Tag Archive: electric trolling motor

Paddle, pedal drive, or motor for my kayak?

This article examines different modes of propulsion available for kayaks today, and discusses their relative advantages and shortcomings.

Different modes of propulsion

Kayaks can be propelled by various means, which include paddling, pedaling, and motorizing*
Most people paddle their kayaks with dual blade (kayak) paddles, and rarely with single-blade (canoe) paddles.
Most pedal drive manufacturers today offer kayaks equipped with rotational drives (rotational pedals and rotational propeller), and one kayak manufacturer offers a pedal drive with push pedals and flapping blades.
Motors for kayaks range from weak electric motors (trolling motors) to powerful outboard gas engines (outboard motors).

Assisted paddling

This is the name given to paddling while an electric motor is working to provide extra power and increase the kayak’s range of travel. Assisted paddling is becoming increasingly popular, especially among kayak anglers whose fishing kayaks are typically not easily to paddle, and are often loaded with heavy fishing gear.
Assisted paddling is particularly useful in moving water (rivers, tidal currents), as well as in big lakes and the ocean.
This hybrid mode of propulsion is particularly useful for paddlers who aren’t necessarily in top physical condition due to weight, age, and physical disabilities.

Pedal drives

For a couple of decades, the niche market for pedal driven kayaks had been dominated by push pedal drives, but it the last few years rotational pedal drives have become increasingly popular in this market, as numerous kayak manufacturers (especially fishing kayaks) started offering kayaks equipped with such drives. This transition is due to the fact that rotational pedal drives for kayaks are more efficient than push pedal ones.

It’s worth remembering that operating pedal driven kayaks is limited to water that’s neither shallow nor rich in vegetation, and a pedal dive won’t get you where a paddle could, which is why pedal kayak users always carry a paddle on board.

From an ergonomic standpoint, the effect of operating a pedal drive is even worse on a person’s back than the effect of paddling a SOT or sit-in kayak, because the continuous horizontal pressure that their legs exert on their lower back while pushing it against the seat’s backrest is bigger than the pressure exerted in a paddling mode in the L position.

Suggested reading –

 

Paddling

Paddling in the common L kayaking position works for younger people who happen to be physically fit. Such people rarely suffer from back problems, which are the number one cause of disability in America.
For all other people, namely middle aged and elderly, and/or people who are overweight and not in top shape, paddling in the L position is a source of  discomfort, pain, and even injuries, hence the expression “yak back”.

Since so many people in America suffer from a sensitive back or from more serious back problems, many anglers view kayaks as uncomfortable boats to fish from, and for a good reason, unless one considers Wavewalk’s patented kayaks, which are back pain free.

Motors

Electric motors

Electric motors are weak, which is why they’re often called trolling motors, namely motors for slow motion.
Having a motor on board is a good thing, as it adds safety in adverse conditions such as wind and current, or paddler fatigue, and it adds to the kayak’s range of travel. However, electric motors fail to deliver the performance that outboard gas engines offer when it comes to power, speed, and long trips.

There are two types of electric motors – Integrated (built-in) motors, and add-on motors that the user attaches to their kayak.
Ironically, the motors purchased separately from the kayak work better than the ones that come already installed in it. The reason for this absurd situation is that it’s easier to mount an electric motor on a kayak in a way that would effectively protect it in case it bumps against the bottom, while integrated motors have no effective protection for such cases. Since every body of water has a bottom, and the distance between the bottom and the surface is not always perceptible or predictable, such unfortunate events are most common. Rocks, fallen trees, oyster beds, coral reefs sand bars and just plain junk are a constant threat to the motor’s propeller and shaft.

Outboard motors

Even small outboard gas engines are too powerful for SOT and sit-in kayaks, including the widest models. Simply, there is no way to outfit a SOT or sit-in kayak with an outboard motor in a sensible manner. Any SOT or sit-in kayak outfitted with an outboard motor is neither comfortable nor safe to drive because of inadequate means to control and steer it.
Wavewalk kayaks are different from SOT and sit-in kayaks in the sense that they offer the user full control over the boat while they drive it, direct access to the motor, and much more stability than any other kayak does.
In fact, the Wavewalk S4 is more seaworthy than most small skiffs and Jon boats, as can be seen in these short videos:

 

 

 

Wavewalk kayaks offer unrivaled stability, and especially the new 13 ft long S4 that allows big and heavy people to drive it without any problem, facing either forward or sideways –

 

 


* This article discusses neither kayak sailing nor poling

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.

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.

A barge fishing kayak is not a microskiff

Anyone observing the evolution of the common fishing kayak in the past decade has noticed that the high-end tier (not better, just more expensive) of this class of watercraft has grown bigger, that is longer and excessively wider.

Why is that? -The main drive has been the need to provide fishermen with more stability, as many of them have come to realize that sitting for hours in an unstable craft isn’t fun, and certainly not productive. After all, reeling in and landing a big fish on board is hard work, and when you work hard you don’t want to worry about capsizing your boat, do you?

As for the increase in length, it was the result of two problems: The first is the decrease in tracking capability as the kayak gets wider –  Short and wide (‘chubby’) mono-hull kayaks track more poorly, and outfitting them with rudders makes them less attractive to users as well as more expensive. The second problems is the need to offer more buoyancy, since kayaks that offer too little buoyancy ride too low on the water, and not many people like to get constantly splashed by waves and even just eddies.

So SOT and sit-in fishing kayaks have grown bigger and heavier, and this is how the term ‘barge kayak’ was born (see article: http://wavewalk.com/blog/2011/04/15/the-barge-a-new-class-of-fishing-kayak/. This increase in overall size, and especially the increase in width made those kayaks harder to paddle, this decreasing their suitability for long fishing trips. In addition, some models have become so heavy that car topping them became nearly impossible for one person.
Some anglers had hoped that pedal driven kayaks would solve the propulsion issue, but most of them got disappointed, mainly due to an increase in ergonomic problems, and mostly back pain and premature fatigue. Moreover, the pedal drive made ordinary fishing kayaks heavier for car topping, and it turned the optional rudder into an absolute necessity.
At this point, some owners of those big and bulky kayaks started transporting them on trailers, which was in a way a sign of defeat, as anyone can understand that a kayak that must be towed on a trailer defeats the purpose of both kayaking and kayak fishing.

Once the term ‘barge’ was coined, the next logical step was to compare those huge and cumbersome kayaks to small skiffs, and ask the question “if this kayak is already almost as big as a small skiff, why not fish out of a real skiff?” – a good question indeed, to which vendors offered yet another propulsion solution: electric trolling motors.
Considering the fact that the combined weight of an electric trolling motor and battery can top 70 lbs, as well as the fact that electric trolling motors offer a limited range of travel, this solution was no match for small skiffs outfitted with gas outboard motors.
From the standpoint of a fisherman who fishes out of small motorboats, an electric SOT and sit-in fishing kayak was not even something worth considering – a sub par solution, and even more so because all those huge kayaks are not really suitable for stand up fishing as far as normal people fishing in real world conditions are concerned.

In other words, the SOT, sit-in and hybrid fishing kayaks hit a brick wall on their way to replace the small motorized skiff, known as ‘Microskiff’. The solution to the challenge of ‘stay small and get motorized’ came from the W kayak, which is perfectly suitable for motorizing with small outboards, and offers existing owners of small motorboats a way to downsize and upgrade at the same time, as the motorized W kayak (a.k.a. personal microskiff) is not just a smaller microskiff or a better fishing kayak – it is a new class of small watercraft with special attributes, offering better performance and convenience, and a whole new level of fishability.

Review of fishing kayak trends in 2012

It seems like anglers have learned to put in the right perspective the unsubstantiated promises of ‘hands free kayak fishing’ , ‘stand up kayak fishing’, ‘ergonomic seat’, and other hype that’s typical to this market.  After all, you can’t fool all the people all the time…

Since the US economy isn’t exactly booming in recent years, sales of motorboats keep showing weakness, which in its turn sustains the market for cheaper alternatives, I.E. canoes and kayaks. In this market too, the main drive seems to be price, and increasingly so.

In the past year (2012), the main trend that could be observed in high-end fishing kayaks is the quest for more speed, a broader range of travel, and increased safety. In other words – motorized kayaks. And since common fishing kayaks are barely suited for weak electric trolling motors, realistically speaking, the W kayak is the only option out there when outboard gas motors are concerned. This explains the success of the motorized W kayak this year, both in cold and warm regions, inshore and offshore –
In other words, this new concept introduced at the end of 2011 has already proven itself as the real deal for any angler looking for a personal fishing boat that offers all advantages that can be found both in bigger motorboats and in common kayaks, plus some more features and advantages that only a W offers, such as all-water mobility, no need for a special kayak rack, zero back pain, stand up paddling, fishing, and driving , and more…

So what has happened to the electric trolling motor? Nothing, really – It’s a concept that got introduced and energetically pushed into the kayak fishing market by big companies who make electric motors and fishing kayaks. It got people excited, and many of them outfitted their kayak with such a motor. As time passed, the problems associated with this setup became more apparent, and much of the initial enthusiasm has faded.
Electric trolling motors are here to stay in the kayak fishing market, but typically as accessories for kayaks used in small bodies of flat water, and for shorter trips. Relying on these systems for fast moving water, offshore, or longer trips isn’t practical, and that’s where the outboard gas motor shines.

As far as kayak design goes, no big new this year, as usual.
The ‘Hybrid’ kayak that was energetically pushed by one of the major companies in the market hasn’t replaced the sit-on-top (SOT) or the sit-in kayak. The hybrid kayak, which is essentially a shallow canoe, works on flat water but when the wind picks up and the water gets choppy, it’s time for its passengers to head back home, unless they’re in a mood for getting sprayed and bailing out water from the hull.
BTW, that company itself didn’t do too well, and had to change owners.

As before, kayak manufacturers keep relying mainly on their versions of the traditional SOT kayak, and occasionally, a new manufacturer tries to introduce their own version (or perversion) of this concept that has been around for over 40 years, and hasn’t evolved during this period in any significant way.