Category Archives: kayak propulsion

When a fishing kayak becomes a boat, or an ultralight microskiff

Sometimes a technological or design breakthrough pushes the envelope of a product category or class so far that it creates a new type of product that did not exist before. Such thing has happened now with the advent of the new Wavewalk 700 series –

Before the W700 existed, there were several important differences between large size fishing kayaks and small boats.

The most noticeable difference was in width –
Since kayaks’ primary means of propulsion is paddling, they need to be narrow enough to allow their passengers to propel them with dual-blade paddles (‘kayak’ paddles). Boats are not supposed to be paddled but they need to be transported on trailers, which is why their width is determined mainly by the width of roads’ lanes.

The second, and most important difference was in stability –
Being essentially narrow mono-hulls, fishing kayaks are unstable, which is why designers and manufacturers continuously attempt to push the envelope of kayak width by offering excessively wide kayaks (known as ‘barges’) that are quasi impossible and sometimes totally impossible to paddle.
Typically, a monohull fishing kayak’s instability allows an angler occupying its seat to lean slightly to one side, but as soon as they lean more, they lose balance and capsize. By the same token, an extremely large monohull fishing kayak may offer an athletic fishermen to try to stand along the kayak’s center line, but as soon as they move sideways, they lose balance. So basically, the passenger of such large mono-hull kayak is prevented from moving from one side to another, and by this fact such a fishing kayak differs from a boat, which typically offers its passengers to sit or stand on the side of their deck.

When a fishing kayak becomes an ultralight microskiff, or car-top boat

The Wavewalk 700 weighs 80 lbs without accessories, and it’s 31 inches wide, which is fairly slim compared to the average fishing kayak out there, and its very skinny compared to some fishing kayaks whose width exceeds 40 inches. This makes the W700 a lightweight fishing kayak by today’s standards, and a narrow one too, by the same standards.
The W700’s design is based on a patented technology that’s radically different, and this changes the rules of the game as far as stability is concerned.
As this video shows, a full size (6′ / 205 lbs) middle aged passenger can stand up and paddle the W700 in full confidence not just from the traditional position along its center line, but also while standing with both his feet in one of the kayak’s twin hulls:

 

 

This puts the W700 in the category of boats, as far as stability is concerned – a true game changer, and together with its extremely good tracking capabilities, turns it into a high performance boat, or microskiff, when motorized.
This movie demonstrates this breakthrough:

 

 

Taking a second passenger on board

The ability to take a second passenger on board is a third important difference between fishing kayaks and boats: The former are typically capable of supporting a single passenger, and realistically speaking, no one fishes out of a tandem fishing kayak because neither paddling such craft nor fishing out of them is acceptable in terms of ease or comfort. In other words, these kayaks are not remotely fishable in tandem. In contrast, the typical crew size of a fishing boat, even a small one such as a Jon boat or a microskiff, is two, and this difference is critical.

Here too, the W700 breaks the fishing kayak mold by offering full stability and comfort to a crew of two passengers, not just in a tandem paddling mode, but even when outfitted with a powerful outboard motor, as this video shows –

 

The Microskiff redefined

What is a microskiff?

Typically, a microskiff is a small, lightweight, flat bottomed motorboat used for flats fishing as well as in protected bays, estuaries, lakes and slow moving rivers, by a crew of one or two anglers. Some would trace the microskiff lineage to dinghies.
Small and lightweight in this case means a boat transported by trailer, and therefore requiring to be launched and beached at a boat ramp.

Microskiff’s propulsion problem

Microskiff are made to be propelled primarily by outboard motors, and the typical microskiff is too wide and heavy to allow for paddling. This is problematic for a number of reasons –
To begin with, an outboard motor can run out of gas, or stall due to a technical problem, and the electric trolling motor that many microskiff have on board isn’t enough for effective traveling over longer distances.
But more importantly, both outboard gas motors and electric trolling motors use propellers that must be immersed in water at a certain height, so the effective draft of a microskiff under motor is quite high, and often too high for really shallow water, a.k.a “skinny water”.
This problem also limits the typical microskiff as far as launching and beaching locations are concerned, and this means that you must launch and beach it from a boat ramp, which is a major source of frustration over a lot of wasted fishing time.
To add insult to injury, propellers don’t do well in the presence of aquatic vegetation, be it seaweed, grass, etc. This is particularly frustrating to anglers who realize that such waters are among the best fisheries.

Human powered propulsion – Poling, anyone?

Microskiff manufacturers often show pictures of people who use a long push-pole to propel their microskiff through shallow water. This human powered mode of propulsion is indeed possible, but it’s not that practical –
To begin with, poling involves long intervals between each pole push, so the big effort invested in each push that accelerates the boat goes to waste when the boat decelerates while you are busy lifting the pole and sticking it back into the water.  Acceleration is particularly demanding in energy terms, and in other words, the fact that microskiff are wide and heavy makes them lose speed quickly, and thereby drain your energy.
Few people can push a typical microskiff over a distance of more than several hundred yards, and that’s not enough in terms of real-world fishing.
On top of this, the hull of a typical microskiff is not designed for effective tracking – It’s neither very long nor narrow, and it lacks elements such as fins, skegs or tunnels that could improve its directional stability. The result is that poling in a straight line becomes harder, which means you waste an additional and considerable amount of energy because your microskiff zigzags instead of going straight forward.
Poling is far from being on par with more effective means of human powered propulsion such paddling and rowing.

Conclusion – A better microskiff should allow its crew to go in shallow water and vegetation-rich water in a human powered propulsion mode other than poling, and preferably paddling, since effective rowing requires good technique that can be acquired only through much practice.

An ideal microskiff for real-world fishing

Ideally, a microskiff should allow for either a crew of two fishermen or a solo fisherman to launch, beach, motorize, fish and paddle in any type of water, whether standing up or seated. This means that such a boat should be highly stable yet narrow enough for effective paddling, and only the patented, catamaran-style Wavewalk™ from the new 700 series offers to work as a both a full tandem and solo skiff in the sense that it works perfectly well for one person too, when the second crew member is missing. The fact that the W700 features two long and narrow catamaran-style hulls helps it track better than other craft of similar size, and that helps poling as well as paddling it, with either dual-blade (kayak) paddles or single-blade paddles – canoeing style.

The ideal microskiff should also be lightweight enough to allow for trailer-free transportation, and car-topping by one person, in case no fishing buddy is present. Again, the only two-person microskiff that offers such advantage is the new Wavewalk™ 700, which weighs just 80 lbs without a motor and accessories.  In fact, this weight is lower than that of most high-end fishing kayaks out there, including sit-on-top (SOT) and sit-in models, especially tandem fishing kayaks, which are heavier than regular ones.

Trailer-free with triple propulsion capability

The redefined microskiff is trailer-free I.E. easy to car top even for one person, suitable for choppy water, skinny water and vegetation-rich water, and accommodates two full size fishermen fishing standing in comfort. It can be easily and comfortably driven with a powerful outboard motor of up to 5 HP, as well as with electric motors.
One or two people can easily paddle it kayak-style or in the traditional canoeing style, and it lends itself to poling more easily and effectively than any other microskiff does, including solo skiffs, I.E. microskiff for just one person.
Such is the new Wavewalk™ 700 series.

Don’t overpower your fishing kayak, but if you do…

Aside from legal considerations, there are good reasons why you shouldn’t overpower your fishing kayak, and they all boil down to one word: Safety. Simply, overpowering any boat, including a kayak, is hazardous, weather because the extra torque and speed make the boat harder to control to a point where the driver could lose control and capsize it, or because a powerful motor can overstress the part of the hull to which it’s attached (typically the stern), and make it develop cracks that could cause the boat to sink.

When common fishing kayaks are concerned, most online videos that show such a vessel driven while outfitted with a gas outboard motor reveal an overpowered setup – Those SOT kayaks are hard to drive mainly due to poor stability, unsuitable ergonomics and insufficient access to the motor’s controls. In some cases the kayak’s stern is dangerously low to a point  where it’s partially submerged.
As for Wavewalk kayaks, they work perfectly with small outboard motors, but in some cases their owners outfit them with an outboard gas engine that’s too powerful (I.E. exceeds 3 hp), mainly because these boats work better with outboards that feature a long propeller shaft (20″), and such motors are hard to find in the range of small-size motors.

This video demonstrates an ‘overpowered by far’ configuration – A 6 horsepower Tohatsu outboard that fits boats up to 3,000 lbs mounted on a 60 lbs Wavewalk:

Needless to say that such outfit is hard to drive, and requires extreme caution. Inexperienced drivers should not drive overpowered boats, especially such small ones.

motorized-kayak

fisherman-driving-motor-kayak-640

While it is strongly recommended not to overpower your Wavewalk kayak, if you’re determined to do so, here are some tips you may want to remember –
First, make sure the boat is properly outfitted with enough flotation. This may turn out to be critical in case of an accident. Remember that the more powerful the motor the heavier it is, and that in case of an accident, the amount of flotation you use should suffice to keep the boat afloat with the motor attached to it.
Second, make sure the motor mount you use is sturdy enough – Remember that the motor mounts offered by Wavewalk are rated for 2.5 hp to 3 hp, and they won’t withstand the torque generated by more powerful motors. Note that the TMM 20-15 mount featuring in the above video was reinforced with a double mounting plate. Reinforcing the knobs under the deck with wide plates is recommended as well.
While a spray shield isn’t required for driving your motorized Wavewalk on flat water at regular speed, it’s pretty useful when you drive in choppy water and at higher speeds. The same is true for a cockpit cover.

More on this subject »

Motorized kayak or microskiff?

The current trend in fishing kayak design is to produce kayaks that are increasingly wide and heavy, and no longer qualify as car-top boats but rather as microskiffs or small boats that require a trailer. This defies the purpose of kayak fishing, but some anglers opt to purchase and use these boats.
The question is, how practical is it to motorize these excessively big kayaks?
It turns out that most large-size fishing kayaks can be outfitted with electric trolling motors that are mounted either on the side or in the middle of the kayak – right in front of the user. It’s not the most practical setup, but some anglers need this extra propulsion power to get where they want to fish, or get back from there, since paddling long distances isn’t for everyone. Some are outfitted with an electric motor mounted in the back, at a big distance from the driver, which isn’t very practical when you go in shallow water where weed and grass are commonly found, and these tend to get entangled in the propeller.
As for outboard gas motors, we haven’t found a single fishing kayak that offers an acceptable solution for an outboard gas motor, as such motors must be stern mounted due to their weight, and mounting a motor that far behind the driver doesn’t work well, for various reasons related to steering, convenience and safety.
The only fishing kayak that can be flawlessly motorized is the Wavewalk, as we’ve already mentioned here.

Wavewalk has recently introduced a set of accessories that enhance the performance of its patented catamaran kayaks in terms of motorizing, and turn them into high performance car-top motorboats, or in other words – personal microskiffs. The difference is not just in the improved performance, but in the looks as well –
With its new, black, inflatable side flotation modules, the new W570 INF 20-15 looks like a rigid-inflatable boat (RIB), which is a type of boat commonly associated with high speed and rescue operations.
The new transparent spray shield makes this little boat look like a marine motorbike, or a twin-hull personal watercraft.

This movie shows this new model in action in the ocean, in choppy water:

Being able to drive this microskiff while standing is not just a useful feature – it’s a lot of fun.  Being able to launch it almost anywhere, without needing to use a boat ramp is a huge plus, and its light weight makes it easy to car top – There’s absolutely no need for a trailer for this craft.

Interestingly, the spray shield is detachable, and it can be removed within seconds if you find that it’s in your way when you fish – After all, this boat offers its user to fish from the front, and not from its sides.

In sum, we see a noticeable upgrade in what Wavewalk offers in the market for portable fishing motorboats.

New speed record for a motorized W fishing kayak

Kenny “One-Shot” Tracy, a W kayak angler from Maryland, broke the speed record for a motorized kayak of the W500 series. He outfitted his W fishing kayak with a 6hp outboard gas motor from Tohatsu.
This powerful engine weighing 57 lbs empty propelled Kenny’s kayak at 13 mph in Chesapeake bay, at 1/3 throttle:

The kayak was stable and its driver stayed dry, and Kenny reported neither tracking nor steering problems.
Before starting his speed tests, Kenny outfitted his W kayak with side flotation.
The motor is mounted on a TMM 20 Wavewalk transom motor mount.

This successful test further reinforces the notion that when motorized, the patented catamaran kayak from Wavewalk can serve as a personal motorboat, or car top microskiff.