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How to Buy a Used Hobie 16 Catamaran
by John Webster, November 2012

The Hobie 16 catamaran is the second largest boat fleet in existence; with over 135,000 boats built they make up the largest Catamaran one design fleet in the world. This being said, second hand Hobie 16’s are in abundance all over the USA. Looking for a good used one to buy comes down to what to look for…

The construction of a Hobie 16 hull is the reason these boats are light weight and fast. A sandwich construction consisting of a fiber glass outer shell, a layer of foam, and then an inner shell of fiberglass, makes them strong, light weight, and ridged. The asymmetric banana shaped hulls make these boats ideal for “beach cats” as there is no need for a “dagger board”.

The two hulls are the most important parts of the Hobie 16. You need to thoroughly inspect both hulls starting at a point 5 inches from the front pylon (supports the trampoline frame) and going forward about 36 inches.

Start by pressing your palm on the upper surface of the hull. There should be no deflection (softness) anywhere this area. If there is any deflection whatsoever your search has ended and a new search must begin - this boat is not worth going any further (unless you were looking for a parts boat). This means that the sandwich construction in the hull has delaminated, and the hull is due to break without warning. Repairing this can often take more time and expense than simply finding a better boat.

This cross-section demonstrates a delaminated hull; this hull broke on the water.

Once the hulls have passed your inspection the next most important part of a Hobie 16 is the sails. They have two, a foresail or JIB and a Main sail. Hobie 16 sails are full batten sails, which mean there are stiff fiberglass battens that help shape the sail. It may be worth it to check if these battens are broken or missing the caps – which can be replaced relatively easily.

Wear can take place through the batten pockets, so check these out for failed stitching, holes, poor condition of the batten pocket protectors, missing screws or rivets etc. While some of this can be repaired you should look for a sail that has minimal issues in this area.

The Hobie jib sail slaps the mast while under sail at every tack (upwind turn), this causes the edge of the sail to wear… look for this wear.

The sail material is crispy when new and, with use, becomes like a limp dish cloth. The sail you are looking for should still have some crispness to it. Obviously holes and patches in the sails are not only ugly they affect the way the sails work, so look for sails that are hole and patch free. Sails that are dirty will stay dirty as there is no secure way to clean them!

This is an integral part of the Hobie 16 design. The trampoline should be tight enough to cause the side rails of the frame to bend inwards an inch or so. If there are any holes or wear, or if the tramp is not able to be tightened to cause the side rails to bend then you will need a new trampoline.

Main & Jib Sheets & Blocks
The control of the Hobie 16 is achieved via a series of lines, blocks, and pulleys called the main sheet system, the jib sheet system and the traveler system.

The main sheet system includes the main sheet and the upper and lower blocks. Look for the main sheet to be in good condition and not worn out. Check that the blocks still run freely and that all the screws are there and tight. Check that the lower block cam cleats still function.

The jib sheet system includes the jib sheet and the two jib blocks, as well as the two clew blocks. Just like the main sheet system check that the jib sheet is in good condition and not worn out. Check that the blocks still run freely and that all the screws are there and tight and that the clam cleats are still in good shape. The clew blocks are on the jib sail at the clew, so make sure they are there and that they are in good shape.

The traveler system consists of a traveler control line, a traveler car, and the cleat to retain the traveler line. Look for the line to be in good shape (sometimes this is the lazy end of the main sheet), check the cleats to make sure they are doing their job. Make sure the traveler car is in good condition and that it runs freely with load and that it moves without any hitches as it travels from one side of the rear crossbar to the other. All these parts are readily available and can be replaced if needed.

Rudder and Tiller System
To control the boat the rudder system consists of two rudder blades, mounting and locking castings containing the rudder cam, and the rudder plunger, as well as the spring and adjusting screw. There is a rudder pin holding these assemblies to the transom via gudgeons. Check for loose pins that have excessive wear or worn out gudgeons.

The rudder system is linked via a tiller cross bar and in the center of this bar there is a tiller extension. The attachment of this extension needs to be in good condition however if worn you can replace it. There are all kinds of ways to improve the way the tiller/rudder system works.

If you have reached this point in the check list and have found that the boat passes most of the above items or you can fix/replace small items that are missing or worn out, you have found yourself a good used Hobie 16!


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