Armor Amour – chapter 2

Here’s the back page from the vintage Hobie Cat brochure that came with Hello World. Hobie had an intriguing angle on catamarans in 1979 – camping. Perhaps being a subsidiary of the Coleman Company had something to do with it. I don’t know whether this was a significant factor in sales back then, but this photo sure made an impression on me. Sailing Around Lake Michigan was not in my head when I bought her – so let’s hear it for the power of antique lifestyle marketing!

As the groovy copy explains, Hobie 16s can navigate very shallow water and can even be sailed right onto the beach – sandy preferably. They can go where few other boats can with minimal impact on the environment. That’s why Hello World is ideal for wilderness camping – in theory.

A spiel reminiscent of Adam Curtis's Century of the Self documentary series.

In practice, rocky shallows and sandy shores scrape away the hull bottoms. An lightly loaded Hobie bounces off rocks, deflecting the force of impact and minimizing damage. Add tents, sleeping bags and other cargo (like tripods and scuba tanks) and inertia increases, making direct impact and serious damage more likely. Landing a loaded Hobie on a rocky beach requires a slow approach. When the water is shallow enough to wade, it’s best to get off and walk her in, off load the bags, place Bao longs (solid fenders) under her hulls and then roll her up.

Even with such careful handling Hello World’s bottoms were pretty chewed up after last September’s trial run. To survive 3 months requires armor.

The highly worn areas along the bottom have already been protected with 9 layers of epoxy mixed with 10% powdered aluminum, an additive sold by West Systems for abrasion resistance.

Powdered aluminum is also a component of thermite – a steel cutting explosive used in building demolitions. Traces of thermite like residues have been detected in the dust from the Twin Towers. It took me two days to armor up the keel with the powdered aluminum, and each batch I mixed was a sort of meditation on dark history. My two beautiful fish, the feet of Hello World shod in sleek gray gloss. Perfect paradox.

Applying armor

Originally, Patrick and I had discussed installing thin steel plate along the keels. To conform to her complex curves, the plates could either be curved to match her contours or be placed as tiles, like on the space shuttle. In a worst case scenario, tiles could be torn away without taking a great chunk of hull with them.

Lining both keels with steel would have added a lot of weight – so aluminum powder was the choice. The most vulnerable section is between the bow and the mid section, the point of first impact below the water line. I repaired damage there when I bought Hello World and smashed it again myself last September.

Armor detail on port hull. Roller texture will be abraded soon enough. Port hull from inside. The most vulnerable area is defined by the width of the filing cabinets


I’m currently investigating plating the most vulnerable bow/mid section with pre 1982 pennies, which are 95% copper.

…and by the way, Happy Birthday to Me!

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3 Responses to Armor Amour – chapter 2

  1. Winslow says:

    HappyBirthDay! Dan! Mine’s on Thursday. 48

  2. dude, I kinda remember that!

  3. heikilee says:

    A day too early and now a day too late….
    Love Heidi

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