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.
A portable boat is a small, lightweight boat that can be easily transported on the roof of a common passenger vehicle, and carried by hand to the water and back from it by one or two persons. Portable boats are also referred to as car-top boats.
By definition, a portable boat does not require a trailer for transportation.
But when portability is concerned, not all trailer-free boats are equal, and some boats (e.g. small dinghies and Jon boats) and motorized boards are small and lightweight enough to be hauled onto a pickup truck bed, but too heavy and bulky for car topping and easy carrying, which is why these vessels are not considered as portable boats.
Kayaks are small vessels that are typically lightweight enough to be car topped and carried by hand, but since kayaks don’t lend themselves to effective motorizing, they are not considered as boats, and the same is true for most canoes, with the exception of very wide, square-stern canoes that can be driven on flat water with a small outboard gas motor.
Kayaks equipped with electric trolling motors are still considered to be kayaks and not portable boats, similarly to bicycles that are not designated as motorcycles even when outfitted with small motors.
A motorized board labeled as a skiff for a solo user would not qualify as a portable boat even if in the future a lightweight enough version of it is produced, because it lacks the load capacity and free board that are expected from a boat – even a small one.
In sum, in order for a vessel to qualify as a portable boat, if must be both a fully functional boat and fully portable.
Why is portability important?
Portability has advantages both in economic and time terms.
In dollar terms, portability offers you to save the money that you would have had to spend on a boat trailer, and spend it on the boat itself, and on other useful equipment such as electronics, fishing gear, etc.
More importantly, a portable boat makes you gain productive, fun time on the water that you would have otherwise spent driving to or from a boat ramp, which is the only place where you can launch a boat from a trailer. A portable boat also saves you time waiting at a boat ramp to launch your boat, and waiting for others to launch their boats or take them out before you can take out your own boat. Not having to depend on boat ramps guarantees that you’d never drive to a boat ramp just to find that there’s no more parking space left there for your vehicle and trailer.
At its highest level, portability gives you the freedom to launch anywhere you want, as seen in this video –
Types of portable boats
Some dinghies, Jon boats and square-stern canoes are small and lightweight enough to be car topped. They are made from aluminum, fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) – typically fiberglass, or polymer resin (plastic) such as Polyethylene.
Having a rigid hull means that these boats are ready to be driven without additional work such as inflating and/or assembly, and once the trip is over, they can be car-topped without deflating and/or disassembly.
The only difference between a car-top boat and a boat transported on a trailer is that a car-top boat requires mounting the outboard motor on it before launching, and dismounting it after the end of the trip. For an experienced boater, mounting the motor and dismounting it takes a couple of minutes.
A folding hull is made from rigid panels attached by flexible sections. Folding a boat makes it take less space, and being less bulky can be an advantage for transportation.
Upon arrival to the launching spot, a folding hull needs to be unfolded, and the boat requires assembly for its seats, transom, etc., which can take up to twenty minutes. Disassembling the boat and folding it back can take a similar time, and altogether, whatever time is gained as a result of not having to launch at a boat ramp thanks to the lack of a trailer, might be wasted on tedious assembly and disassembly work.
Some inflatable dinghies are made solely from soft parts, and others, namely rigid-inflatable boats, or RIB, include rigid components as well. This requires inflation and assembly before launching, and disassembly plus folding upon return from the trip. These activities take time, even if you’re experienced and equipped with a good electric pump.
Inflatable boats are not very popular among anglers, who prefer to avoid fishing from a boat whose hull might be perforated by a fishing hook, a knife, or other sharp object that anglers typically carry on board.
Some small catamarans feature rigid hulls (pontoons, actually), and they can be disassembled and transported in sections, on top of a car roof. Typically, such catamarans are used for sailing, and they are rarely used for fishing and hunting.
Other issues with portable boats
Aside from the problems that some portable boats present as far as assembly and disassembly time is concerned, some designs leave much to be desired in terms of seaworthiness, stability, and comfort –
Canoes are either round bottomed or flat bottomed. The first type of hull is extremely tippy, especially for a crew of more than one passenger, while the second type is moderately stable on flat water, and unstable on moving water.
Portable Jon boats and rigid dinghies that feature a flat bottom are moderately stable on flat water, but not stable enough for trips or fishing in moving water, or in the presence of wakes from big motorboats.
Portable Jon boats and dinghies that feature a shallow V hull perform better in moving water, but less so on flat water.
Portable Inflatable dinghies are very wide, and designed to go in moving water, but these boats are not comfortable.
What is the most portable boat?
At slightly less than 100 lbs, the Wavewalk S4 is the world’s most lightweight boat for a crew of more than two adult passengers, and it also features a fully rigid twin-hull that requires neither inflation nor assembly. These two facts combined make the S4 the world’s most portable boat.
What is the most stable portable boat?
For a boat that requires neither inflation nor assembly, the Wavewalk S4 is the world’s most stable in its class. With a load capacity of over 600 lbs and a saddle seat that’s similar to the seat of large-size high performance personal watercraft (PWC), this patented boat can carry up to three adult passengers on board – all of them standing up.
What is the most seaworthy portable boat?
This question is more difficult to answer, since many inflatable and rigid-inflatable dinghies are very wide and designed to go in rough water. However, for a rigid hull portable boat, the Wavewalk S4 is the most seaworthy.
What is the most comfortable portable boat?
Typically, portable boats feature simple bench-like seats, or basic swivel seats. None of these seating accommodations is particularly comfortable, and they don’t offer good means for a user to balance themselves.
In contrast, the Wavewalk S4 features a saddle seat that prevents back pain, and allows for easy, natural, intuitive, and fully effective balancing, even in rough water. Both the driver and passengers of the S4 can ride (straddle) the saddle while facing forward, or sit side-saddle while facing sideways. This is true even for a big and heavy person who weighs more than 300 lbs.
What is the most versatile portable boat?
Hands down, the most versatile portable boat is the Wavewalk S4, since it works perfectly in a non-motorized mode, both with canoe and kayak paddles, in a solo and tandem mode, and it features a frontal casting deck, as skiffs do.
Being most seaworthy, the S4 can serve as a perfect tender for a yacht or a big motorboat, and it can be effectively towed behind the mother ship, as well as hauled on board.
Wavewalk announced the new Series 4 (S4) of portable boats (car-top boats) that are extremely stable even by comparison to larger boats that require transportation by trailer. Still, the 38″ wide S4, which feature slated cockpit sides designed to facilitate paddling, will work well enough as paddle craft, namely for kayaking, canoeing, and kayak fishing.
In this case, portability also means gaining extra mobility through the option to launch anywhere, and the option to paddle effectively means being able to go in shallow water where motorized fishing boats are prevented from going, as well as in weeds, and no-motor zones (NMZ).
The ultralight skiff (98 lbs) is by no means limited to being a solo skiff, and with a load capacity of over 600 lbs it can take two big and heavy anglers on board, or three lighter persons, plenty of fishing gear and camping gear, and a powerful outboard motor of up to 6 HP.
This will be the first skiff from Wavewalk to feature a traditional stand up casting platform at the bow. This will make the boat perfectly adapted to fishing the flats with a crew of two, and still, its extreme stability and twin-hull (catamaran) design guarantee offshore capabilities beyond what is expected from small skiffs and Jon boats.
This hydrodynamic advantage, which pertains to tracking and seaworthiness, is enhanced by the ergonomic advantage provided by the saddle seat, which is similar to seat that feature in personal watercraft (PWC), also known as jet-skis.
The following video shows the smaller, popular Wavewalk 700 in an offshore trip to the Elizabeth islands, south of Massachusetts. The new S4 will perform even better in such applications:
This new, versatile skiff will be available starting in April, and it is offered at a $2,505 price point, without accessories.
Anglers who dislike wasting time launching and beaching their boat at boat ramps dream of a car-top boat, and the Wavewalk® 700 can be easily car-topped, even by one person, as seen in this video:
But this is not where the advantage provided ends – The Wavewalk® 700 is not just a car-top boat, it is also a portable boat, namely one that that can be easily carried (portaged) from the transporting vehicle (car, SUV, pickup truck) to the beach, and back, even on rough terrain.
This can be done just by dragging the boat on the ground, and even one person can do it, as seen in this W500 video:
It’s harder to do with an outboard motor is attached to the boat, but still possible if the boat is outfitted with a pair of wheels, which can be carried on board once the boat has been launched.
Many watercraft labeled fishing kayak are too bulky and heavy to be paddled, but another problem that accompanies such barges is that they’re practically impossible to car top.
This ‘oversize’ issue is yet another one that defies the purpose of kayak fishing – With their weight varying between 80 and north of 120 lbs, transporting such overgrown kayaks and ‘hybrids’ requires using a small boat trailer, because an average person cannot upload them on top of their vehicle. This is a major turnoff, since having to launch and beach in boat ramps is an experience that most anglers don’t like.
Other, smaller and lighter kayaks can be car topped, but they normally require a special kayak rack attached to the car’s standard car rack, which is not just inconvenient, but it happens to be costly as well.
The solution is to have a fishing kayak that’s lightweight enough for anyone to car top with no problems, and does not require installing a special kayak rack. This type of kayak does exist, in fact, and it’s no other than the Wavewalk –
As you can see in the last part of this video, it takes less than a minute to upload such a kayak on top of a sedan outfitted with a regular car rack. This is done within seconds, from the back of the vehicle, as shown in the last part of this video:
This photo shows the basic setup, which includes just two towels that protect the car paint from getting scratched by the kayak: