheap ($995 US) and can come with fixed outrigger stabilizers as well as with a kayak-style seat rather than upright bicycle seat. It can also turn on a dime. The 11 year old son of a local distributor of them came in third or fourth in several of the races! One observation is that you can get up to hull speed in two or three revolutions of the cranks. Perhaps the drive system in conjunction with a longer, slimmer hull would enable it to achieve higher straight-line speeds. Also, you have to dismount before reaching shore or suffer the consequences of hitting the prop and rudder on the bottom. One nice feature is that the tips of the bow and stern are easily replaced if you break them.

The Wave Walker I tried was a heavy prototype of their "economy" model. Even so, it was pretty fast and maneuverable. The prop got fouled with weeds during the test ride, but it was easy to remove an access port, pull up the prop unit a bit, reach my hands into the water and remove the weeds. With this version it was possible to operate the prop unit with it pulled up as one would have it for beaching, and still make reasonable forward progress.  It had a lot of room inside the hull for cargo as well.

John Howard rode a somewhat different model during the 2k, and suffered from the weeds. On his model the access to the prop was at the stern, and rather inconvenient. 


The single seat Sea Cycle was slower for me than the Wave Walker and the Surf Bike, but still quite seaworthy and fun to ride. I had to pull up its drive unit after running through the weeds, but it was easy to clean out. 


The spanking new Sprite from Nauticraft was a hoot! Yes, it looks like a white cast iron bath tub, with two legs on either side of the bow, too.  However, it has great acceleration, superb maneuverability - almost as good as the SurfBike - and it can scoot all over the place. I was out there quite possibly making a pest of myself riding circles around and dodging all the other boats. Yes, its prop can also get fouled with weeds, but this seemed to be somewhat less than with other prop boats. There is an access panel to the prop in this boat, too, which quickly enabled me to clean off the weeds and get back to joy riding. The belt drive on this boat was slightly loose, so when I tried to slow down so as to not hit the dock beside Curt (the owner of Nauticraft, who was so good to bring these boats to HydroFest) it slipped a bit - and I hit the dock with a rather good thud.  Sorry, Curt! Happily, neither the dock nor the rotomolded boat were damaged.  Tom pointed out some of the reasons for the front fins: you can insert an axle and attach wheels and roll the boat about on land; the fins make it easier to stack Sprites on top of each other; they keep the boat upright when beached. 


The Velosea Soleau is a nice boat. The one I tried for the drag race had a loose chain, so under heavy load it skipped. The adjustable deployment outriggers did a great job of stabilizing it, and when deployed did not severely reduce the speed. Perhaps being a bit out of shape I was unable to beat Tom in the Escapade during the drag race, and being unused to the boat I did poorly in the slalom by making the turns a bit too wide. Otherwise, it is another fun beachable boat. The bimini top was a nice feature, too, and it was up high enough it did not interfere with my hat. 


In the 2k criterium the most amazing feat was performed by the fellow in the Hobie Mirage. He was in the first heat of relatively slow vehicles, and managed to lap the field a couple of times. He then entered the second heat of relatively fast vehicles, which included John Howard's Wave Walker and the Wave Bike, and came in second place! Not only that, he bettered his time by 30 seconds! Truly amazing. 

Given all that, I think that if I were in the market for a fast, generally beachable long distance car top-able boat, it would be difficult to choose between the [Hobie] Mirage, the Wave Walker and the Surf Bike. Then again, the [Hobie] Mirage and Surf Bike are both plastic and the Wave Walker is fiberglass, so maybe the choice is a bit more clear if beaching without long term hull damage is a requirement.

The [Hobie] Mirage never seemed to have a problem with weeds, either. On the downside, however, you can easily get wet in the [Hobie] Mirage, or in the kayak position of the Surf Bike, whereas you are a bit better protected in the Wave Walker. 


It's a good thing I don't have the budget for another boat! 


Thank you again, Ron, for such a wonderful opportunity to observe and try out all these boats.

--Michael Lampi

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