This isn’t an Outer Banks story, but it is an amusing adventure about sailing a Hobie Cat long before my days as the owner and operator of Kitty Hawk Watersports.
Partners in Crime
Back in high school, I had a good friend named Robert Sterling. Robert and I started hanging out because we both played football. We would ride to practice together, lift together, and run together. This carried on after we graduated high school and entered Montgomery College, where we both played football.
If you knew Robert, you know he was always laughing at something or thinking of something funny to say. We were usually trying to make each other laugh. But the other thing I loved about Robert was his sense of adventure. If we had idle time, we were looking for something to do. He was the perfect partner in crime.
In the winter we would do a running workout we called “Backyard Running”. It was pretty much what it sounds like. To get an exciting cardio/agility workout, we would run through our suburban neighborhood only using people’s backyards. Yes, we were technically trespassing, but, God, it was exciting. And exhausting. Because it was night time, there was always the fear you’d run into something. Fortunately, we never experienced anything detrimental to our health or well-being (like a neighbor with a gun).
A Brilliant Adventure
A couple years later, we were playing junior college football at Montgomery College. It was early in our freshman year and, for some reason, we didn’t have a morning football workout or classes. A normal college student would have probably slept in. Not us. I suggested we go sailing in the morning and get back in time for practice. As usual, Robert was all in.
For my high school graduation, my dad had bought me a Hobie 16. We got up early and towed the boat with my little car from Silver Spring to Mayo, Maryland where I knew there was a launch that people wouldn’t bother you for trespassing. We rigged up and set off on the river.
Being a weekday morning in September, the waters were very quiet with boat traffic. We had the whole place to ourselves and the cool of the morning added to our excitement. We were just cruising along (which is how every adventure begins) when we cleared a point and received a fresh gust of undisturbed wind. The Hobie took off, as they do.
Go Big or Go… Under?
The cool thing about Hobie Cats is how fast they can go. On top of that, there’s a way to hike out on a trapeze wire to counter-balance the heeling effect. I’m not going to lie, I was very inexperienced with the trapeze wires, but Robert was game for more excitement, so we clipped in and hiked out.
Not to brag, but we were feeling pretty cool as we flew across the water, hanging our bodies almost parallel to the surface. Just as we were perfectly dialed in, I looked aft to admire the wake we were creating. It was spectacular. I probably only looked back for a few seconds, but when I turned my head to look forward, ROBERT WAS GONE! You have to understand, the deck of a Hobie 16 is just a trampoline. There are no hatches, cabins, or staterooms. Nothing. For what felt like forever, I was trying to figure out what happened to Robert. For some reason, I looked aft again. There was Robert. While my head was turned he had lost his footing and, without making a noise, swung around behind my back.
There he was, still hooked-in on the trapeze wire, but dangling in the water aft of the boat. Just as soon as I’m filled with relief, a new problem popped up. Literally. The bows of the boat. Robert’s weight aft of the Hobie was pulling the bows of the boat straight up in the air. So much so, I thought we’d do a crazy, back flip capsize. By now ,he’s up to his neck in the river and I yell to him to unclip, which he does. This saves the boat from capsizing, but when he jettisons, I’m left solo on a sailboat that takes off like a rocket. I yell to him to stay there and I’ll come back around to pick him up (as if he could go somewhere). I’m flying along thinking, “This is it. I’m going too fast and I’m going to capsize.”
By pure luck, I successfully tacked and went back to pick up Robert. No harm, no foul.
We had a good laugh and got back to school in time for practice.
Robert and I finished up the season, and I moved on to Western Maryland College. He stayed, played another season, and was offered a scholarship to University of Maine. In 1988, he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. He had a brief career playing professional football, but that wasn’t what made him special. Robert was special for the laughter he created with anyone around him.
Rent a Hobie Cat
For an afternoon of adventure, laughs, and memory making out on the Roanoke Sound, contact Kitty Hawk Watersports at (252) 441-2756. We offer Hobie Cat sailboat rentals, as well as jet ski rentals, kayak rentals, guided tours, and more.