Motor Kayak vs Microskiff

S4 motor kayak with three fishermen on board

Intuitively, most people understand that a motor kayak is just a kayak powered by a motor, while a microskiff is a type of small, flat bottomed boat. In this article, we will try to define as clearly as possible what a motor kayak is, and what differences there are between such a kayak and a microskiff, more specifically, a cartop (portable) microskiff, which is closest in size to a kayak.

Motor Kayak

A motor kayak is a regular kayak, preferably one that is bigger and more stable than a typical kayak, that is primarily propelled by its passenger(s) who use either paddles or pedal drives. In other words, it is a human powered craft. Such kayak, when outfitted with a motor, typically a weak electric trolling motor, is safer than a kayak that is only human powered, and it can travel to longer distances, and back.

Since kayaks are designed for human propulsion, namely for low power and low speed, they are very limited in the range of motors that may be used to power them.

The problems in motorizing kayaks range from poor means of control to lack of stability, discomfort, and excessive wetness. Arguably, a motorized vehicle, or craft that does not offer adequate access to its motor is not safe. For these reasons, a motor kayak is typically powered by an electric trolling motor, and used on flat, protected water.

The Wavewalk 700 is a catamaran kayak that is extremely stable, and offers enough free board and good protection to its passengers. The driver of a motorized W700 can easily and effectively access the motor, wherever it is mounted, and for these reasons, this kayak can be powered by outboard gas motors that are much more powerful than any electric trolling motor.

Read more about motor kayaks »

Microskiff

A microskiff is a small, flat bottomed boat, powered by one outboard motor. Typically, microskiffs are transported on trailers, and they are used for fishing in flat or protected waters. The very lightest microskiffs can be carried on the truck bed of a pickup truck, and the Wavewalk S4 weighs so little that can be conveniently car-topped.

Microskiffs, even small ones, are too wide and too heavy to be effectively paddled, and this is the main thing that sets them apart from motor kayaks. They are motorboats.  The S4 is different from other microskiffs in the sense that it’s more seaworthy, and it paddles pretty well, especially with a tandem crew.

Summary

  • Kayaks are human powered craft whose performance can be enhanced  by the addition of a small, low-power electric motors.
  • Microskiffs are small motorboats that are too big to car-topped or paddled.
  • The W700 is a catamaran kayak that works great both as a solo and tandem fishing kayak, and it can be effectively powered by an outboard gas motor.
  • The S4 is a high performance, seaworthy cartop microskiff that can be paddled as effectively as any large size kayak, or canoe.

 

 

 

 

The steady kayak

The Steady Kayak

A Steady kayak, not just Stable in the usual sense that it won’t overturn or even tilt by much, but steady as a dock, that is a kayak that allows a person to perform something difficult with the same confidence, ease and precision as if they did it from a dock, and achieve the same results. Wavewalk kayaks sometime serve as work boats, typically for engineering companies that specialize in the maintenance of bridges, docks, and waterways, but now these extremely stable small boats have a new usage, in sports –

The organizers of the 2019 US Masters National Rowing Regatta in Grand Rapids, MI, the largest race regatta this year, used half a dozen Wavewalk 500 twin-hull (catamaran) kayaks to serve as starting line boats for aligning the competing rowing shells at the start of the race.

What does a starting line boat do in a rowing competition? – A rowing shell can reach the incredible speed of 14 mph, which makes this type of boat the world’s fastest human-powered vessel, but these narrow, elongated boats are hard to maneuver and maintain exactly at the same spot. Therefore, before the race starts, someone has to help positioning the competing rowing boats in the exact spots where they are required to be, and keep them there before they bolt forward.

In the video below, it’s possible to see how this is done – A person lies down on their belly on the deck of a Wavewalk 500, with their feet resting on top of it and their arms stretched forward. They hold the rear tip of a rowing shell with one hand, and release it as soon as they hear the sign to start going forward. Once their job is done, the starting line boat operator simply let their feet drop down into the kayak’s twin-hulls, raise their upper body, and sit on the saddle-seat in the riding posture.

Paddling 21 miles solo in a tandem fishing kayak

Wavewalk 700 kayak crossing lake Tahoe

KAYAKS DESIGNED TO PERFORM BETTER IN A BROADER RANGE OF CONDITIONS AND APPLICATIONS

21 miles in a kayak is a long distance, especially on lake Tahoe, which is often windy due to its 6,000 ft elevation. Anyone who wants to try paddling such a distance on that lake should choose their kayak carefully. Most paddlers capable of such a feat would opt for an extra-long and extra-narrow sit-in touring kayak, a.k.a. sea-kayak, outfitted with a rudder system, without which tracking would be hard, and maybe even impossible.

But Edwin Warner simply took his Wavewalk 700 twin-hull kayak to lake Tahoe, and crossed it from its west shore to its east shore and back in 5.5 hours. Edwin weighs about 250 lbs, and he’s not a racing kayaker. In fact, he is a kayak fisherman, whose preferred activity is crabbing in the San Francisco bay. Edwin didn’t even consider outfitting his W700 with a rudder, and no Wavewalk paddler ever did such a thing, since it’s totally unnecessary, because Wavewalk kayaks track well naturally, due to the fact that they are catamarans, and their users can relocate their center of gravity (CG) fore and aft, and thus effectively control the way the kayak reacts to wind coming from any direction, and neutralize this unwanted factor.

It didn’t occur to Edwin that fishing kayaks are not meant to go over such distances, since typically, they are sluggish and hard to paddle, and he didn’t stop to think that maybe tandem kayak with a load capacity of over 500 lbs is not exactly the optimal vessel for crossing such distances in windy conditions.

Edwin simply trusted his W700, because he’s been fishing with it in the Pacific ocean for years. He didn’t bother to get an extra-lightweight carbon-fiber paddle for this trip, because he knew that his sturdy Wavewalk paddle fits his W700, and he trusted it.

Edwin paddled this 21 mile distance in 5.5 hours, that is close to 3.82 mph in average – Not a bad time for a heavy, middle aged guy in a fishing kayak that’s less than 13 ft long. If Edwin had paddled this distance in a traditional 20 ft extra-long racing or touring kayak, his bad back would have forced him to turn around and cut his trip short.

So how is this story relevant to kayak design? It’s about the envelope of performance of the patented twin-hull kayaks made by Wavewalk – A single Wavewalk kayak can serve two large-size anglers or hunters in a long trip, where both will be seated or standing at will. They’d be able to carry on board all the gear they would need for such a trip, and progress at a good pace. And if needed, they could easily outfit their W700 with an outboard motor, and drive anywhere they want, regardless of winds and currents.

How do common mono-hull sit-in and sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks compare to this? Well, they don’t, really, since they under-perform the W700 in almost everything.

I sum, not all kayaks are equal, and Wavewalk’s patented kayaks outperform traditional, common sit-in and SOT kayaks.

It’s about control

Common kayaks, namely SOT and sit-in, feature two pointy ends, in the front (bow) and at the rear (stern), and a seat that’s pretty much locked in one place, at the middle of the deck, due to balance and hydrodynamic issues.

Outboard gas motors work best when mounted at the stern, and mounting such a motor on a common kayak inevitably means that the distance between the driver and the motor will be too big to allow for easy access to the motor’s controls, and it would make steering either impossible or extremely awkward and practically unsafe.

The Wright brothers did got get their patent on an airplane invention, but on a system for controlling an airplane. Indeed, when driving an any vehicle, be it an airplane, a land vehicle, or a vessel, maintaining good control is key for the driver and passengers’ safety and well being, and this is why all SOT and sit-in kayaks propelled by outboard motors look so bad on videos. Such videos may be fun to watch, but overall, they fail to convince a reasonable person that a common kayak powered by an outboard motor is a a feasible idea, let alone a good one that has merit.

This said, the proliferation of such videos, and the concept of a microskiff board becoming mainstream, point to a paradigm shift in the kayak fishing market, as neither paddling, pedaling or even electric trolling motors can satisfy anglers’ basic need to go on longer trips, in water and weather conditions that are more challenging than perfectly flat water, and simply enjoy driving a small and seaworthy motorized kayak, because fun matters.

So far, the only kayaks that work for real with outboard motors, and provide the safety, control, and fun that sensible users deserve and expect are the Wavewalk 500, Wavewalk 700, and the king of motor kayak skiffs – the Wavewalk S4, which is in fact more seaworthy than many boats are, and is fun to drive even in rough seas.

A seaworthy car-top micro skiff is the new milestone in Micronautics

The S4 is a seaworthy micro skiff that's suitable for offshore fishing

For over a decade, this website has been following and documenting developments in the design and usage of small and lightweight watercraft, from kayaks and canoes to micro skiffs and Jon boats.

In recent years, the emphasis has been increasingly on motorized boats, mainly thanks to the introduction of Wavewalk’s 700 series, and shortly after, its Series 4, nicknamed the S4. Despite their impressive performance under power, these two motorboats are still designated as kayaks, and indeed both paddle well. In fact, the W700 is still used mostly for solo and tandem kayaking and kayak fishing.

Seaworthy small boats

When small craft are concerned, the adjective “seaworthy” evokes either inflatable dinghies or personal watercraft (PWC). Neither kayaks nor micro skiffs come to mind, simply because for different reasons, these small craft are typically not meant to travel in the ocean, especially in the chop, and offshore. When people go in the ocean with a kayak or a microskiff, it is typically in good weather, close to shore, and in areas that are free from fast motorboats’ wakes, which can destabilize the passengers and even the boat itself. As soon as the wind starts blowing, the users of these small craft seek shelter in more protected waters.

Since it was launched in 2017, the Wavewalk’s S4 has proven itself to be a seaworthy and dependable micro skiff, despite the fact that it is smaller and lighter than all other boats and motorized boards in this group of small craft. This accomplishment is due to the fact that the S4 combines a catamaran’s super stable twin-null with the saddle seat of high personal watercraft  (PWC) which are small, high performance, and seaworthy as well.

The S4 is seaworthy in the full sense of the word, at least when small craft are concerned. Running a 10 HP motor, it can be driven in the chop at full throttle, even if the driver is standing up –

But the S4 also delivers unrivaled maneuverability in mangrove creeks and tunnels –

Time and again, technology and design have shown that smaller can be better, and the S4 is yet another proof that thinking outside the box can work in the design of small boats, and lead to improved performance in multiple applications and environments.

Interested to learn more? Read the full article Seaworthy Portable Microskiff on Wavewalk’s website.