Death of A Hobie and An Expensive Lesson in Attachment

July 1, 2012 § 2 Comments

They say that hindsight is always 20/20.  I can now say with a fair amount of certainty that it was a bad idea from the outset.

After finishing up most of the restoration work on the Hobie last November – when it was too cold to sail a boat like that – she sat on the trailer for the entire winter and spring.  As the days got warmer, it broke my heart every day I came home from work and saw her new shiny hulls in the garage.  Yes, I kept her in the garage and parked my truck outside, I have my priorities.

But last week was to be her maiden voyage on the open ocean with her new paint on.  I had taken her out to a very small local lake a week before, but that didn’t really count.  That outing was mostly just to make sure I had all the parts before I spent a week with her at the beach. Little did I know that would be the only sail I’d get with her.

The family and  I arrived at the beach house we had rented for the week on a Saturday afternoon.  It was too late to get the boat out, and we all wanted to catch up and have a few beers anyway.  The next day, we didn’t get around to it either.  Funny how time gets away from you when you get away from everything else.

But Monday.  Monday was the day.  We hauled the boat over to the beach in the morning and started putting her together, just before a storm blew in.  It rained for a few hours, so we went in and had lunch.  I think everyone took a nap.  Why not?  It’s better than what most people were doing on a Monday.  In fact, up to that point, it was one of the best Mondays I had experienced in quite a while.

The rain cleared out later in the afternoon so we re-assembled on the beach to continue assembling the boat.  In 15 minutes, we were ready to go.  My brother and I put on our lifejackets.  We always wear them on that boat because it is easy to go over, especially with heavy winds and 2-3 foot seas like we had that day.  We pushed the boat to the tide and discussed the angle of our attack.

After the plan was decided, we charged the boat into the surf like a pack of sled dogs, only pushing from the sides and back so not really like a pack of sled dogs at all.  We got about waist high in the surf and started jumping on the boat.  At the depth we were at, we could not get the rudders down and locked, which is significant as anyone who has sailed a Hobie of any variety will tell you that it is tough to steer without having your rudders locked.

The rudders kept popping up, out of the water, meaning we had no steerage.  The boat kept pointing into the wind (as sailboats will do), and the wind and current kept pushing us up the coast, to the north.

At this point I should mention there is a large, immovable, barnacle-ridden pier directly north of where we attempted to launch, about 200-250 yards down.

We fought with the boat and the wind and waves for a couple of minutes until at some point, we were turned so that the hulls were parallel with the incoming waves.  A good-sized wave came along and pushed the boat right over.  It was then that I realized just how close to the pier we had come.

But my first priority was staying alive.  I was on the boat when it turned, and slid down between the sail and the trampoline, into the water.  It was not deep, but I did find myself underwater and unsure where I could go up for air.  I felt around and found an opening to get some air, then went back under the hull to get out from the middle of the boat.

When I surfaced, I looked back just in time to see the boat go mast-first into the pier.  In a few seconds, the mast was bent in multiple places, and the boat turned completely upside down.

Then this happened:

That’s my Dad getting knocked out of the way just before we all yelled at him to get the hell out of there.  There was nothing we could do. The wind, waves, rigging, sail, trampoline, and pier made it too dangerous to do anything else that night (even though the security guard at the pier insisted that we clean it up right then and there, but that’s another story).

So, we had a beer.  And here’s where the lesson comes in.  I guess it’s because I’m a father, or maybe because I’ve been reading Socrates lately, but for whatever reason, I was really not upset about losing the boat.  I was keenly aware that my daughter was watching my every move, so I did my best to just accept it and not get too upset about it.  She gave me a big hug and said she knew how hard I worked on it and she was sorry that it was lost.  I hugged her back and told her it was only a boat.  Her uncle and I were OK and that was the important thing.  But the strange thing was that I really meant it.

I did put a lot of hard work into the boat.  And a lot of money too (which I don’t have a lot of).  And, it doesn’t seem cosmically fair that I put that much time and effort into her and only got to sail her for one hour with no wind.  But it is just a boat.

Truth be told, I wanted a 16 anyway.

The next morning I arose early and was down at the beach by 6:30, about an hour before dead low tide.

This was the scene:

Talk About a Rough Night

I felt like it was important to get as much as I could out of the water before a bunch of kids started playing around it.  The rigging was still attached to the various pieces, and the sail too, and it could have easily wrapped up some kid.  Also, Hobie parts are expensive, so I may be able to salvage quite a bit.

With the help of a few hand tools, a utility knife, and a few passers-by, I managed to get almost all of it out of the sea.  I never found the starboard bow or transom, or the rudder attached to the missing transom.  And there was also a large part of the starboard deck that was missing (managed to find that stretch of the hull though).  Here’s the last shot of my beloved Hobie 17:

Sure is a Pretty Shipwreck

The rest of the story is just taking off all the parts that I thought were salvageable and hauling what was left to the dump.  I managed to sell the mainsheet blocks, a trapeze handle, and the cam cleat to the guy that shot the video above (I only found out later that he called me a dumbass on youtube or I’d have charged him more; although I guess he’s right, it wasn’t my best hour), and I plan to take the aluminum part of the mast to a metal recycler to get what I can.

And that, my friends, takes us full circle.  In less than one year, I took a worn-out unusable boat, turned her into a beautiful trailer-queen, and smashed her into a pier.  What will life hold in store for me next?


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§ 2 Responses to Death of A Hobie and An Expensive Lesson in Attachment

  • David Kobrinetz says:


    I am sorry to hear about your H17. Especially since she was restored with such obvious care and detail. I commend you for your writing, perspective and hard work.

    I have 2 1990 17s in San Diego and am willing to part with one.

    Hulls are white with pinstripe and in excellent shape. Sails are very good with no delam or repairs. Could use new tramps, but still serviceable.

    I will offer you a very reasonable price and we can sail together in Bay or Ocean (there is a channel, no beach launch) in San Diego if you are interested.

    Let me know


    • Eric says:

      Hi David,

      Thanks for the offer, that’s awesome. Unfortunately, I’m on the other side of the country, in Georgia, so sailing in San Diego is a bit of a stretch for me.

      And don’t worry too much about my loss, I picked up an H16 a week later for a really good rate. And, the insurance company paid me more for the 17 than I put into it.

      It was sad to see her go, but it worked out better than I could have imagined.



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