By Bill Davis
Quite a few years ago, back in the mid-1970’s, I was fortunate to work as a mate then captain of a large passenger carrying boat that took people snorkeling on the shallow coral reefs of John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo, Florida.
I promoted our business with the phrase “If you can swim, you can snorkel.” Twice a day, we hauled up to 61 passengers a trip on a wooden Harkers Island-built boat to witness the amazing coral reefs and tropical fish that are found right here in the United States.
Today, the State Park concession that I worked from has about 4 multi-passenger snorkel boats that have evolved from that one vessel.
Like snorkeling, there are many marine sports that have sprouted over my lifetime.
Obviously, canoes have been with us for many years. But, who figured out that you could sit on top of a kayak or stand up to paddle a fat surfboard? These are relatively recent innovations that have attracted a huge following.
Then, there are those Wave Runners. When I grew up in the Fifties, we never figured you could have a motorcycle that flew across the water.
All of those sports are fun for those of us who swim but owning all four: a canoe, kayak, paddle board and Wave Runner is expensive, space consuming, and a major maintenance hassle.
What if one vessel did all this, and more?
The Wavewalk catamaran style skiff is the stable and portable boat that literally, does it all. A visit to the company website at wavewalk.com will show you the W500 and W700 solo and tandem twin hull kayaks that are easy on your back because they are straddled like a Wave Runner. Fishermen are especially fond of the Wavewalk design because they are so easy to stand up in order to spot or cast to their prey.
These magic boats can be paddled with kayak or canoe paddles or outfitted for gas outboard or electric trolling motor or both! And, they are lightweight enough to carry on top of your car without a special carrying rack or trailer.
I discovered the Wavewalk design while I was searching the Internet for the perfect kayak to establish a retirement rental business in Key Largo. My first Wavewalk was purchased at retail price. That little W500 was so good that I used it in my commercial fishing business in the Chesapeake region to supply Blue Catfish fillets to Linda’s Cafe in downtown Lexington Park and the Victorian Candle Bed and Breakfast in historic Hollywood, Maryland.
At present, in addition to two commercial fishing work boats, I have a fleet of Wavewalk kayaks for weekend Wavewalk Adventures in the State Parks and National Sanctuaries that surround Key Largo.
And, I am fortunate to be the exclusive Wavewalk distributor for all of South Florida. Contact me if you are in the Chesapeake region and I can arrange for you to have your own Wavewalk kayak.
On a nearly daily basis, I motor my green W700 skiff through mangrove creeks or out in the ocean to make my own adventures exploring places that are almost impossible to reach by any other method of marine conveyance. This Wavewalk lifestyle is a most wonderful and unexpected retirement pastime that I am most happy to share.
So, if you are tired of being cold this winter and want an excuse to visit the Florida Keys, you have one (as if you really need an excuse to visit paradise).
A trip to my website at floridafishingkayaks.com. will provide all the info you need to schedule a free Wavewalk Wednesday demo of this vessel. Or, a weekend rental with included guide service might be a way to enjoy a complete kayak, canoe, stand-up paddle board package in a boat that “does it all.”
Who knows? You might drive home with one.
Finally, the wind laid down, so my wife and I took the W500 out to a deeper reef at the edge of the Gulf Stream. There was 50 feet of visibility at the Elbow Reef which is about average for here but pretty darn good elsewhere in the U.S.
It is really nice having a buddy to enjoy the scenery. And, also to keep the snorkel sled from drifting while I free dove to work the GoPro camera.
I’ll be doing some major maintenance and rewiring of the mother ship. Thus, the motorized W700 will be my distance runner for awhile.
Enjoy the clear water. We did.
Yesterday, I threw the white W500 set up as a sea sled on top of my engine box of the “Line Dancer” and pounded through a close sloppy chop to a pocket of calm water over 3 miles offshore of Key Largo.
Though the wind was blowing 15-20 miles out of the Southeast, the water behind Grecian Rocks was flat calm. Low tide forces the coral bottom above the surface and creates a natural breakwater to find shelter behind.
Here is a perfect place to enjoy an afternoon with my wife and experiment with the snorkel sea sled concept.
This incarnation has the trolling motor in the bow which is much safer and easier to steer than the stern mount position. The on/off speed control extension is a length of PVC that clips on to the throttle handle.
I took the sea sled away from the calm part of the reef to avoid the crowd and the protected “no catch” zone.
Beyond the reef, in a foot and a half close chop and relatively murky water, the sea sled pulled well without shipping any water into the hulls. There were no lobsters in the holes that I checked which confirms reports from the early season.
But Santiago my W500 worked very well and still has a special place on my boat, in my truck, and in my life.
Santiago is not for sale…
Typically, a Catamaran, a.k.a. ‘Cat’ is a twin hulled watercraft that features two slender, parallel hulls of equal size, and a wide structure that’s connected to the upper sides of these hulls, holding them together at a big distance from each other.
This structure makes the typical catamaran a geometry-stabilized craft, deriving its lateral stability from its wide beam and the distribution of its buoyancy along its sides, rather than from a ballasted hull, which lowers the boat’s center of gravity (CG), as a typical monohull (single hull) boat does.
The catamaran’s two hulls combined often have a smaller hydrodynamic resistance than monohulls of comparable size, and therefore require less propulsive power.
Catamarans range in size from small sailing boats and motorboats to large ships and ferries. The structure connecting a catamaran’s twin hulls can vary from a simple, lightweight frame to a bridging superstructure, namely deck from which the catamaran is operated, and can be used for carrying freight and passengers.
The Wavewalk resembles a catamaran, but it is not a one in the full sense. The Wavewalk design is based on a proprietary (patented) invention – a new type of small watercraft. This patent is entitled “Twin Hull Personal Watercraft”, which is revealing of the fact that a Wavewalk is meant to serve one person, or a small number of persons, and closely interact with them. A Wavewalk is designed around the person and for that person, and it offers them the optimal means to balance themselves. Wavewalk and user are an integrated system that can achieve the most stability in a watercraft of similar size and even bigger ones.
Unlike a typical catamaran, a Wavewalk is narrow – It is slightly wider than its operator, similarly to typical monohull paddle craft such as kayaks and canoes.
The user of a Wavewalk operates the boat neither from one of its hulls nor from the top of a deck-like structure that bridges the hulls. Instead, the Wavewalk user operates it from within, with a leg in each of the boat’s two hulls. The user’s feet rest firmly on the bottom of the hulls, below waterline, namely as low as possible.
And this is the main difference between a Wavewalk and a typical, wide catamaran – The Wavewalk is a smaller and narrower watercraft whose design offers a hull for each of its user’s legs, and the means for them to balance themselves effortlessly, intuitively, and with the maximum effect.
In sum, the Wavewalk is different from a typical catamaran in that it is not a pure form-stabilized boat, but one that combines more than one feature and approach in order to maximize stability*
Another difference between the Wavewalk and a typical catamaran is the form of the structure that connects its twin hulls. This structure is called the Saddle, because it resembles the type of seat found in personal watercraft (PWC) a.k.a. ‘Jet-Ski’, snowmobiles, and all-terrain vehicles (ATV), all of which are high-performance personal vehicles.
Thanks to its overall size, dimensions, and primary propulsion by means of a dual blade paddle, the authorities, namely the US Coast Guard, officially classify the Wavewalk as a kayak.
Motorizing a Wavewalk with an electric or gas outboard motor does not change this basic classification, and when its owner registers it at the local DMV, they register it as a kayak with a motor, and not as a full fledged motorboat, and this is a good thing both for all parties involved, namely the manufacturer, dealer and owner of the Wavewalk.
The Wavewalk is considerably more stable than kayaks are, including the wide fishing kayaks. It tracks better than kayaks, and paddles infinitely better in strong wind, which is why it does not require a rudder. The Wavewalk also offers much more storage space.
But most importantly, unlike monohull kayaks that force their users to paddle seated in the notoriously uncomfortable L posture, the Wavewalk is back pain free, since it offers it users to comfortably ride its ergonomic saddle, with a leg on each side of their body.
The unique combination of maximal stability and better ergonomics makes the Wavewalk such a perfect match for a motor.
Riding the saddle of a motorized Wavewalk® 700 at over 10 mph is an exhilarating sensation that may remind the driver of driving a PWC, but the latter type of watercraft feature much more powerful engines, and can go much faster than a Wavewalk. Additionally, PWC are designed for instant full recovery in case they capsize, which is not the case with a motorized Wavewalk, although outfitting a Wavewalk with inflatable side flotation greatly reduces the probability of it capsizing.
Even a small boat is still much wider than a kayak, or canoe, which is why it’s practically impossible to paddle a boat to any meaningful distance. This extra width gives a boat a significant stability advantage over kayaks and canoes, and typically, a normal size person can stand on one side of a boat without tipping over.
But a normal size person can do this in a Wavewalk® 700 too, and this unique fact places the Wavewalk® 700 in a class of its own – a kayak that offers the stability of a small boat.
Motorized, a Wavewalk® 700 offers the performance of a small boat, on top of its unique and unrivaled performance in terms of mobility, comfort, storage space, etc.
Canoes can be very big, and transport dozens of passengers. The popular North American recreational canoes that measure up to 17 ft in length can take 3 to 4 adult passengers on board.
While Wavewalks work perfectly with single-blade (canoe) paddles, both solo and in tandem, they can carry less payload than large size canoes do. However, a Wavewalk tracks better than a canoe does, and unlike canoes, it is easy to paddle in strong wind.
A motorized square-stern canoe performs much like a lightweight dinghy, and as such it doesn’t work very well as a dedicated paddle craft, namely a canoe…. In addition, it is usually less stable than a typical dinghy, which is wider.
Thanks to its slender, parallel twin hulls, the Wavewalk® 700 tracks better than a motorized canoe, it’s more stable, and being narrower it paddles better as well.
Driving a Wavewalk® 700 is easier too, thanks to the ergonomics of its saddle, and the fact that the motor is located closer to the middle of the boat, away from its stern, which improves balance.
In the sense that it works well as a skiff, namely a small, flat bottomed boat used for fishing in flats, estuaries and protected bays, yes, a motorized Wavewalk® 700 is an ultra lightweight, trailer-free micro skiff, and it can even be outfitted with a bow mounted electric trolling motor powered by a battery fed by the alternator in a small stern mounted outboard motor. This said, its form is very different.
When it comes to discussing various types of small fishing boats, Michael Chesloff is an expert, and his encyclopedic comparative Wavewalk review entitled “All My Other Boats” is eye opening »
* Interestingly, the crew of competition sailing catamarans has to relocate from one side of their boat to the other in order to help stabilize it.