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Pedaling across Lake Ouachita

Oct 21, 2023

Even though it is still mid-summer, something in the air hints at autumn's inexorable advance.

On Sunday, my adventuring partner and I departed from our tour of Arkansas state parks to enjoy a day of kayaking on Lake Ouachita. We always hike a trail when we visit a state park, but it is too hot to hike right now. When the temperature reaches 100, you've got to be on the water.

After a late lunch on Sunday, we launched my Hobie kayaks at Echo Canyon Marina near Blakely Dam. My adventuring partner is inexperienced in kayaks, so I gave her my user-friendly Hobie Pro Angler 12. Short and wide, it is extremely stable and very comfortable with its adjustable seat.

The downside to the Pro Angler 12 is its extreme tendency to yaw. You have to correct the course constantly to make it track a straight course. You can decrease its severity somewhat by lowering the skeg, but it is still highly prone to wander. Hobie corrected that problem with the Pro Angler 14.

The rudder control is a lever on the starboard side. If you correct course constantly and incrementally, you can minimize yaw. If you wait until you are noticeably off course, you will steer a serpentine course that requires a considerably higher expenditure of energy.

I used my Hobie Revolution 13. It is one foot longer than the PA-12, but it is also a lot narrower. The Revolution series is the fastest in Hobie's lineup, the fastest being the Revolution 16. The Revo is a cramped ride, and the seat is not adjustable. Despite its narrowness, it is surprisingly stable. I can even stand up in it, but rising to ones feet in a Revo requires a process and a technique. Standing in the PA-12 is easy. Either boat might pitch a standing pilot, but the boat itself will remain upright.

The Hobies are pedal-powered by way of Hobie's Mirage Drive system. It is a pair of angled fins that extend below the hull. A chain drive connects two pedals to the fins. The fins move side to side in a scissor motion that displaces water sternward.

The Mirage Drive unit drops through a hole in the hull and snaps securely with two locking tabs. In shallow water, extend the pedals so that the fins sit flush against the hull to prevent damaging the fins.

Pedaling takes considerably less effort than using a paddle, and it is much faster. You can also sustain high speed over a much greater distance than you can with a paddle.

No paddle boat can keep up with a Hobie, nor can pedal boats from other manufacturers that employ a propeller drive.

Both kayaks are fun to drive, but pedaling a Revolution 13 is joyful. The view from the seat is like looking down the blade of a knife, and it cuts water like a knife, too.

The PA-12, in contrast, cuts an elegant profile from the water. It is deceptively fast and is even faster with the longer fins that I used with my Revo.

I have used my PA-12 in the ocean with tremendous satisfaction. A testament to its stability occurred in Pine Island Sound near Pineland, Fla., when I inadvertently ran over the back of a porpoise. The creature lifted the craft almost on its nose and then swam in a frantic circle around me while thrashing its tail against the water. I managed to stay in the seat when the boat slammed back to the water. The episode lasted less than five seconds.

I have also been asea in a different Rev 13, and it performed marvelously. Either craft is suitable for the roughest inland waters.

To protect myself from the sun, I wore a wide-brimmed hat with a shroud in the back that covers the neck and ears. I wore a long-sleeve shirt and shorts. I applied sunscreen to my bare legs and feet every half hour.

Wearing that much cover was hot. The only remedy was to get in the water often. Many springs come up from the lake's bottom. You can jump into water that's as warm as bathwater and then drift over a spring that feels like it's 20 degrees cooler. The springs are common, so being in the water was very comfortable.

Despite being a summer Sunday, the lake was largely deserted. Traffic is always light near the dam, but I counted fewer than 12 boats all day. A couple towed water skiers. One towed a tube. The others just cruised leisurely.

There was a slight whiff of an undefinable something in the air that hinted that summer's end is near. It was in the hard winds that kicked up periodically during the day, but it was especially present in the stillness of late afternoon, when all of the powerboats had departed and our kayaks were the only craft in sight.

Summer will soon be a memory, but there is still plenty of warm weather remaining to enjoy time on the water.

Print Headline: Pedaling across Lake Ouachita

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