I bought my Mirage in July 1998, *best money I have ever spent.*
I live on a tidal river in Jax. FL. so I deal with tides and headwinds. I also have muck at lowest tide and cannot launch easily until I have at least 6" of water, but if I am coming in during a lower tide, I come in at full speed, pull the drive and lift the rudder just before it grounds, get out and pull it the rest of the way in.
It is the fastest human powered boat on my river and I have had powerboat users come up to me and say "what motor do you have in it"
The problems as I see it are:
drive cables break due to acute angle of mounting (Hobie corrected it in newer models)
Fins are too small (Hobie now has 3 sizes),
Scupper hole under seat acts as a funnel to shoot water up if you sit down too quickly (may not be a problem for small or light people, but at 6', 225lb and bad knees it means a wet butt. In cold weather I tape it before launching.)
Coaming needs to be taller and have a reverse angle to sluice water away. Boat takes on about a liter of water an hour, after 3 hours it begins to be a problem and also means you need to dry bag anything you put in the hull.
It needs foam or something to support the area in directly in front of the seat.
The Drive could use multiple pedal mounting points further down the shaft for different lengths of stroke.
And if I could have my "druthers" it would be lighter and easier to lift.
That said it is still a fantastic machine. At almost 10 years old it still performs and looks great. I have peddled it into headwinds, fast incoming tides, rain and 6" chop, it gets exciting to see light and air through the bottom of the drive hole. When I broke a drive cable, I was 2 miles from home with a 12 knot headwind and incoming tide. I pulled up and secured the drive and to paddle it home just like a regular kayaker... took me twice as long.I bought my Mirage back in 1999 as an excercise device and use the boat an average of twice a week. I put a lot of miles on this boat. I upgraded to the newer dual density fin drive system after about a year - Hobie mis-drilled the holes for the tension cables on early drives and replaced it for free! I had to upgrade the rudder lift as the handle is not heavy enough for high usage levels and it began to fail. I also had to replace one of the "cam" knobs that hold the drive in place. Regardless, I am truly amazed at how durable everything is considering the amount of use. The hull is not the most efficient but is pretty stable (to a point) and I have perfected the art of getting in and out in deep water (hint: detatch the seat strap on the side you are getting in on - which should be on the left [no control lever] side). I am an avid diver and ease of getting in and out is essential. This boat, like most sit on top's, is not good for swift water. I have been ejected many times due to the high center of gravity also the hull "rocker" does not lend itself to quick manuvers. Storage is poor and I would like to see a revised rear waterproof hatch that would give access to the full area behind the seat. If you want to camp, plan on putting eyelets on the front deck to bungee waterproof bags.
Let's talk fishing - this is the ULTIMATE fishing rig. I made a dual rod holder that fits under the seat (ez in/out) and can troll the hot spots with ease. I can cast with a rod in one hand, troll two in my holder, steer with my other hand and peddle all at once!! This ability confounds my "paddle only" friends who are fighting with trying to paddle and hold a single rod at the same time. I also rigged up a battery powered sonar rig (again ez in/out) to do depth checks for "holes".
No boat does it all - the Mirage does more than most and with the dual power - upper body (paddling)/lower body (peddling) capability you can get a great workout and out endure any paddle only boat. The dual power option allows me to stay up with and beat kayak buddies 10 - 20 years younger than me - especially on long trips. I find it amazing that there are not more of these out there! These boats are not cheap, but as a frugal buyer, I can honestly say no purchase I have ever made has yielded the return on investment of the Mirage. I wish Hobie would make an upgraded model (Kevlar?) so I could justify buying a new one. I honestly liked the boat so much I bought a Hobie Cat as well.
One last thing - there are four (4) other "must haves" for kayakers (IMHO) they are: 1) Thermarest "camp pad". I tried all kinds of foam, pads, seats, gel's etc. and this little pad is the ultimate seat (regardless of price) and it can be had for less than $20., it even beats that thick black air kayak seat (and doesn't screw up your center of gravity - it is THIN) - be stupid, don't get one! 2) Sony "sports" SRF-87 pendant radio - I have bought at least a dozen small radio's all and this one beats them all and is perfect for kayaking - best of all it "plays for days" on a single AAA battery - try it you will like it. 3) Ortlieb "Boxit" (HB Mobil EBox) waterproof cell phone case - don't waste your money on other cases this is the one (I have others). It is not cheap but it allows you to use your phone while in the case (GoreTex membrane) and really is waterproof (I have dropped mine in the water many times - even held it under with no leaks) add to that several "attachment" options (belt clip, lanyard etc.) and you have safe cell phone communication while on the water and 4) last is the Zeiss miniquick 5x10 moncular (with lanyard option). Great Zeiss optics and lifetime guarantee if it gets dunked. I actually bought the top of the line 10x25 but for most folks the miniquick is great (at 1/3 the price).