Modifying the Hobie Livewell

I’m about to use my Hobie livewell in anger in a few days time so I decided to address a couple of minor modifications to make the livewell a little more user friendly. With the livewell full of water and the pump switched off, water will drain back through the Tsunami pump, causing the livewell to eventually empty. This pump would probably requiring priming before further use and if done inadvertently there’s always the potential to lose your supply of live bait.

Hobie are aware of this issue and supply a push on rubber cap that fits over the pump outlet to prevent the backflow of water. This requires the lid to be opened in order to fit or remove the cap, the cap clearly needs to be removed with the pump running. 


This is a far from ideal and people have been addressing this problem for sometime. A cheap fix is to place a balloon over the end, with a  hole snipped in the end of the balloon. When the pump is switched off the balloon collapses in on itself preventing the backflow of water. The balloon does have a limited life and will eventually perish or split, that said it’s cheap and easy to replace them as required.

Looking around the garage I found a spare non-return valve leftover from my DIY livewell project. It was going to be a simple solution to fit the valve onto the outlet of the pump. The pump is easily and quickly removed by undoing the pump retaining nut on the base of the livewell... this should be hand-tight.


The pump is withdrawn into the livewell, be careful not to lose the circular rubber gasket that sits directly beneath the pump.


The non-return valve fits snugly into a piece of 3/4” plastic pipe.


The pump outlet is threaded and the pipe will not readily fit onto the pump. However, if you first stand the pipe in some HOT water it’ll then have enough flex to slip over the threaded portion of the pump outlet pipe. That’s the non-return valve fitted and jobs don’t get much simpler than that!


The other issue with the Hobie livewell is the intake pipe. With debris in the water there’s a good possibility that the inlet/pump could become clogged, preventing the flow of freshly oxygenated water into the livewell. The opening on the inlet pipe faces forward to initially enable priming of the livewell pump whilst the kayak is underway.

I purchased a stainless steel plughole strainer off Ebay for the bargain price of 50p!.


A piece of this was cut out using snips. With the black plastic piece of the inlet removed from the clear pipe, the piece of the stainless mesh was inserted and suitably shaped using the handle of a wooden kitchen spoon. It’s not the easiest material to work and the end result perhaps wasn’t the neatest!. However, I reached a point where it was acceptable and the mesh was lightly glued into place using Marine Goop.


Leaves, etc, will still be attracted to the inlet, however, there’s now no chance that they’ll be sucked up into the pump causing a potential blockage. If flow does become restricted, shutting the pump off should cause any debris to fall away from the inlet allowing normal service to resume when it’s powered up again.

I may yet add a large drain plug to the livewell, though I’ll wait to see how it performs of a couple of trips. I’ll be using the livewell in a few days time and I’ll post an update as to how both the livewell and these basic modifications perform on the water.

Photo Album – Updated

I’d previously used Photobucket to host my photos, however, their latest update has produced something I just simply can’t work with. As a result I’ve created a new account with Flickr and my rigging and fishing photographs can be viewed here. There are also a couple of links at the top of my website.

Video – sail installation & early trials

I’ve put together a short video to compliment the original article, comprised of photos and some video footage. It covers the modified sail installation and the initial sea trials – more to follow soon.

Hobie Outback–sail rigging and sea trials

Rigging the Outback for sailing

The Hobie Outback is designed from the outset to allow the fitment of Hobie’s own Sailing Kit. I’m certainly not a big fan of sailing, though I really like the idea of being able to utilise a sail to enable me to travel further with ease and to perhaps fish marks that I’d not previously considered. The Hobie Sail Kit is a fairly basic affair and consists of a two piece aluminium sail mast, the sail itself and a control line. The complete setup breaks down and stores in the durable bag that is comes with. The sail is available in four colours, red, white, blue and yellow. I opted for the red to match the colour of my Outback.

Rigging the kayak for sailing is a simple enough affair. The sail slides onto the extended mast and the mast is then inserted into the sail mount just behind the front hatch.

Officially the control line is passed through the pad eye at the rear of the kayak (lifting handle location), back through the seat buckle(either side of the seat) to provide the kayaker with hand control. The sail itself is quite large, achieving a height of 2.6m (3.1m if you include the mast) with a sail area of just under 2 square metres.


Having tried the suggested rigging method, as mentioned earlier, and I didn’t find it particularly ideal for a few reasons. The rear pad eye created a lot of friction on the control line and added additional effort when adjusting the sail. The control line crossed the rear tank well due to it passing through the seat buckle, hardly ideal when you have a crate or dry box fitted for fishing purposes. The other point I disliked was that the control line needed to be pulled forward to tighten the sail, whereas it would feel more natural to pull it back towards you.

The other potential downside is that the sail cannot be easily stowed (furled) when fitted to the kayak. A couple of years ago I’d seen some videos on You Tube showing a homemade furling device for the sail, this was something that I was going to copy to make the sail more user friendly.

After visiting the garage several times over a two day period I decided on a plan of action. The sail control line would be re-routed using low fiction pulleys ensuring that it was sufficiently clear of the tank well and whilst permitting a more ‘logical’ control. I visited the local chandlers and picked up some initial supplies.

A simple furling system would be constructed as per existing ideas available on the internet. A quick visit to the local plumbers supplies saw me return home with some 1.5” downpipe and appropriately sized end connectors. I decided to tweak the existing YouTube design by inserting a narrower tube within the PVC pipe. I thought it may be better at spreading any potential loading and wear.

The photograph below shows the basic parts that make up the furling device. Two modified end caps, the PVC pipe and the fibreglass inner guide. Marine Goop was used to glue the parts together. I’m not going to cover this in any detail as there are already a couple of very good videos on You Tube that show the construction and operation of the furling device.



What I will say that it’s very cheap and simple to make whilst being highly effective. Having the ability to furl the sail whilst afloat is highly advantageous making this a must have modification. The photo above of the furling device is an early trial setup. The finished product had a longer rope fitted enabling the sail to be locked off using the zigzag cleat that was originally fitted for the anchor setup. The furling device was also connected to the sail using a small carbine.


To furl the sail it’s a simple case of pulling on the furling rope whilst maintaining a little tension on the main sail control rope. The sail will, with a little practice, furl up tightly and can be easily locked into place to prevent the sail unfurling whilst afloat as required.


With the furling line completed and functionally tested I turned my attention to sorting out the routing of the control line for the sail. I wanted a sailing system that would attach and detach from the kayak very quickly, one that was effectively one piece and did not consist of any loose parts. To alleviate the friction issue of the control line passing through the rear pad eye, I fitted a Harken block to the pad eye using a carbine.

The difference was enormous, with very little effort being required to move the sail. The next issue was the routing of the control line around the tank well area. I’d previously fitted two small pieces of GearTrac 175 on either side of tank well to act as mounting points for my navigation light, monopod camera mount, etc. As it happened the GearTrac was ideally placed to overcome the routing problem. I mounted another Harken pulley onto the GearTrac using a YakAttack T-Bolt and knob. It turned out to be a very simple and effective solution.

Note that both the Harken pulleys used to date and of the ‘closed’ variety, i.e the rope cannot jump off the block, the rope runs through the blocks. This has a couple of advantages, the obvious one being that the rope will remain on the pulleys at all times. This not only ensures that the rope remains in place during normal operation, it also means that the pulleys will remain attached to the rope when the pulleys are disconnected from the kayak.. all part of the plan.

The final issue was the routing of the control line to the cockpit of the kayak. I wanted to be able to reverse the direction of the control line as mentioned earlier to produce a more natural operation, I also wanted to be able to lock off the control line as required.

After some head scratching I found myself looking at my box of YakAttack bits. I already had some GearTrac mounted either side of the cockpit to permit the mounting of a fish finder/GPS, cameras, etc. The YakAttack Mighty Mount is designed to fit onto the GearTrac and can be locked in place using a T-bolt and knob. I was able to mount another Harken block onto the Mighty Mount by passing the T-Bolt through the mount and block. There was still sufficient thread on the T-bolt the permit the setup to be secured to the GearTrac. Steve at HobieCat in Poole kindly supplied me with a small cleat that was perfect for the job!

Below are photos showing the parts required for the control line reversal and lock-off modification as well as the finished product.



That effectively completed the routing of the control and furling lines, the photos above and below showing the finished routing results (the furling line below is shown in the earlier design phase with a short rope)


On refection, I’d wanted to create a modified system that provided less friction and better routing of the control ropes. I’m really pleased with the improvement in those areas, it works a treat. The furling system is superb, a must have.

The other requirement was that the sail system could be removed complete with pulleys and be fitted again in a couple of minutes. The furling device takes seconds to fit/remove and all pulleys remain attached to the control lines once removed. It’s a really neat setup and works well.

The complete setup slides straight into the original bag, perfect!

I’ve already been sailing with the Outback and despite the winds being light it was fun and the modified sailing system worked extremely well. More details and video of that first sailing experience to follow soon!

Installing Hobie Sidekick AMA Outriggers

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks rigging the Hobie Outback for sailing, though I’ll cover that soon in a separate article. To compliment the sailing setup I decided to fit a set of Sidekicks from the Hobie accessory range. The Outback is extremely stable and a very buoyant kayak, however, the Hobie sail is large and the nature of its design has the potential to cause instability in strong crosswind conditions. Sure, the sail control line can be quickly released under such circumstances resulting in a collapsed sail, though if I’m going to be sailing offshore I really liked the idea of some extra stability and peace of mind.

The kit is a simple affair, consisting of 3 metal bars (one permanently fitted to the kayak and two removable bars to mount the outriggers themselves). There are two mounts for the central crossbar as well as two inflatable outriggers, two retaining pins and a puncture repair kit.

Also included are some well nuts to attach the crossbar mounts to the kayak. I truly hate well nuts, they generally seize and loosen over time and aren’t ideally suited for stress loading. They also require a large hole to be drilled into the kayak, I just hate them!. I decided to avoid the use of well nuts at all costs and use nuts, bolts and washers instead.

There was quite some head scratching as to where exactly I was going to position them. They were going to interfere a little with my current setup regardless of where they were placed. Consideration had to be given to potential fishing setups, that meant trialling any possible solutions with the dry box, livewell and trolley fitted. Consideration needs also to be given to the seat position, especially in a reclined position.


Once I’d finally decided on the position of the crossbar I marked the hull and set about getting it fixed into place. The original plan had been to fitted backing plates within the hull to add additional strength to the mounting points. However, once the first hole had been drilled it immediately became apparent that the hull was particularly thick and rigid at this point (at least 5mm thick) and wouldn’t require any additional strengthening.

The initial 5mm hole allowed one of the mounting brackets to be located with a single loosely fitted bolt. With the centre bar resting in position I viewed the kayak from side on (several times) to ensure that the bar was positioned directly across kayak. Once I was satisfied, a hole on the other side was drilled in situ through the bracket, being very careful to ensure that the bracket did not move during the process. With a bolt loosely fitted on either side the bar was now accurately positioned. The other two remaining holes were drilled and the cross bar was ready to bolt into place.


This was actually the most difficult aspect of fitting the crossbar. As I’d decided not to utilise the supplied well nuts I had to gain access to the inside of the hull to fit the nuts and washers. I’m over 6’ tall and have long arms and to say it was a little tricky would be deemed an understatement!. However, after dragging my wife outside to assist, the job was completely in a few minutes. That said, I was sporting a nice bruise on my chin as a result of being wedged up tight against the 8” centre hatch, no doubt more bruise will become apparent later. It was well worth the struggle, the crossbar was securely fitted to the kayak and I’d avoided using well nuts. A little Marine Goop had been used during assembly used to ensure a watertight seal.


It can be see in the above photo that the crossbar is situated above the switches for the bilge pump and navigation light. Not ideal, though access to the switches is still easy from either side of the bar. It’s a compromise, though I managed to position the bar where I wanted it and I’m happy with the overall fit.

The Sidekick’s outer arms permit the adjustment of the float height with a simple “click-twist-click” (just like a paddle shaft adjustment).


Three positions offer you high – medium – low positions. Set the floats high for cruising (less drag) or secondary stability. Use the medium or low settings for primary stability (less initial roll). Fine adjustments for float height are done by twisting the main crossbar within its mounts and tensioning with the fastening hardware. Obviously fine adjustments are only carried out ashore and on an ‘as required basis’.

The outriggers are a heavy duty rubberised type affair with an inflate/deflate facility and fixed mounting points. The outriggers are slipped onto the outer support poles and locked into place with a quick release pin. Inflation takes 4-5 breathes through a one way inflation valve. The inflation valve sits on top of the deflation connector, both operations take seconds, it’s been particularly well thought out.


The photograph below shows a close up of a fitted Sidekick.

The Sidekicks can removed or fitted whilst afloat if required, it’s a simple case of storing the arms and floats in a hatch as required. Assembling or disassembling is a straightforward process taking only a minute or two.

On a related note, some time ago I upgraded the rudder on the Outback, removing the standard rudder and fitting a Tandem Island rudder as a replacement. As much as the larger rudder would have been nice, I found it way too heavy for comfortable operation and the rudder stow/deploy controls were creaking under the additional weight. I made the decision to remove that rudder shortly afterwards with a view to fitting Hobie’s ‘Large’ rudder (more commonly referred to as the ‘sailing rudder’). It’s a lot larger than the standard rudder, whilst being smaller than the Tandem Island rudder… more importantly it’s a LOT lighter that the TI rudder. The rudder control system now operates smoothly without any ‘complaints’ when raising or deploying the rudder.


The Hobie ‘Sailing Rudder’ (above)


Outback standard rudder & Tandem Island rudder (above)


With regards to rigging for sailing, I’ve a a minor modification to complete in order to achieve the routing for the control/furling lines that I desire. The Outback should be ready to sail within the week and I’m excited to get it on the water and begin learning the finer points of sailing!

The Hobie range of kayaks can be viewed and taken afloat for a test at the HobieCat Centre in Poole, Dorset.