Tag Archives: propulsion

A breakthrough in skiff design and performance

Skiffs are small, open deck, typically flat bottomed boats that are similar to Jon boats, except for some characteristic structures such as a frontal casting deck, or platform, which most skiffs feature.
Skiffs are powered by outboard motors, and they are used mostly for recreational fishing in flat water, especially shallow water. A skiff may be required to travel through moving water, such as bays, tidal currents, and rivers.

The smaller skiffs are sometimes called micro skiffs, or microskiffs, and the smallest of them can carry no more than a single passenger going on a solo trip.
Even these skiffs of solitude are too heavy for car topping, especially by one person, and they lack a proper casting platform at the front. The best performance these very small skiffs can achieve in transportation terms is fitting on a pickup truck bed, and since the most lightweight of them weighs 150 lbs without the motor, one wonders how uploading and downloading it is even possible.

This sub category of solo skiffs is rather worthless for paddling, which can explain the motto “Forget About Paddling” coined by a manufacturer of one of these micro skiff.
In shallow water, paddling is the best alternative to motorizing, since motors are often prevented from proper functioning in such waters, be it as a result of too much draft, vegetation, underwater obstacles, or regulations. Therefore, the notion that anglers fishing out of small skiffs can forget about paddling is senseless.
The S4 cockpit features slanted sides that make it easy for the passengers to move their paddles closer to the boat, so this 38″ wide craft paddles more ergonomically, and feels like a narrower kayak in this sense, although in stability terms it’s more stable than any kayak.
And as for bigger skiffs, their users are forced to forget about paddling, and that’s too bad, since it reduces their mobility and limits their ability to fish in skinny water, and increases their exposure to unpleasant surprises at low tides, etc.

Lackluster performance can be expected from these small skiffs when it comes to seaworthiness, namely performance when driving or fishing in the ocean or in other moving water, and providing enough stability in the presence of wakes that big motorboats generate. This is reminding a similar problem that many Jon boat passengers and anglers experience.

The skiff is a successful boat design, especially in the southern states, where flats fishing is popular. However, as popular is it is, this design has left many problems unsolved, or poorly solved, so far.

The Wavewalk S4 – a revolutionary skiff, or a new type of boat?

The Wavewalk S4 performs in various conditions

Legally, the S4 is a kayak, and technically, it can be described as a catamaran. This is not a good start for a boat that claims to be a skiff. But its shallow draft and front deck can serve to justify its inclusion in the skiff category, at least in the sense that it offers to do what skiffs do, just better.

Better skiff in what sense? –

  1. Weight and portability – At 98 lbs without accessories, the S4 is significantly lighter than the lightest micro skiff out there. It is the only skiff that one person can easily car-top.
  2. Load capacity – With a weight to payload ratio that’s over 1:6 (the S4 can carry over 600 lbs on board), the S4 can carry up to three adult passengers or two large-size fishermen even in a motorized mode. This is over twice the load capacity of the micro skiff that’s closest in size to the S4 in weight, and it’s comparable to the performance of bigger skiffs.
  3. Stability – The S4 is more stable than any other small skiff, and the stability it offers is comparable to the stability that medium size skiffs offer.
  4. Balancing capability – A skiff that’s considerably bigger than the S4 can be more stable in absolute terms, namely resistance to change, but no skiff offers its passengers to ride a saddle seat that only high performance personal watercraft (PWC, or jet-ski) feature. This type of seat allows the users to balance themselves intuitively, and more effectively than any other type of seat does.
  5. Versatility and mobility – The S4 is the most versatile of skiffs, in the sense that it delivers top performance both when motorized and in a paddling mode. There is no other vessel whose user can host two extra passengers on board while driving in moving water, and later paddle it effectively in a solo mode on a long trip. Similarly, there is no other vessel that performs well both in the ocean and inland, in very shallow water.
  6. Seaworthiness – The S4 excels in going through waves, and it reacts extremely well to other boats’ wakes. Such performance isn’t typical for a small or even medium size skiff, and it can be found only in bigger models.
  7. Price to Performance – The S4 may not be the least expensive micro skiff on the market, since the solitude skiff is offered for less, but in terms of price to performance the S4 is in a league of its own, especially considering the fact that it is a trailer free boat, and trailers cost money.

For more information and demo videos visit the Wavewalk S4 skiff page »

Conclusion?

As shown here, the S4 barely fits in the micro skiff class, and it deserves to be in a class of its own. However, a class of boats with just one boat model in it is not a practical tool for classification, or for anything else. The S4 is somehow comparable to the Wavewalk 700 (W700), but again, a class of boats with just two boat models in it could be acceptable in design terms, but it would not serve its purpose in marketing terms.

And this article didn’t even touch the question of the S4 classification as a kayak…

 

The Most Stable Small Craft

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.

More information about the Wavewalk® Series 4 (S4) skiff »

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 »