We took the boat out yesterday and cruised around Peanut Island. The perfect little boat for exploring in places bigger boats just can’t get to.
Candy loves the little boat… Two cuties in the water 🙂
We took the boat out yesterday and cruised around Peanut Island. The perfect little boat for exploring in places bigger boats just can’t get to.
Candy loves the little boat… Two cuties in the water 🙂
Portable boats have been around for decades, and over time, they have gained many fans, as well as opponents.
This article is an attempt to shed more light on this subject, clarify the basic things that are worth knowing, determine factors that should be given consideration when deciding whether to buy a portable boat or not, and which type, as well as offer information on the latest developments in this field.
Special attention is given to Wavewalk’s Series 4 (S4), a new type of portable boat based on the company’s patented invention. The S4 is good new for those who are looking to get a high performance car-top boat without compromising on stability, comfort and dryness.
The following playlist includes YouTube videos showing the S4 used in different applications and environments, and by different people. One of the videos shows a user uploading an S4 on top of his SUV in under thirty seconds –
Make sure to set the YouTube player to watching the videos on this playlist in 1080p HD Hi-Definition.
Use the > button to play the next movie, and the < button to return to the previous one.
A portable boat is a small boat that’s lightweight enough for a person to upload onto their vehicle’s roof rack in order to transport it this way. A portable boat must also be lightweight enough for one person to carry by hand from their vehicle to the water, and back. In other words, a portable boat is a car-top boat, and vice versa.
This is to say that portable boats do not require transportation by trailer.
But not all trailer-free boats offer the same degree of portability, and some small dinghies, Jon boats and motorized boards may be hauled onto a pickup truck bed, but still be too heavy and bulky for either car topping or easy carrying. Therefore, these small boat are not true portable boats.
Kayaks are not considered to be portable boats despite their being small and typically lightweight enough to be car topped and carried by hand. This is because kayaks don’t lend themselves to effective motorizing, and the same is true for canoes, with the exception for square-stern canoes designed to accommodate a small outboard motor, and be driven on flat water.
Kayaks with built-in electric trolling motors are not portable boats either, since their motors are extremely weak in comparison to the smallest portable outboard gas engines that power boats.
Only a vessel that is both a boat in the full sense of functionality and comfort expected from a motorboat, as well fully portable, may qualify as a portable boat.
Motorized boards are vessels that offer neither minimal free board nor sufficient load capacity to count as boats. Ironically, some of them are too heavy to be car-topped, which is yet another reason why they may not count as portable boats.
Portability can save you both time and money.
In dollar terms, portability saves you the money that you would have spent on a boat trailer. It’s always good to have a few extra dollars to spend on the boat itself, or on fishing gear.
However, what’s more important is the fact that a portable boat saves you time that you can spent having fun on the water, instead of on the road, driving to or from a boat ramp, as boat ramps are the only places that allow you to launch a boat from a trailer. By the same token, a portable boat saves you waiting time at the boat ramp, waiting for other boat owners to launch their boats, or take them out before you could do it with your own boat. Owning a car-top boat guarantees that you’d never arrive to a boat ramp just to find that the facility had run out of parking space for your vehicle and your boat trailer.
Simply put, portability frees you to launch anywhere you want, and in the case of the S4, even in rocky beaches a.k.a. “Rock Gardens”, as seen in one of the videos featuring in the above playlist.
Portable boats include dinghies, Jon boats and square-stern canoes that are small and lightweight enough for car topping. Typically, such boats are made from aluminum (welded or riveted), fiberglass, or plastic resin such as Polyethylene (PE).
A rigid hull offers the advantage of being ready to go on water without spending time and energy on inflating and assembly. As soon as they are out of the water, rigid-hull portable boats (RIB) cannot be car-topped without deflating or disassembling them.
One of the drawbacks of a car-topped boat compared to a boat transported on a trailer is that with a car-top boat, you have to mount the outboard motor on the boat before you launch, and dismount it at the end of the trip, so you could transport it inside your vehicle. This said, an experienced boat owner can mount and dismount a small, namely portable outboard motor within 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.
Inflatable dinghies are made from soft parts, and rigid inflatable boats (RIB) have rigid parts too, which require both assembly and inflation before launching, and disassembly as well as deflation and folding at the end of the trip. These extra activities can take considerable time, even for an experienced user with a good electric pump.
Generally speaking, anglers typically prefer not to fish out of inflatable boats because of the risk of a fishing hook or a knife perforating the hull.
Some small catamarans may be transported on top of a vehicle. These boats feature closed rigid hulls namely pontoons, and their decks are made from sections that can be assembled for boating, and disassembled to allow transportation on a vehicle. Typically, these are sailing catamarans, and they are rarely used for fishing.
The need to compact the boat so it could be car-topped leads to some portable boat designs lacking in seaworthiness, stability, and comfort.
Canoes feature either round bottomed or flat bottomed hulls. The first is extremely tippy and prone to rolling, especially for a crew of more than one, and the latter is stabler on flat water, but insufficiently stable in choppy water, and in the presence of powerboats’ wakes.
Jon boats, aluminum dinghies and micro skiffs that feature a flat bottom hull are moderately stable on flat water, especially if they are very wide, but they lack the stability required for driving and fishing in moving water.
Jon boats, dinghies and skiffs with a shallow V hull are more stable in moving water, but less stable on flat water.
Inflatable dinghies are very wide, and they are designed to allow driving in moving water, but these boats are not comfortable.
Small, compact boats are not the most comfortable, with the exception of the S4, which features a large-size saddle resembling the saddle seats found in bigger personal watercraft (PWC) sometimes called jet-skis. The S4’s saddle combined its twin-hull design delivers the highest performance in terms of balancing, namely the users’ ability to react instantly, intuitively and effortlessly to changes, as well as actively balance the boat. The S4’s stability combined with the effective balancing capabilities it offers to its users contribute to its exceptional seaworthiness.
A boat’s portability is affected mainly by its weight. The S4 weighs a little less than 100 lbs without a motor, and this makes it the lightest boat relatively to its load capacity of over 600 lbs. The S4 also features a fully rigid twin-hull that requires no time-consuming inflation or assembly. Therefore, it is fair to say that the S4 is the world’s most portable boat.
The Wavewalk S4 is the world’s most stable in its category of portable boats that require neither inflation nor assembly. With its load capacity of over 600 lbs and its saddle seat, this patented boat can carry up to three adult passengers on board, and they may all stand up at the same time –
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, since it can go in the ocean in waves up to 5 ft, and its driver can drive it in waves while they stand.
Portable boats usually come with simple bench-like seats, or basic swivel seats. Inflatable dinghies offer the driver and sometimes the passengers to sit on its inflatable chambers, or pontoons. Such seating accommodations are not ergonomically designed, which is why they are rather uncomfortable. On top of this, such crude seats do not provide boaters with effective means to o balance themselves, and this balancing deficiency becomes a severe comfort problem in rough water, as well as on longer trips.
The Wavewalk S4 is the only portable boat that features an ergonomically designed PWC saddle-seat. These seats prevent back pain and they offer their users means for quick and efficient reaction to change, as well as easy, natural, intuitive, and highly effective balancing, including whilr going in rough water. S4 driver and passengers can face forward while they ride (straddle) the saddle with a foot in each hull, and they can also face sideways while sitting side-saddle with both feet in one hull. This works not just for small size people as well as for big and heavy guys. The above video playlist includes a movie showing an angler who weighs 330 lbs enjoying driving an S4 and fishing from it while seated side-saddle.
The Wavewalk S4 is hands down the most versatile portable boat, due to multiple reasons. These include the fact that the S4 works perfectly as a paddle craft both in a canoeing and kayaking mode. This excellent performance in a human powered mode is unique among motorboats, and it is important not just as an alternative for motorizing in case of emergency, such as engine problems, getting stranded at low tide, etc., but also for going in extremely shallow water (skinny water) where even small and lightweight boats draft too much. This is to say that the S4 is unbeatable as far as mobility is concerned.
The S4 also works both in a solo and tandem mode with up to three adult passengers, and it features a frontal casting deck, as skiffs do.
The S4’s seaworthiness is so good that it can serve as a fun boat for playing in waves. The S4 can also be easily towed by a bigger boat or hauled on board, and together with its generous load capacity, these attributes turn it into a most effective boat tender for yachts and big boats.
The following images offer a quick, condensed glimpse into various aspects of the S4, both as a car-top motorboat and a paddle craft, for leisure and fishing. For a better insight on the S4’s capabilities watch movies in the above playlist.
Recommended reading: Super Stability – What makes small boats and kayaks more stable »
We took the boat out for the first time last night and it was the smoothest I’ve ever seen the back waters around here and no boat traffic. We paddled around for hours watched the sun go down on the gulf, saw dolphins, fish, and listened to music under the stars.
Loving the boat!
If you ask whether Jon Boats are stable, some people would say that they are, and others would warn you to stay away from them because they are tippy and unreliable. Their answer would depend on what they understand by ‘Stability’, what kind of Jon boat they see in their mind, and in what kind of water they see it being used, and these are often based on personal experience.
Both skiffs and Jon boats are flat bottom lightweight boats that differ in certain hull details, materials used in their construction, and deck structures.
Both are designed to offer as much stability as possible for a small mono-hull boat going on flat water, and as such they are stabler than wide canoes and kayaks of the same length and width.
Foot for foot and inch for inch, we don’t think there are major differences between Jon boats and skiffs in terms of the stability they offer. In other words, a Jon boat and a skiff of the same size, namely both length and width, can be expected to be about as stable as each other.
The twin-hull (“catamaran”) Wavewalk S4 is the world’s most stable portable boat. It is more stable than many Jon boats that feature a bigger hull, as shown in these photos of three fishermen fishing standing in it –
Click images to enlarge
Jon boats are small fishing boats that are popular among inland fishermen who fish ponds, small lakes, marshes, and slow moving rivers, namely flat water that’s usually well protected from wind, waves, and preferably from fast motorboats that generate big wakes. These anglers may fish alone, but typically they fish in crews of two. Bigger Jon boats can be used in bigger lakes and rivers.
A typical Jon boat features a flat bottom designed to make it draft as little as possible, and thus work well in shallow water, while other Jon boats feature a bottom that’s partially V shaped (sometimes referred to as “Semi-V”) that drafts a little more but offers better performance in choppy water. This V shape should not be confounded with the more seaworthy Deep-V design.
Jon boats can vary in width (Beam) from less than 3 ft to over twice as much, and this difference results in big variations in their stability, in this case initial (primary) stability, sometimes dubbed reserve stability.
When watercraft as small as Jon boats are concerned, passengers are typically the heaviest things on board, which is why passengers’ location and movements can greatly affect the boat’s stability.
Narrow-beam Jon boats are notoriously unstable, especially with a crew of two on board. Their instability can be felt even when they are used for fishing ponds and small lakes, where they are expected to perform at their best. Reading articles about Jon boat stability and user testimonials on this subject could lead the reader to the conclusion that any Jon boat that’s narrower than 48″ might not be stable enough for a tandem crew, and starting from this size, Jon boats get sufficiently stable, especially longer models. Another factor that affects a Jon boat’s stability is its length, since it acts as an enhancement to its width – A longer Jon boat is more stable than a shorter Jon boat of identical width (Beam).
External factors may destabilize a Jon boat as well, or at least destabilize the passengers on board – Such factors can be wind, waves and other boats’ wakes that hit the boat, especially on its sides (lateral waves).
We found the following instructions for Calculating a Boat’s Capacity to Carry a Number of Passengers on a boating education website:
On boats less than 20 feet long, the following rule of thumb can be used to calculate the number of persons (weighing 150 lbs each) the boat can carry safely in fair weather and calm water conditions:
Number of passengers = boat length in ft x boat width in ft : 15
Example for a good size Jon boat or skiff: 15 ft x 4 ft = 60, and 60:15 = 4 passengers
However, the above formula seems outdated in view of the fact that these days the average adult US female weighs 160 lbs, and the average adult US male weighs 200 lbs.
Therefore, to calculate the number of adult passengers in a Jon boat, we suggest to use the same formula and divide the result by 20 instead of by 15.
Example for the same Jon boat or skiff: 15 ft x 4 ft = 60, and 60:20 = 3 passengers
Can the 13 ft long and 38″ wide Wavewalk S4 carry 3 passengers on board?
The answer is yes, in fair weather and calm water conditions:
When small craft are concerned, the boat’s own stability plays an important role in the overall stability of the combined boat and crew, but the passengers’ ability to balance themselves effectively is critical as well, which is to say that a wider Jon boat may not necessarily offer better means for its crew to balance themselves effectively –
Jon boats often feature rudimentary bench-like seats that are similar to ones found in canoes and dinghies, or high swivel seats such as can be found in bass boats. Neither types of seats are optimized for supporting the user’s balancing efforts, and they’re not very good in keeping their user anchored to their place and in full control of their body’s center of gravity (CG).
This ergonomic deficiency exposes a Jon boat’s passenger to unexpected lateral (side) motion, as well as vertical motion, whether such motion is the result of an external force such as a wave or another boat’s wake, the movement of another passenger on board, or even the strong reaction of the boat to that passenger’s own movements. More specifically, people on board a Jon boat can have a hard time finding their footing and balancing themselves intuitively, comfortably and effortlessly, and from the moment they lose their footing and balance, their own weight can act as an additional destabilizing factor that may tip the boat over, send its passengers overboard, and in some cases even overturn the boat.
A Jon boat of a smaller size works better as a fishing boat for one angler than it does for a crew of two.
Typically, Jon boats are motorized, and the flat bottomed ones can be easily deflected from their course as well as destabilized when going in lateral waves, especially at higher speeds. In such cases, the deficiency in a Jon boat’s lateral stability can become more problematic by the lack of good directional stability (tracking capability) that characterizes such boats, in particular ones that feature a flat bottom. People who use such boats are quick to head back home as soon as the wind picks up.
Jon boats with a V-shaped hull do better in waves and wind, thanks to the fact that they have some capability to go through waves and not necessarily on top of them, which isn’t the case with flat bottomed Jon boats that are essentially designed for use on flat water only.
This said, although Jon boats are not considered to be seaworthy craft, the bigger ones are sufficiently stable to offer a good experience to a crew of two or more anglers who fish inland, preferably in calm and protected waters, and away from fast motorboat traffic.
A detailed stability comparison between Jon boats and the Wavewalk® S4 is almost impossible to complete, because Jon boats vary so much in size and structure, and they can range from a flat bottomed, 32″ wide and 10 ft long (1032) boat to a V-bottom 72″ wide and 18 ft long one (1872), which can be assigned to another class of boats.
The Wavewalk form presents two main stability advantages:
The first comes from the fact that all the Wavewalk’s buoyancy is distributed as far as possible from the boat’s center line, where this buoyancy works more effectively to support lateral changes, whether such changes are external of generated on board.
The second advantage is the Wavewalk’s Personal Watercraft saddle seat that offers the passengers who ride it optimal, easy and intuitive means to balance themselves. This advantage is critical in view of the fact that the passengers’ total weight can be as big the the Jon boat’s weight, and it often exceeds this weight. For example, in the photo above, the passengers’ aggregated weight exceeds the S4’s weight by a factor of 5:1.
So, in order to avoid tedious detailed stability comparisons, let us simplify things and state that in general, the bigger models in the Jon boat class (over 54″ beam) are more stable than the S4, the smaller Jon boat models (less than 48″ beam) are less stable, and as for the the midsize models (48″ to 54″) the answer would depend on parameters such as their length (longer is more stable), and whether they feature a flat bottom or a V-shaped bottom, as discussed in the previous section of this article.
Bottom line: Compared to the traditional Jon boat design, the Wavewalk S4’s form and improved ergonomics add stability which is the equivalent of about 1 ft in width.
More specifically, the Wavewalk® S4 is stabler than any car-topper namely portable Jon boat. Which is to say that if you’re looking for a Jon boat that’s more stable than the S4, you must take into consideration transporting and storing it on a trailer, as well as limitations in launching it, namely being dependent on launch ramps that come with trailer boats.
In addition, the Wavewalk® S4 is more stable than any Jon boat that can be propelled by means of paddling, whether it’s with dual blade (kayak) paddles or single-blade (canoe) paddles. This fact is particularly meaningful when very shallow water (‘skinny water’) fisheries are concerned, and no-motor zones (NMZ).
Generally speaking, Jon boats are not considered as being seaworthy, while Wavewalk® boats are more seaworthy thanks to their good tracking capability and advanced ergonomics. These two factors allow for high performance when dealing with choppy water, which is why the S4 punches above its weight in terms of seaworthiness.
Small craft are penalized for their size in several ways, and one of them is their sensitivity to carrying more weight on board, which makes them slower and less stable. This is true for all boat designs, including Jon boat and Wavewalk. Therefore if you’re looking for stability for a larger crew of heavier people, say two big and heavy guys or more, your best bet is a very large Jon boat or skiff, that is 6 ft or more in width, and over 16 ft in length, and preferably with a V shaped bottom, so that you could drive it at higher speed. Two large size fishermen can go in an S4 and have a great time traveling and fishing for an entire day without experiencing any stability problem, even standing up, but they would not necessarily be able to go at speeds as high as a large size Jon boat or skiff offers.
The S4 is very lightweight (just 98 lbs) for what it offers.
This is not much even in comparison to many fishing kayaks, and it’s very little compared to skiffs. Which is why a fisherman standing on the casting platform at the bow of the S4 causes its stern to come up, and its bow to go down.
This is not that much of an issue for fishers who use their S4 as skiffs (namely motorized), or in tandem with a heavy paddler sitting at the rear, and in a full skiff capacity, namely with both another crew member and a good size outboard motor.
With both a motor and a fishing buddy at the rear, the S4 front casting platform is perfectly level.
For those who fish alone from their S4 without motorizing it, and prefer to cast standing on top of the front platform, here is a simple, easy, and lightweight solution –
Use 3/8″ plywood to extend the front casting platform backward, onto the front part of the cockpit.
This can be done while having the board rest on top of the saddle, or on top of the coaming (spray deflector), as seen in these images:
An angler standing on top of such platform extension will be stable, and the platform level.