Remembering Hobie Alter, consulant to Coleman

hobieWe honor Hobie Alter who passed away on March 29th 2014 in simple ways. On my sailboat it is with a Coleman ice box. The only finished compartment on the MacGregor 26x sailboats is the place the manufacturer intended for that box, which stores a factory supplied Coleman ice chest.


Boards (Foils)



IMG_3678Many boaters do not know that Coleman (the outdoor equipment firm) purchased Hobie Cat Company (at the time a public company) in 1975 with Hobart Alter becoming a consultant to Coleman. Since the only finished storage compartment on an X houses the ice chest, Alter was honored by – if not connected to – MacGregor Yachts. In any case the Mac26x is tied to the Hobie Cat beach boats through its ice chest and also through Hobie Cat athletes. Remember that MacGregor produced cruising cats for many years.


Beach Boats

Image528Many owners beach Mac26x cruisers like a Hobie Cat. I have listened to several versions of a story involving Hobie Cat athletes sailing a Mac26x at 17 MPH in Mexican or San Franciscan waters. The story usually involves a fleet of Hobie Cats with a Mac26x serving as mother ship. The Cats take off and those left on the mother ship take chase and achieve 17MPH under sail. Most assume the athletes on the mother ship hiked out and sailed unballasted. However, having achieved 12 and 13 MPH on several occasions now fully ballasted – with crew sitting inside the life lines – I doubt the X required ballast or rigging so that hiking out could be supported. One Mac26x captain has reported to Sailnet of reaching 17 MPH by starting off fully ballasted and dropping the ballast after stabilizing the boat on a downwind point of sail. Even if the Hobie-cat athlete-crewed Mac26x story is fable, pocket rocket is a valid descriptor for the vessel. Bottom line – on an X there should be some kind of Coleman equipment aboard just for tradition and to remember Hobie. I suspect Hobie Alter was pleased to see catamarans race in the 34th America’s cup. He did much to get the concept accepted. The following is from the BWY web site.



After selling our 35 foot racing monohull in 2000 we decided it would be fun to experiment with a MacGregor 36 Catamaran, and what a ride it was!  We had owned a Mac 36 many years before and felt we never had the time to fully explore it’s performance potential, but now was the time.  Our goal was to take this hard core performance boat and turn it into a civilized and  easy to handle cruising boat without giving up any performance.  Finding the right boat to start with was our first task.  After searching for quite a while we found a great project boat in San Diego.  This was a fairly complete 1980 M36 that was very close to stock original condition, tired but not cut up and modified.

After leaving San Diego, we made a quick stop at the MacGregor factory to visit with Roger and make sure the trailer was up to the trip to Seattle.  On Monday morning She was quite the attention getter at the factory, as most of the workers had never seen a 36 Cat, but could tell it must be a Macgregor.  While trailering our find home behind our Dodge Dakota we were quite a sight, as the boat looks really long on a trailer, even though it is very light and was an easy tow.

Once home, Tod put the boat inside his shop, lifted the hulls off of the trailer and began to tackle the extensive “to do” list.  The first step was to update her from the 1980 Blue and White paint scheme to make her look more like a modern Mac in the new millennium with black trim and window accents, he also added grey non skid on the deck.  While working on the basics of refurbishing the hulls, redesigning the deck hardware layout and repainting the bottom, new interior cushions were being made and the fabrication work was under way for the parts to turn her into a tall rig.  After referring back to Roger’s original notes for the few boats he built as tall rigs (for himself) Tod manufactured all of the parts required for the conversion, including a custom 8′ extension section for the mast.  Also part of this phase of the project was the addition of a second engine mount on the port transom to allow the installation of twin Suzuki 25HP outboards to provide desired cruising speed.

The picture above shows the new paint, trim stripe, trampolines, roller furling, and retractable bow sprit for the oversize spinnaker.

Once the painting was completed the boat was launched and motored across Lake Union with the two hulls still bolted together with the shipping tubes.  The boat is stable even when only 8′ wide and I couldn’t resist the temptation to give her a little throttle along the way, it was a little startling how quickly she jumped up to 15 MPH without much throttle! Back then we didn’t have the 28,000# crane we have now, so we proved that the several hundred pound (now 52′ tall) mast can indeed be raised and put into place without a crane, but it sure is not as easy as the new MacGregor boats!

Here is the new double spreader rig up with the Dutchman system for the mainsail and the masthead float.  The float is to prevent the boat from rolling turtle if you sail it over and is about 6′ wide, 4′ long and a foot thick!

Once in the water and rigged the final commissioning of the boa was completedt, including all new sailing and navigation instruments, high end Clarion stereo, satellite television, cabin heat and refrigeration.  The new sail inventory included a Spectra Cruising Laminate mainsail with full battens and a Dutchman flaking system, a roller furling Spectra Cruising Laminate non overlapping jib, and a huge roller furling asymmetrical spinnaker flown from a retractable bowsprit.  This sail plan proved to be both faster and easier to handle than the stock rig with an overlapping Genoa.

The interior was nicely appointed, with teak trim, a fully redesigned galley, cabin heat and refrigeration, all packed into a 38″ wide hull.

The final result of this project was very much what was hoped for, although the narrow hulls made for very cramped cruising.  The “main” berth was only 38″ wide and made for snug sleeping, even though it was 11′ long!

The performance of the boat was as spectacular as hoped for, easily sailing at over 15kts and at times over 20.  Under power the boat could make 24 MPH in calm water, what more could you ask for?



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