Jon Boat vs. Wavewalk S4

Green S4 boat in flooded wooded area

Jon boat vs the Wavewalk S4 – Can you even compare them?

Job boats are a family of boats that range greatly in size, stability, load capacity, speed, etc, while the Wavewalk S4 is one boat.  So how are they comparable to begin with?
The answer is that it depends – Comparing the S4 to an 8ft wide, 24ft long Job boat is rather pointless, unless you talk about seaworthiness, since the S4 is probably more seaworthy. Other than this, the large size Job boat would be more stable and faster, and have a much bigger load capacity.
In other words, if you need to go in rough water, an S4 is probably a better choice, and the same is true for skinny (extremely shallow) water, since the S4 drafts less, and you can paddle it if needed, or pole it, and if the water gets too shallow, such as at low tide, you just get out of it and pull it until you reach deep enough water. This is to say that you can’t get stranded in an S4, while it’s quite possible that you would in a big Job boat.
Also, the nimble S4 is more suitable for moving in areas with thick vegetation, such as flooded woods.

But this is a bit of a stretch in terms of a realistic comparison, and it would be more useful to compare the S4 to medium size and small Job boats, namely Job boats designed to carry up to two passengers, and go at low to moderate speeds.

When compared to medium size Jon boats, the main weakness of the S4 is its humble load capacity: 650 lbs of payload is a huge number in the kayak world, and it’s even good in comparison to small, 10ft to 14ft long Jon boats, but a typical 16ft Jon boat can take a payload of over 1,000 lbs, and this makes a significant difference.

Other than this, the S4 is rather limited in the power of the motor that it can take. A 10HP outboard is close to the limit of its capacity, and this is a rather small motor for a medium size Jon boat, let alone a big one.  In other words, medium sized and big Jon boats are potentially faster than the S4.

So where does the S4 shine?

Again, the S4 is one boat, so it’s hard to compare it effectively to the whole range of Jon boat sizes, but let’s start with the obvious: The S4 is much more stable for its size than comparable Jon boats. It’s also easier to paddle, even by comparison to very small and narrow Jon boats. Jon boats have a flat bottom, which limits their usage to flat water, while the S4 is used routinely by anglers who fish moving water, choppy water, and even blue water, namely offshore.

The S4 weighs 98 lbs without a motor, which puts it on par with the smallest Jon boats. Practically speaking, this means that the S4 is a car-top boat, while most Jon boats aren’t, and they require a trailer for transportation, and in its turn, this fact limits their owners in terms of places that they can launch from.

In other words, the S4 has a broader performance envelope, which makes it much more versatile than the Jon boat design. This may justify the higher price of the S4, compared to smaller Jon boats.

And last but not least – The Jon boat is a sturdy work horse that doesn’t look as appealing as its close relative the skiff. It’s not designed to please the eye, let alone to be a babe magnet. But the S4’s unique combination of a catamaran design and pointy front deck makes all heads turn, and this is priceless.

Wavewalk S4 powered by a mud motor

Duck hunters standing next to a Wavewalk S4

S4 with surface drive motor

Green S4 with outboard motor

The Internet domain jonboat.us is for sale »

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.