Tag Archive: designer

A kayak designer is a professional who designs kayaks for a living and not just as a hobby.

Review of my Wavewalk S4

This review of the Wavewalk S4 kayak skiff was written by the guy who designed it, as well as the W500 and W700.

Why this Wavewalk S4 review?

Typically, kayak and boat reviews are written by clients who mean what they say, but aren’t necessarily professional, or by people that the manufacturer paid to review their product. The latter reviews are not objective to begin with, and in many cases they are not even professional. Designers seldom publish reviews of the kayak or boat that they designed.
Other reviews commonly found on the web are fake, and they were written by individuals who are affiliated with the manufacturer of the reviewed product (fake positive reviews) or with their competitors (fake negative reviews). Some fake reviews that appear on websites that offer people to publish kayak and boat reviews appear to have been written under an alias by the website owners, probably in order to make their website look more popular than it is in reality.

Wavewalk does not pay people to review its products, and it does not post anonymous reviews on websites that offer to do so to anyone who can come up with an alias and a few sentences. We think that such websites have a low credibility from the beginning, and their credibility has declined over the years, as people who read the reviews that these websites feature have become used to apply critical reading, and common sense.

We decided to publish our own review of the Wavewalk S4 after it’s been out there for nearly a year, which is enough time for us to see what it can do, and what our clients think of it (Read S4 clients’ reviews » ). In this review of the S4, we try to compare our initial plans for this boat to what it does in reality, and we also try to look into the future, as much as possible, and see what it could still do.
Many Wavewalk clients are interested in the design of kayak and small boats, and we think that such people may have a particular interest in reading this review.

Why the Wavewalk S4?

It takes close to a hundred thousand dollars to produce a new product such as the S4 in terms of time and money invested in the design and manufacturing of a capital tooling (rotational mold) for it. Once the product is out there, it takes more time and money to test and promote it.
This means that before a small company decides to invest in the development of such a product, it needs to make sure that it has a good reason to do so, and preferably more than one good reason.

Before we started defining the requirements from a future Wavewalk product, we looked at existing products in various markets, including our own W700 that we had launched back in August of 2015 –

The W700

From the moment we launched it, the W700 became an immediate, remarkable success, both as a tandem kayak for touring and fishing (and hunting, photography, etc..) and as an ultralight portable motorboat / microskiff. This success gave us the motivation and the funds to take the Wavewalk concept to the next level. Our clients loved to motorize their W700, but few were willing to give up paddling altogether, and this convinced us that paddling was important, so we decided that our next product, namely the S4, will be more of a high performance, fast and seaworthy motorboat with a bigger payload capacity, but it would still offer good paddling capabilities as a kayak and a canoe. Another thing that our clients love in their W700 was the ability to car-top it without a problem, and this meant that the next Wavewalk had to be a car-top boat too.

Other boats

Before we started to design the S4, we looked at different products in a number of markets, and tried to identify unfulfilled needs as well as opportunities for our new product –

  1. Jon boats – These popular small motorboats feature a generally flat bottom hull and a spacious open cockpit, and they usually offer sufficient stability for a crew of one person, on flat water. When the crew includes more than one person, or the water gets choppy, these boats tend to deliver insufficient stability, and generally speaking, they are not seaworthy, including bigger and therefore more stable models that are stable enough on flat water. Since Jon boats are typically made from aluminum, they are not lightweight enough to be car topped, at least not by one person. And last but not least, paddling a Jon boat is not an option, at least not over a meaningful distance, so these boats are excluded from traveling in very shallow (dubbed “skinny”) water, and in water where much vegetation is to be found – unless they are outfitted with a surface drive (a.k.a. “mud motor”), which is typically more heavy than a standard outboard motor, and takes more room in the cockpit. The next Wavewalk had to offer as much carrying capacity as a good size Jon boat, while being at least as stable, and considerably more seaworthy. This had to be achieved while keeping the new product from being overly wide, since wide boats don’t paddle well. Needless to say that the new boat couldn’t be nearly as heavy as a Jon boat, since it had to be car-topped by one person. We achieved all this with the S4, and more, including successfully outfitting an S4 with a surface drive, as demonstrated by Chris Henderson, from Washington state.
  2. Microskiffs – Small skiffs (“microskiffs”) are generally similar to Jon boats, and they too are designed mainly for fishing on flat water. The main differences are in the material used to make skiffs (typically fiberglass), and typical additional deck features and structures. These differences reflect the fact that microskiffs are used primarily in saltwater, which is corrosive for aluminum, and the fact that people who fish out of microskiffs like to practice sight fishing. Microskiffs don’t paddle well, to say the least, and they are too heavy to be car-topped, including a product that’s essentially a rotationally molded motorized board for a single user who’s not particularly heavy, and who fishes in flat water only. The next Wavewalk had to feature a front deck, for casting, go as fast as a small microskiff, and be more seaworthy – All this while offering its users to launch anywhere, namely to transport it on top of a vehicle, and not by trailer. We did it.
  3. Motorized kayaks – Since both the W500 and W700 had already surpassed all products in this category, we deemed motorized kayaks too lame to serve as a basis for formulating requirements for a next generation Wavewalk. This is true for all but one pretty exciting kayak-like product for one person that’s officially designated as a boat, and is propelled by a 7 HP jet drive. When we weighed the pros and cons of a proprietary jet drive and compared them to the advantages offered by outboard motors, it became clear to us that the latter were the way to go, due to their initial cost, ease of troubleshooting, low maintenance, and high quality as well as effective local service offered to our clients. As for speed, we decided that the next Wavewalk would have to be at least as fast as that exciting jet-drive kayak-like watercraft, and if people had a special need to drive their S4 in extremely shallow water, they could outfit their new Wavewalk with a surface drive (mud motor), which works better than a jet drive, since it doesn’t get clogged. The next Wavewalk had to be a car-top boat, and portable in terms of carrying it over rugged terrain, something that said jet drive kayak-style watercraft is not. The new Wavewalk also had to be seaworthy, and transport at least two full size adult passengers, which that jet driven kayak style boat cannot do. We achieved all that.
  4. Personal Watercraft (PWC) – Such comparison may seem odd at first sight, but Wavewalks and PWC share one important feature, which is their longitudinal saddle seats that offer their users to balance themselves in the most intuitive and efficient way, and enhance their boats’ performance both in terms of stability and seaworthiness. In this sense, it was appropriate for us to think about PWC, and establish some requirements from the new product that would have nothing to do with fishing or paddling, but would go to what people like in PWC, namely speed, seaworthiness, and fun. We realized that in order for an S4 to reach speeds that are close to the speed of a small, basic PWC, the S4 would have to be outfitted not just with an extremely powerful outboard motor, but also with a proper steering and control system to go with it, be it a wheel or a bar, something that hasn’t been done, so far. Captain Larry Jarboe clocked 17 mph in an S4 powered by a 9.8 HP outboard motor, and the same boat was driven at full throttle offshore in choppy seas, with the drivers holding the throttle grip in one hand. In comparison, a typical PWC can go at 40-50 mph, and the faster ones can go at much higher speeds. Something to think about… On the other hand, an S4 is much less expensive than a PWC, including small ones designed for one person, and it is also more versatile.
  5. Inflatable dinghies – These fast, stable and seaworthy boats are popular with yacht and big boat owners, who use them as boat tenders. But these small inflatable boats are uncomfortable for their driver and passengers, who find it hard to stay dry in them, and they don’t paddle well. As for standing in them, it is not easy either. Compared to them, the W500 and even the W700 were inferior in terms of load capacity and speed, but neither of these is a problem with the S4, with its carrying capacity of 650 lbs and the high speed in which it can go, even in choppy water. Simply, the S4 is as seaworthy as a good size inflatable dinghy, while being drier, more comfortable, and offering better paddling and standing capabilities. The S4’s polyethylene hulls are more durable and dependable than the soft hulls of inflatable boats, and clients who use an S4 as a boat tender report the highest degree of satisfaction, even when they tow the S4 behind the mother ship, which is the kind of performance that we weren’t sure it would achieve when we started designing it.

Other considerations

  • Keeping the kayak designation and paddling functionality – In order to make it easier for our dealers to sell the S4, and for our clients to register it, we wanted to keep its design within the requirements that would designate it as a kayak, and not as a boat, and that wasn’t hard to do. We also wanted to keep the S4 work as a paddle craft, which we achieved by making the sides of the cockpit slant, thus allowing the paddlers to move their paddles more closely, easily, and effectively alongside the kayak.
  • A motorboat’s look – On the other hand, we wanted to distance the S4 as much as possible from the image of a kayak, because in comparison to motorboats, kayaks are sluggish, uncomfortable, unstable, and wet. Therefore, we got rid of all deck rigging items that are typical to kayaks, namely eyelets, hooks, bungees, rubber carry handles, and even flush mounted rod holders. The S4 comes with two integrated (molded-in) carry handles in its front tip, and a molded-in carry handle on each side of its rear hull tips. These molded-in carry handles are stronger than kayak handles that are riveted or bolted to the deck, they are as comfortable, and they look better.
  • Keeping the S4 cost low – The rotational mold for the S4’s twin hull cost more that the mold for a typical full-size SOT kayak. We also had to mold the saddle for the S4, but luckily, we managed to design it in a way that allows us to use the same saddle as the one used in the W700. This saved us tens of thousands of dollars on a mold for an S4 saddle, and we were able to keep the S4 unit price within a reasonable range, considering its high performance in so many applications.
  • Building it tough – Carrying heavier loads while going at higher speeds meant that the S4 would have to be tougher than the W700, which is why we decided to incorporate two wooden brackets in every S4, standard, compared to just one similar structural element in the W700.
  • The motor mount challenge – The S4 is made from high density polyethylene, similarly to other kayaks as well as a motorized board offered as a one-person skiff. Polyethylene is a resilient material, which makes it highly resistant to impact, but this critical advantage comes at a cost, which is that polyethylene walls tend to be flexible relatively to similar structures made from more rigid materials, e.g. fiberglass and wood. We knew that a motor mount that would serve to attach to the S4 heavy and powerful motors that generate a lot of torque couldn’t be made from polyethylene only. If we wanted such mount not to flex, it should feature a totally rigid and very sturdy mounting plate, made from the right materials for the job. This is why we created the S4’s motor mount with a broad basis molded in polyethylene, and a mounting plate made from a wooden composite named Medium Density Overlay (MDO), which has served us successfully for years in the W500 and W700. The basis of the S4’s motor mount structure is firmly anchored on both its sides in the boat’s two hulls, and it is bolted both to the cockpit’s rear wall and to the saddle’s rear wooden bracket, whose top is inserted into the cockpit’s spray deflector (coaming). So far, this combination of polyethylene structures, wood composite board, and steel, has proved itself to work under difficult conditions, with powerful motors running at full throttle, and the boat going at high speed in ocean waves.

Conception, birth, and growth

A new boat often starts as ideas that the designer’s mind generates in reaction to external stimuli, such as impressions, challenges or compliments. The general idea and major challenge with the S4 was to create a boat like which the world has never seen before, and no one had thought would be possible. We knew the Wavewalk invention would guarantee that whichever design we choose for a Wavewalk boat that’s wider than the W700, it would automatically become the world’s most stable kayak, as well as the world’s most stable boat for its size. Within this framework, we still had a lot of things to think about, including –

  • The new front deck – The main challenge was to depart from the previous ‘catamaran’ look, and create a front that would still perform as a twin-hull (catamaran), but offer some protection from spray as the boat goes in waves at high speed. The totally redesigned bow had to feature a front deck that would serve as a casting platform, similarly to casting decks that skiffs feature. Since we knew that the S4 would serve crews of two and possibly three anglers, a deck extending in front of the cockpit would also serve to put more distance between crew members, and thus make the boat both more functional and more comfortable for them to fish from. This is to say that the S4’s new style of front deck is the result of both aesthetic and ergonomic, namely practical considerations. Developing these ideas and turning them into a computer aided design (CAD) file required months of hard work, plenty of problem solving, and innovative thinking.
  • Displacement hull vs. planing hull – Understanding this subject requires some knowledge in kayak and/or boat design. The problem we addressed was that paddle craft (canoes, kayaks, etc.) travel at very low speeds, and the most efficient hull form for such low power propulsion and low speeds is called a displacement hull. In contrast, motorboats travel at much higher speeds, and people who drive them like to travel in a planing mode. The most efficient type of hull form for a small motorboat is a type of hull called planing hull. The S4 was required to serve both as a paddle craft and a motorboat, and do well in both applications. We realized that unlike the W700, most people who use the S4 would choose to motorize it, so we designed its hulls in a way that would offer top performance with a powerful motor, and still paddle well enough, and this is basically what the S4 has achieved in reality – One person can paddle it effectively and easily without reaching high speed, but they can also drive it with an outboard motor that’s powerful enough to propel bigger and heavier boats, and go at  speeds that are considered high even by small boat standards, and inconceivable in kayak terms. Being big for a kayak, the S4 paddles better with a tandem crew than it does in a solo mode. It paddles equally well in canoeing and kayaking modes. In sum, the W700 is a great kayak that you can effectively motorize, while the S4 is a great motorboat that you can effectively paddle. It’s a subtle difference that’s worth remembering if you’re not sure which of these two models is better for you.

Launching the product, and testing it – We launched the S4 in May of 2017, and since then, the S4 has kept growing in terms of proving what it’s capable of doing. We were pleased to see that a 214 lbs guy could easily stand with both feet in one of the S4 hulls, and turn around, without flipping the boat, and without even making it tilt by much. We were more pleased to see three adult paddlers standing in it and paddling without any problem. But we were astonished to see three full-size guys fish standing out of a motorized S4, with one of them landing a good size fish in the boat. Many thanks to Mike Silva for these amazing pictures!
We loved watching the videos that showed the S4 driven through lily pads, propelled with a surface drive powered by a 6.5 HP motor. But driving an S4 powered by a 9.8 HP going at full throttle was a blast, and it was such a smooth drive that it certainly opened the door for testing it with more powerful motors, as a couple S4 owners already said they will do.

Multi-boat configuration – Another innovative and inspiring development was Captain Larry Jarboe’s S4x3 multi-boat, composed of a motorized S4 hip-towing (side towing) an S4 on each side, and thus allowing the driver to transport a much larger number of passengers, in full comfort, and with the stability of a large size pontoon boat. Captain Jarboe uses the S4x3 multi-boat for his guided diving tours in Key Largo.

Big boats, seaworthiness, maintenance, etc. – Interestingly, the S4 is already used, successfully, as an alternative to full-size skiffs. Its users prefer their S4s to the large size boats that they had previously used because of its easy launching, shallow draft, and better seaworthiness in choppy water. Indeed, we found that if you happen to get seasick in a boat going or anchored in the chop, riding the saddle of an S4 would instantly cure you, whether you’re driving it or just taking a ride in it as a passenger. The S4 is practically immune to other motorboats’ wakes, including big and fast boats traveling at a short distance from it, and this is not an exaggeration but an accurate description of a pleasant reality. And the S4 works as a paddle craft, so that it’s practically impossible to get stranded at low tide when you fish from it. Another reason to prefer the S4 over a full size boat is that it’s totally maintenance free, and if you’ve never owned a boat, it would probably be hard for you to appreciate the importance of this fact.

Spray shield – It turned out that when one person drives the S4, even at high speed, and even in the chop, the hulls and front deck deflect much of the spray that’s generated when they hit waves. However, when a passenger sits in front of the S4 driver, their weight lowers the bow, and it tends to generate more spray when it hits waves. And this is when a spray shield can still be useful.

A new type of watercraft – The S4 has already shown that it’s a new type of watercraft with a performance envelope that sets it apart from all boats of similar size. But it still has room to grow, in the sense of showing that it’s capable of more. We’ve already mentioned more exploits with mud motors, as well as bigger and more powerful outboard motors. We’d also like to show how a sculling (shell rowing) coach from Massachusetts uses his S4 as a coaching boat because he’s found that it generates a much smaller wake than other boats of similar size, and a small wake is the name of the game when coaching this sport is concerned.
On the other side of the performance spectrum, we should find an opportunity to run the S4 in rough seas with inflatable flotation modules attached to its sides, RHIB style (RHIB stands for rigid hull inflatable boat).
And on a completely different angle, we’re waiting for clients who use their S4 in whitewater, as a guide boat and a raft, to send us pictures too.

Extreme efficiency with a 1:6 weight to load ratio (payload ratio) – The S4 weighs a little less than 100 lbs without a motor, and it can carry a payload of over 650 lbs including a motor. This is a solid 1:6 weight to load ratio that shows how efficient the S4 design is.

Bottom line

We could have talked more about our S4, but with 3,700 words, this review is getting too long for a reasonable person to read – Thank you for making it this far  🙂

Review of my Wavewalk 700

Disclaimer: This review was written by the guy who designed this boat and manufactures it. It also tells the story of how the boat came into being, so it’s kind of long…

Why am I writing a review of a boat that I created?..

Good question, especially since I’ve already written several articles about it…
The answer has two parts – The first is that many months ago, before we launched this product, I had promised some Wavewalk fans that I’d write such a personal and professional review on this new boat. The second reason is that now that the initial phase of launching this product is winding down, and it got such positive and exciting reviews from clients and fans, I also feel like talking about it from a personal angle and a professional one, but this time more as a designer than a marketer.
But this is in theory… – Is it possible for someone like me to fully dissociate the personal from the professional, and the designer from the marketer? Well, I think it would be hard, which is why I wrote that disclaimer at the top of this page 🙂

Boat first, kayak second

Where did the W700 come from?

First steps – The 300 series

Back in 2004, when we came out with our first product, the W300, we called it a Personal Catamaran, and then a W-boat. Soon after, I had thought about motorizing it and about creating future models that would be small, “personal” boats, with spray shields and steering bars:

(Click the images to enlarge)

However, the W300’s main application was kayaking, namely paddling with a dual-blade paddle, so we gradually started calling it W-kayak, and as anglers discovered it shortly after, it became known as a Wavewalk fishing kayak. The boat’s main commercial application had defined it.
Several Wavewalk fans such as Rox Davis outfitted their W300 with electric trolling motors, and one outfitted his with a 2.5 HP Suzuki outboard, but although their W300 boats seemed like fun to drive, some things were still missing in terms of comfort and performance…

The next step – The 500 Series

In 2009, when we launched the W500 series, it was primarily a fishing kayak, and we knew that more anglers would motorize it, which indeed happened.
Around 2011, following Sungjin Kim’s successful outfitting of a W500 with a 2HP Honda outboard motor, we became seriously involved in developing the motorized application for our kayaks… We developed transom motor mounts, spray shields and inflatable flotation modules to go with them, and we tested and demonstrated their performance, both with one person on board (I.E. the driver), and with an additional, lightweight passenger.
People became increasingly interested in this concept, and at the same time, we became aware of its shortcomings , mainly the limited load capacity and limited stability offered by this 29 inch wide design.
Early in 2014, Kenny Tracy, a.k.a. ‘One-Shot’, outfitted his W500 with home-made Styrofoam side flotation and a 6 HP Tohatsu outboard, and soon after drove this boat at 13 mph, at 1/3 throttle, thus shattering the previous speed record for it, which was just under 10 mph… What first seemed like a crazy idea of a motorcyclist who likes to tinker with boats turned out to be a pivotal event.
Soon after Kenny’s speed record, I purchased a 6 HP Tohatsu outboard, knowing it was overkill for the W500, but I had plans…

Kenny’s breakthrough acted as a catalyst that led us to developing the large-size inflatable flotation tubes that together with the Spray Shield served to create the W570 model, which is the intermediate concept between the 500 and 700 series.

We realized that if we wanted to offer a motorized watercraft that can take two full-size American anglers with their fishing gear, as well as go at high speed in choppy water, we’d need to come up with an altogether new product, I.E. a boat that would be bigger and more stable than the W500, but lightweight enough for one person to car-top, and narrow enough for paddlers to paddle easily, effectively, and comfortably.

The design spiral of the 700 series

This was the beginning of process known as Design Spiral, which is typical to the way new products come into being. The main reason why this process took a long time, and as a result we missed the main part of the 2015 season… was the fact that if we simply enlarged the W500 design, there would have been no rotational molding machine capable of effectively producing it. So we spent a long time and much efforts looking into other molding technologies and other materials, only to realize that Polyethylene (PE) was the best material as far as resilience and durability are concerned, as well as price, and we wanted to have a product that offers the most with regards to all these parameters.
This basic research phase brought us back to rotational molding, and we began exploring ideas that would allow us to produce this new and bigger boat on existing machines. Our molders helped us by providing insight on the solutions that we explored, and after several months, we got their approval for a solution like which no one has come up with before – Essentially, in order to create the W700, we had to innovate in rotational molding…
Tough beginnings!

In essence, the W500 is molded like any other kayak, namely in one piece, out of one mold, while the W700 is molded in two parts, out of two separate molds. These two parts of the W700 are the Twinhull and the Saddle, and they are assembled together at the factory (watch video » )
The bigger size of the W700 and the need to create industrial tooling that consists of two cast aluminum molds instead of a single one practically doubled our investment, compared to what we had paid in 2009 for the W500 tooling.

What we wanted the W700 to be

In the period that preceded the creation of the computer aided design (CAD) files for the W700 molds, I had many interactions with clients and dealers who were interested in this project. Among them were Michael Chesloff and Steve Lucas, to name a few. These people provided their ‘wish lists’, and voiced both their concerns and recommendations. It became clear to me that unless the new product is not just better than the W500, but a true breakthrough in boating and fishing, it might not justify itself. And by justify I mean commercially, in dollar terms, with an investment of nearly $80,000 in the tooling, including adaptations performed at the rotational molding plant after the molds got there, and not including the long hours that we spent on creating the CAD files for it.

Paddling vs motorizing

The main reason why SOT and Sit-In fishing kayaks are so sluggish is their excessive width, which generates so much residual resistance (Rr), also known as form resistance from the water they travel in. This wouldn’t have been an issue with the W700, since it is a true twin-hull (catamaran) featuring a pair of very narrow hulls. However, the extreme width of those other fishing kayaks (some exceed 40 inches…) works to make them sluggish also by preventing their users from moving their paddles effectively.
As for motorboats, even the smallest ones are stabler than kayaks, because they are much wider, but you can’t paddle a boat, practically speaking.
We wanted the W700 to be a great paddle craft even for one paddler going in rough water, which meant keeping this boat slim, but we also wanted it to be a great motorboat even at high speed (for its size), which meant that we had to increase its width in order to make it more stable than the smaller, 29″ wide W500.

Overall size, cockpit size and features

The overwhelming majority of anglers who go on water don’t fish from kayaks – They fish out of motorboats. And while most of these craft are designed to take more than two large size fisherman on board, it is quite rare to see a boat manned by a crew of more than two. In fact, the typical crew of a recreational fishing boat is two. So the W700 was required to take two large size American guys on board, plus their fishing gear, an outboard motor, and the fish caught…. Adding up all these things and their aggregated weight gave us the volume (number of cubic inches of buoyancy) that the W700 had to have, and since the boat’s width had already been decided, as well as the saddle’s width that was known after a decade of successful use in the W300 and W500 series, it was the aggregated load requirement that decided the boat’s total length from end to end.
We knew that the W700 would be much stabler than the W500, so we used the opportunity to make its saddle a bit higher, for the benefit of passengers with long legs, arthritis, neurological problems, and for those who had joint replacement surgery or suffer from other disabilities in their legs.

Then we faced the question of the cockpit size, or basically its length. There were two approaches to consider – making the cockpit short and the hull tips long could have given the boat a sporty, ‘cool’, and possibly ‘futuristic’ look, while making the cockpit very long would have been more practical in terms of passenger space and room for anglers to cast and fight fish. We thought that for our clients, the latter consideration was more important, so the question became how to maximize cockpit length without overdoing it…
Here again, the answer came from experience and common sense, with some simple calculations – We knew that a heavy driver might prefer to sit next to the transom while they operate a motor weighing 30 lbs to 60 lbs, and in any case, they’d be sitting next to the motor when they start it. This meant that we had to make the stern buoyant enough to support the weight of both driver and motor, and since the width of the boat was already given, we had to provide this extra buoyancy at the stern by placing the motor mount and the motor attached to it away from the rear tips of the hulls. We set the distance based on the tests we had run on the W570 outfitted with the 60 lbs 6 HP Tohatsu outboard.
As for the cockpit front, we knew from previous experience driving the W570 in choppy water that bumping into waves at high speed can generate much spray, so we’d better keep the front end of the cockpit at a reasonable distance from the hull tips.
In this sense, the actual length of the W700 cockpit, which is 7’10” reflects what’s left after we applied these requirements.
Another thing we had noticed while driving the W500 and W570 was that the motor being closer to the driver helps the driver start it, manipulate its controls, and drive the boat while being seated or standing in the middle of the cockpit. For these reasons we designed the ends of the W700 cockpit’s spray deflector as straight lines and not curved ones, thus allowing for the closest possible distance between motor and driver.
And if the reader asks themselves why we designed the front end of the cockpit in the same way, the answer is that following our clients’ insight we thought that some anglers would want to attach a powerful outboard gas engine in the back of their W700, so that they could cover the distance to their favorite fishery in the shortest time, and use a small electric trolling motor attached to the front once they arrive there and start fishing.
In other words, we planned for a scenario typical to what anglers commonly do when they fish out of popular boats such as Jon boats and bass boats.
This is to say that among various other considerations, we created the W700 as an alternative to these popular boats.
Although a 3.5 hp outboard is sufficiently powerful for the W570 and W700, the reason we got a 6 HP Tohatsu outboard for our tests and demos is because the visionary Kenny ‘One-Shot’ Tracy chose this motor after he had found that it’s the smallest outboard that can be outfitted with an alternator, namely charge a trolling motor’s battery. That sounded promising…
Another reason why we got a 6 hp motor that’s overkill by a considerable margin is that many boat owners overpower their boats just because they can, and we wanted to know what this involves.
And there are more reasons, but we’d rather talk about them when we have something to show…

Prototype

Some people asked me how come we engaged in such a project without first creating a prototype for this new boat. This question is well placed, naturally.
The answer is that we had tested a similar although smaller product in the form of a W570 outfitted with a 6 hp motor. Besides, creating a realistic prototype of the W700 was technically impossible, since it needed to be done in Polyethylene, and that would have required fully developed and rotational molds…
Making a full-size W700 prototype was possible only if we did it in fiberglass or carbon fiber, and it would have cost tens of thousands of dollars, and take many months to complete. Realistically, such a fiberglass or carbon-fiber reinforced resin W700 prototype would have not told us anything interesting about the same boat made from Polyethylene.

Timing is key

We finished the work on the CAD files for the W700, and sent them to the mold makers, who used them the create ‘patterns’, a.k.a. ‘plugs’, which in their turn served to create ‘sand’ molds into which the mold makers cast the molten aluminum. Once the aluminum molds were cast, the mold makers outfitted them with steel frames that would be used to attach them to the rotational molding machines, and polished them. The last phase of mold making was coating the inside with Teflon. Coating molds is required in order to make it easier for the rotational molders to extract the Polyethylene ‘parts’ from the molds.

Making a cast aluminum rotational mold of this size is a lengthy and complex process that’s prone to delays, which was the case with the W700 project, and only in the second part of August were we able to start shipping the first W700 units to clients and dealers who had ordered them weeks and months before.
In this first batch, we got a demo unit for ourselves –

 

Testing the W700

Car topping
Some people who found it easy to car top their W500 worried that car topping the heavier W700 would be significantly harder for them. I had car topped a W500 with a 2 hp Honda outboard attached to, so I wasn’t worried about it, and indeed, one of these clients who had gotten his W700 a few days before I did, reported that car topping it was a breeze. It was indeed.

Our first test took place on lake Massapoag, on a sunny but windy day in late August. We didn’t take a motor with us since we knew that we’d have no time to test the boat with a motor on that day. In the days before I received my W700 I had already gotten very positive comments from a couple of clients who had theirs delivered to them before I did, so there was little anxiety on my part in that first time I tested this boat in real life.
Besides, I had tested it so many times in ‘thought experiments’ that I pretty much knew what to expect, kind of, although real life experience is different, being based on sensory input and not on technical knowledge aided by a trained imagination.

I entered the white W700 cockpit from a dock and started paddling standing, and I was impressed by the new level of stability that I was experiencing, although I wasn’t really surprised, because this had been my main concern and therefore my focal point… but then, after a few more paddle strokes I had my first pleasant sensory surprise: This boat was fast! It glided like a champ, and tracked like a dream… -“Wow!” I thought to myself, “What a nice bonus!”. I had expected the W700 to be faster than the W500, but imagining speed in paddling is probably harder than imagining stability.
The next thing I tested was ease of turning, and here too I had a delightful moment, as I realized that the boat was easy to turn – “The smaller draft helps!” I thought to myself.

I paddled back to the dock, on which my wife was standing with a video camera. I had planned to demonstrate the boat’s stability the way I did back in 2010, when we shot the ‘Super Stability’ movie with the W500… So I faced the dock, and started jumping up and down and from one foot to another, trying to generate a lot of spray in the process, as I had done with the W500… but the W700 didn’t cooperate – It hardly budged. A 200 lbs guy jumping in it and trying to get it to sink in the water and pop out wasn’t enough. It didn’t work even as I jumped energetically from side to side.
After a couple of minutes of vain attempts, I realized that I was in a ridiculous situation, and I tried to think about another way to demonstrate this boat’s incredible stability. The way I did it came straight out of a designer’s imagination: I stood with both feet in one hull, in a rather awkward posture (try standing with one foot in front of the other…), and I paddled on both sides of the boat. The result can be viewed in our ‘Absolute Stability‘ video, which has made quite a few jaws drop 🙂

Later, I thought about this test and realized that it proves ‘boat stability‘, namely a degree of stability that kayaks cannot offer, since they allow the user to sit or stand along their center line, but not to stand on one side of their deck, or hull. This is something that only a good size boat can offer, and the W700.

Next came a series of tests that showed how easy it is for the user to turn inside the cockpit. This is of particular importance due to the advantage of starting the outboard motor while facing it (I.E. facing backward), and then, once it’s on, turning and facing forward. Later, in other occasions, we showed how this works perfectly when the boat is motorized. In principle, this is possible with a W570 too, but it’s not as easy as it is in the W700.

After we ended that video shooting session, I took my wife for a tandem ride in the boat. She sat in the front, without paddling, and I stood at the rear and paddled. This time I had a double surprise – The first was that the boat glided very nicely on the choppy water without me putting much effort in paddling, although I had to move an additional 135 lbs… “It’s the effect of the bigger load capacity!” I thought to myself.

Then, after a couple more minutes of paddling this way, I noticed that I wasn’t paying any attention to stability… It was like the issue of stability had been erased from the agenda – Stability had become a non-issue, and I was no longer required to address it. “Nice!” I thought to myself -“This boat is instability-free”.
Michael Chesloff called this boat “ridiculously stable”, and I like this expression because it captures the feeling of incredulity mixed with relief that one feels when they first paddle it.

 

Testing the W700 with a 6 hp outboard motor

We weren’t going to test the W700 with a 2 hp outboard because doing it with such a small outboard would have been ridiculous, so we ran the first test with our 6 hp Tohatsu outboard, which can propel boats weighing up to 3,000 lbs, according to its owner’s manual. The W700 weighs 80 lbs… the motor and transom mount weigh a little over 60 lbs, and I weighed about 210 lbs at that time. That’s a total of 350 lbs. These numbers should tell the reader by how much the W700 we tested was overpowered.

The spot we picked for testing the W700 and shooting our demo video was Westport Point, in Massachusetts’ South Shore, and if the water surface there looks interesting in video it’s thanks to fast and sinuous tidal currents and big wakes generated by motorboats going in all directions. The team consisted of two camera persons – namely my wife and my younger son, and me in a dual role of test driver and director.

Tandem

boat-tender-640x640

Later, my wife joined me in the boat. She first sat in the front of the cockpit facing forward, and while I was driving, she turned around and sat facing backward. She did it effortlessly, and I didn’t have to make a particular effort to balance the boat while she was turning.

 

Cockpit
The cockpit felt very spacious. My wife and I invited our teenage son to join us on board for a family tour, but he preferred to stay on shore and keep shooting video…

The boat behaved very well – It was stable both in terms of lateral stability and directional stability (tracking), easy to maneuver, dry, and simply a pleasure to use both solo and in tandem, seated and standing.

Starting the motor while facing backward was easy, and turning in the cockpit in order to drive facing forward was easy too.
I steered using the same articulated (U-jointed) tiller extension that I had used before with the W500 and W570, and it worked very well.
My only concern was that with a 6 hp motor the throttle never passed the 1/2 mark, even when the boat was going fast… This meant that somewhere in the back of my mind I had to pay attention to the throttle, because with so much extra power available in the engine, a wrong twist of my wrist could have made me lose some control over the boat, and such glitches are unwanted by definition.

The saddle
The new saddle design performed exactly as we had intended it to. The combined effect of the multiple molded-in brackets along the saddle’s length and the wooden bracket at its rear end provided the feeling of sturdiness and comfort that I wanted to achieve when we worked on this new design.
Being 6 ft tall, I felt more comfortable sitting a little higher than in the W500.

W700-microskiff-640x640The W700 proved to be a great motorboat, and we were able to show it in a couple of movies that are fun to watch –

Wow! It felt great, and we knew we had a winner.

 

 

 

Joystick Steering – from fishing boat to sports boat

The two movies we shot at Westport Point showed the W700 as a fishing boat and a utility boat (tender), as well as small touring boat, and it looked good in all these applications. But I wanted to take it further – I wanted to eliminate my concern about this boat being overpowered, and turn steering it into a pleasure by itself – a means to have fun.
I sensed that the W700 had the potential to be used purely for the fun of driving it, and not just for transportation or going places. In other words, it could be used as a sports boat… (I can see some Wavewalk fans and dealers raising an eyebrow after reading this sentence…)

Joystick-steering-640-2

To make a long story short, I pushed forward the development of a joystick steering system that I’ve been thinking about for some time, and went together with our camera team to lake Massapoag, to test this system in real world conditions. And indeed, the conditions at the lake that day were as ‘real’ as can be – It was a particularly cold day for October, and the wind was blowing hard, as one can see in the movie…
Once again, starting the engine was easy, and so was driving, and… it happened! – I forgot about the powerful motor, and once I saw that the joystick was working flawlessly, I started fooling around with the boat, alternating between driving seated and standing, and enjoying the speed and freedom of motion that it offered. It was pure fun, exhilarating – except for the fact that the water level at the lake was low at this time of year, and I had to be careful not to get too close to shore so that I won’t run into underwater rocks, as I did the year before while I was driving the W570 at the same place…

What is the W700?

Silly question? Maybe. After all, what matters is how people see this boat and use it, and not words put together by its inventor-designer-manufacturer-marketer. However, better definitions could help people better understand this new type of watercraft.
Although the W700 bears similarities with the W500 as well as with other types of watercraft, it is unique in more than one sense. Moreover, better definitions can help us, at Wavewalk, find more markets for it, and improve the user experience of people who paddle it, drive it, and fish from it.
The bottom line is that the W700 is an exciting watercraft with an exciting future!

Yoav

 


Wavewalk® 700 kayak and boat reviews contributed by customers »

Wavewalk reviews »

 

Review of my Wavewalk 700

Disclaimer: This review was written by the guy who designed this boat and manufactures it. It also tells the story of how the boat came into being, so it’s kind of long…

Why am I writing a review of a boat that I created?..

Good question, especially since I’ve already written several articles about it…
The answer has two parts – The first is that many months ago, before we launched this product, I had promised some Wavewalk fans that I’d write such a personal and professional review on this new boat. The second reason is that now that the initial phase of launching this product is winding down, and it got such positive and exciting reviews from clients and fans, I also feel like talking about it from a personal angle and a professional one, but this time more as a designer than a marketer.
But this is in theory… – Is it possible for someone like me to fully dissociate the personal from the professional, and the designer from the marketer? Well, I think it would be hard, which is why I wrote that disclaimer at the top of this page  🙂

Boat first, kayak second

Where did the W700 come from?

First steps – The 300 series

Back in 2004, when we came out with our first product, the W300, we called it a Personal Catamaran, and then a W-boat. Soon after, I had thought about motorizing it and about creating future models that would be small, “personal” boats, with spray shields and steering bars:

(Click the images to enlarge)

However, the W300’s main application was kayaking, namely paddling with a dual-blade paddle, so we gradually started calling it W-kayak, and as anglers discovered it shortly after, it became known as a Wavewalk fishing kayak. The boat’s main commercial application had defined it.
Several Wavewalk fans such as Rox Davis outfitted their W300 with electric trolling motors, and one outfitted his with a 2.5 HP Suzuki outboard, but although their W300 boats seemed like fun to drive, some things were still missing in terms of comfort and performance…

The next step – The 500 Series

In 2009, when we launched the W500 series, it was primarily a fishing kayak, and we knew that more anglers would motorize it, which indeed happened.
Around 2011, following Sungjin Kim’s successful outfitting of a W500 with a 2HP Honda outboard motor, we became seriously involved in developing the motorized application for our kayaks… We developed transom motor mounts, spray shields and inflatable flotation modules to go with them, and we tested and demonstrated their performance, both with one person on board (I.E. the driver), and with an additional, lightweight passenger.
People became increasingly interested in this concept, and at the same time, we became aware of its shortcomings , mainly the limited load capacity and limited stability offered by this 29 inch wide design.
Early in 2014, Kenny Tracy, a.k.a. ‘One-Shot’, outfitted his W500 with home-made Styrofoam side flotation and a 6 HP Tohatsu outboard, and soon after drove this boat at 13 mph, at 1/3 throttle, thus shattering the previous speed record for it, which was just under 10 mph…  What first seemed like a crazy idea of a motorcyclist who likes to tinker with boats turned out to be a pivotal event.
Soon after Kenny’s speed record, I purchased a 6 HP Tohatsu outboard, knowing it was overkill for the W500, but I had plans…

Kenny’s breakthrough acted as a catalyst that led us to developing the large-size inflatable flotation tubes that together with the Spray Shield served to create the W570 model, which is the intermediate concept between the 500 and 700 series.

We realized that if we wanted to offer a motorized watercraft that can take two full-size American anglers with their fishing gear, as well as go at high speed in choppy water, we’d need to come up with an altogether new product, I.E. a boat that would be bigger and more stable than the W500, but lightweight enough for one person to car-top, and narrow enough for paddlers to paddle easily, effectively, and comfortably.

The design spiral of the 700 series

This was the beginning of process known as Design Spiral, which is typical to the way new products come into being. The main reason why this process took a long time, and as a result we missed the main part of the 2015 season… was the fact that if we simply enlarged the W500 design, there would have been no rotational molding machine capable of effectively producing it. So we spent a long time and much efforts looking into other molding technologies and other materials, only to realize that Polyethylene (PE) was the best material as far as resilience and durability are concerned, as well as price, and we wanted to have a product that offers the most with regards to all these parameters.
This basic research phase brought us back to rotational molding, and we began exploring ideas that would allow us to produce this new and bigger boat on existing machines. Our molders helped us by providing insight on the solutions that we explored, and after several months, we got their approval for a solution like which no one has come up with before – Essentially, in order to create the W700, we had to innovate in rotational molding…
Tough beginnings!

In essence, the W500 is molded like any other kayak, namely in one piece, out of one mold, while the W700 is molded in two parts, out of two separate molds. These two parts of the W700 are the Twinhull and the Saddle, and they are assembled together at the factory (watch video » )
The bigger size of the W700 and the need to create industrial tooling that consists of two cast aluminum molds instead of a single one practically doubled our investment, compared to what we had paid in 2009 for the W500 tooling.

What we wanted the W700 to be

In the period that preceded the creation of the computer aided design (CAD) files for the W700 molds, I had many interactions with clients and dealers who were interested in this project. Among them were Michael Chesloff and Steve Lucas, to name a few. These people provided their ‘wish lists’, and voiced both their concerns and recommendations. It became clear to me that unless the new product is not just better than the W500, but a true breakthrough in boating and fishing, it might not justify itself. And by justify I mean commercially, in dollar terms, with an investment of nearly $80,000 in the tooling, including adaptations performed at the rotational molding plant after the molds got there, and not including the long hours that we spent on creating the CAD files for it.

Paddling vs motorizing

The main reason why SOT and Sit-In fishing kayaks are so sluggish is their excessive width, which generates so much residual resistance (Rr), also known as form resistance from the water they travel in. This wouldn’t have been an issue with the W700, since it is a true twin-hull (catamaran) featuring a pair of very narrow hulls. However, the extreme width of those other fishing kayaks (some exceed 40 inches…) works to make them sluggish also by preventing their users from moving their paddles effectively.
As for motorboats, even the smallest ones are stabler than kayaks, because they are much wider, but you can’t paddle a boat, practically speaking.
We wanted the W700 to be a great paddle craft even for one paddler going in rough water, which meant keeping this boat slim, but we also wanted it to be a great motorboat even at high speed (for its size), which meant that we had to increase its width in order to make it more stable than the smaller, 29″ wide W500.

Overall size, cockpit size and features

The overwhelming majority of anglers who go on water don’t fish from kayaks – They fish out of motorboats. And while most of these craft are designed to take more than two large size fisherman on board, it is quite rare to see a boat manned by a crew of more than two. In fact, the typical crew of a recreational fishing boat is two.  So the W700 was required to take two large size American guys on board, plus their fishing gear, an outboard motor, and the fish caught…. Adding up all these things and their aggregated weight gave us the volume (number of cubic inches of buoyancy) that the W700 had to have, and since the boat’s width had already been decided, as well as the saddle’s width that was known after a decade of successful use in the W300 and W500 series, it was the aggregated load requirement that decided the boat’s total length from end to end.
We knew that the W700 would be much stabler than the W500, so we used the opportunity to make its saddle a bit higher, for the benefit of passengers with long legs, arthritis, neurological problems, and for those who had joint replacement surgery or suffer from other disabilities in their legs.

Then we faced the question of the cockpit size, or basically its length. There were two approaches to consider – making the cockpit short and the hull tips long could have given the boat a sporty, ‘cool’, and possibly ‘futuristic’ look, while making the cockpit very long would have been more practical in terms of passenger space and room for anglers to cast and fight fish. We thought that for our clients, the latter consideration was more important,  so the question became how to maximize cockpit length without overdoing it…
Here again, the answer came from experience and common sense, with some simple calculations – We knew that a heavy driver might prefer to sit next to the transom while they operate a motor weighing 30 lbs to 60 lbs, and in any case, they’d be sitting next to the motor when they start it. This meant that we had to make the stern buoyant enough to support the weight of both driver and motor, and since the width of the boat was already given, we had to provide this extra buoyancy at the stern by placing the motor mount and the motor attached to it away from the rear tips of the hulls. We set the distance based on the tests we had run on the W570 outfitted with the 60 lbs 6 HP Tohatsu outboard.
As for the cockpit front, we knew from previous experience driving the W570 in choppy water that bumping into waves at high speed can generate much spray, so we’d better keep the front end of the cockpit at a reasonable distance from the hull tips.
In this sense, the actual length of the W700 cockpit, which is 7’10” reflects what’s left after we applied these requirements.
Another thing we had noticed while driving the W500 and W570 was that the motor being closer to the driver helps the driver start it, manipulate its controls, and drive the boat while being seated or standing in the middle of the cockpit. For these reasons we designed the ends of the W700 cockpit’s spray deflector as straight lines and not curved ones, thus allowing for the closest possible distance between motor and driver.
And if the reader asks themselves why we designed the front end of the cockpit in the same way, the answer is that following our clients’ insight we thought that some anglers would want to attach a powerful outboard gas engine in the back of their W700, so that they could cover the distance to their favorite fishery in the shortest time, and use a small electric trolling motor attached to the front once they arrive there and start fishing.
In other words, we planned for a scenario typical to what anglers commonly do when they  fish out of popular boats such as Jon boats and bass boats.
This is to say that among various other considerations, we created the W700 as an alternative to these popular boats.
Although a 3.5 hp outboard is sufficiently powerful for the W570 and W700, the reason we got a 6 HP Tohatsu outboard for our tests and demos is because the visionary Kenny ‘One-Shot’ Tracy chose this motor after he had found that it’s the smallest outboard that can be outfitted with an alternator, namely charge a trolling motor’s battery. That sounded promising…
Another reason why we got a 6 hp motor that’s overkill by a considerable margin is that many boat owners overpower their boats just because they can, and we wanted to know what this involves.
And there are more reasons, but we’d rather talk about them when we have something to show…

Prototype

Some people asked me how come we engaged in such a project without first creating a prototype for this new boat. This question is well placed, naturally.
The answer is that we had tested a similar although smaller product in the form of a W570 outfitted with a 6 hp motor. Besides, creating a realistic prototype of the W700 was technically impossible, since it needed to be done in Polyethylene, and that would have required fully developed and rotational molds…
Making a full-size W700 prototype was possible only if we did it in fiberglass or carbon fiber, and it would have cost tens of thousands of dollars, and take many months to complete. Realistically, such a fiberglass or carbon-fiber reinforced resin W700 prototype would have not told us anything interesting about the same boat made from Polyethylene.

Timing is key

We finished the work on the CAD files for the W700, and sent them to the mold makers, who used them the create ‘patterns’, a.k.a. ‘plugs’, which in their turn served to create ‘sand’ molds into which the mold makers cast the molten aluminum.  Once the aluminum molds were cast, the mold makers outfitted them with steel frames that would be used to attach them to the rotational molding machines, and polished them. The last phase of mold making was coating the inside with Teflon. Coating molds is required in order to make it easier for the rotational molders to extract the Polyethylene ‘parts’ from the molds.

Making a cast aluminum rotational mold of this size is a lengthy and complex process that’s prone to delays, which was the case with the W700 project, and only in the second part of August were we able to start shipping the first W700 units to clients and dealers who had ordered them weeks and months before.
In this first batch, we got a demo unit for ourselves –

 

Testing the W700

Car topping
Some people who found it easy to car top their W500 worried that car topping the heavier W700 would be significantly harder for them. I had car topped a W500 with a 2 hp Honda outboard attached to, so I wasn’t worried about it, and indeed, one of these clients who had gotten his W700 a few  days before I did,  reported that car topping it was a breeze. It was indeed.

Our first test took place on lake Massapoag, on a sunny but windy day in late August. We didn’t take a motor with us since we knew that we’d have no time to test the boat with a motor on that day. In the days before I received my W700 I had already gotten very positive comments from a couple of clients who had theirs delivered to them before I did, so there was little anxiety on my part in that first time I tested this boat in real life.
Besides, I had tested it so many times in ‘thought experiments’ that I pretty much knew what to expect, kind of, although real life experience is different, being based on sensory input and not on technical knowledge aided by a trained imagination.

I entered the white W700 cockpit from a dock and started paddling standing, and I was impressed by the new level of stability that I was experiencing, although I wasn’t really surprised, because this had been my main concern and therefore my focal point… but then, after a few more paddle strokes I had my first pleasant sensory surprise: This boat was fast! It glided like a champ, and tracked like a dream… -“Wow!” I thought to myself, “What a nice bonus!”. I had expected the W700 to be faster than the W500, but imagining speed in paddling is probably harder than imagining stability.
The next thing I tested was ease of turning, and here too I had a delightful moment, as I realized that the boat was easy to turn – “The smaller draft helps!” I thought to myself.

I paddled back to the dock, on which my wife was standing with a video camera. I had planned to demonstrate the boat’s stability the way I did back in 2010, when we shot the ‘Super Stability’ movie with the W500… So I faced the dock, and started jumping up and down and from one foot to another, trying to generate a lot of spray in the process, as I had done with the W500… but the W700 didn’t cooperate – It hardly budged. A 200 lbs guy jumping in it and trying to get it to sink in the water and pop out wasn’t enough. It didn’t work even as I jumped energetically from side to side.
After a couple of minutes of vain attempts, I realized that I was in a ridiculous situation, and I tried to think about another way to demonstrate this boat’s incredible stability. The way I did it came straight out of a designer’s imagination: I stood with both feet in one hull, in a rather awkward posture (try standing with one foot in front of the other…), and I paddled on both sides of the boat. The result can be viewed in our ‘Absolute Stability‘ video, which has made quite a few jaws drop 🙂

Later, I thought about this test and realized that it proves ‘boat stability‘, namely a degree of stability that kayaks cannot offer, since they allow the user to sit or stand along their center line, but not to stand on one side of their deck, or hull. This is something that only a good size boat can offer, and the W700.

Next came a series of tests that showed how easy it is for the user to turn inside the cockpit. This is of particular importance due to the advantage of starting the outboard motor while facing it (I.E. facing backward), and then, once it’s on, turning and facing forward. Later, in other occasions, we showed how this works perfectly when the boat is motorized. In principle, this is possible with a W570 too, but it’s not as easy as it is in the W700.

After we ended that video shooting session, I took my wife for a tandem ride in the boat. She sat in the front, without paddling, and I stood at the rear and paddled. This time I had a double surprise – The first was that the boat glided very nicely on the choppy water without me putting much effort in paddling, although I had to move an additional 135 lbs… “It’s the effect of the bigger load capacity!” I thought to myself.

Then, after a couple more minutes of paddling this way, I noticed that I wasn’t paying any attention to stability… It was like the issue of stability had been erased from the agenda – Stability had become a non-issue, and I was no longer required to address it. “Nice!” I thought to myself -“This boat is instability-free”.
Michael Chesloff called this boat “ridiculously stable”, and I like this expression because it captures the feeling of incredulity mixed with relief that one feels when they first paddle it.

 

Testing the W700 with a 6 hp outboard motor

We weren’t going to test the W700 with a 2 hp outboard because doing it with such a small outboard would have been ridiculous, so we ran the first test with our 6 hp Tohatsu outboard, which can propel boats weighing up to 3,000 lbs, according to its owner’s manual. The W700 weighs 80 lbs… the motor and transom mount weigh a little over 60 lbs, and I weighed about 210 lbs at that time. That’s a total of 350 lbs. These numbers should tell the reader by how much the W700 we tested was overpowered.

The spot we picked for testing the W700 and shooting our demo video was Westport Point, in Massachusetts’ South Shore, and if the water surface there looks interesting in video it’s thanks to fast and sinuous tidal currents and big wakes generated by motorboats going in all directions.  The team consisted of two camera persons – namely my wife and my younger son, and me in a dual role of test driver and director.

Tandem

boat-tender-640x640

Later, my wife joined me in the boat. She first sat in the front of the cockpit facing forward, and while I was driving, she turned around and sat facing backward. She did it effortlessly, and I didn’t have to make a particular effort to balance the boat while she was turning.

 

Cockpit
The cockpit felt very spacious. My wife and I invited our teenage son to join us on board for a family tour, but he preferred to stay on shore and keep shooting video…

The boat behaved very well – It was stable both in terms of lateral stability and directional stability (tracking), easy to maneuver, dry, and simply a pleasure to use both solo and in tandem, seated and standing.

Starting the motor while facing backward was easy, and turning in the cockpit in order to drive facing forward was easy too.
I steered using the same articulated (U-jointed) tiller extension that I had used before with the W500 and W570, and it worked very well.
My only concern was that with a 6 hp motor the throttle never passed the 1/2 mark, even when the boat was going fast… This meant that somewhere in the back of my mind I had to pay attention to the throttle, because with so much extra power available in the engine, a wrong twist of my wrist could have made me lose some control over the boat, and such glitches are unwanted by definition.

The saddle
The new saddle design performed exactly as we had intended it to. The combined effect of the multiple molded-in brackets along the saddle’s length and the wooden bracket at its rear end provided the feeling of sturdiness and comfort that I wanted to achieve when we worked on this new design.
Being 6 ft tall, I felt more comfortable sitting a little higher than in the W500.

W700-microskiff-640x640The W700 proved to be a great motorboat, and we were able to show it in a couple of movies that are fun to watch –

Wow! It felt great, and we knew we had a winner.

 

 

 

Joystick Steering – from fishing boat to sports boat

The two movies we shot at Westport Point showed the W700 as a fishing boat and a utility boat (tender), as well as small touring boat, and it looked good in all these applications. But I wanted to take it further – I wanted to eliminate my concern about this boat being overpowered, and turn steering it into a pleasure by itself – a means to have fun.
I sensed that the W700 had the potential to be used purely for the fun of driving it, and not just for transportation or going places. In other words, it could be used as a sports boat… (I can see some Wavewalk fans and dealers raising an eyebrow after reading this sentence…)

Joystick-steering-640-2

To make a long story short, I pushed forward the development of a joystick steering system that I’ve been thinking about for some time, and went together with our camera team to lake Massapoag, to test this system in real world conditions. And indeed, the conditions at the lake that day were as ‘real’ as can be – It was a particularly cold day for October, and the wind was blowing hard, as one can see in the movie…
Once again, starting the engine was easy, and so was driving, and… it happened!  – I forgot about the powerful motor, and once I saw that the joystick was working flawlessly, I started fooling around with the boat, alternating between driving seated and standing, and enjoying the speed and freedom of motion that it offered. It was pure fun, exhilarating – except for the fact that the water level at the lake was low at this time of year, and I had to be careful not to get too close to shore so that I won’t run into underwater rocks, as I did the year before while I was driving the W570 at the same place…

What is the W700?

Silly question? Maybe.  After all, what matters is how people see this boat and use it, and not words put together by its inventor-designer-manufacturer-marketer. However, better definitions could help people better understand this new type of watercraft.
Although the W700 bears similarities with the W500 as well as with other types of watercraft, it is unique in more than one sense. Moreover, better definitions can help us, at Wavewalk, find more markets for it, and improve the user experience of people who paddle it, drive it, and fish from it.
The bottom line is that the W700 is an exciting watercraft with an exciting future!

Yoav

 


Read kayak and boat reviews contributed by customers »

The secrets of the SOT kayak’s underside

Have you ever seen a picture of the underside of a sit-on-top (SOT) kayak? –
It’s unique, and the bottom of no other vessel looks like it.

Below is a figure showing what a typical SOT kayak looks like when it’s turned over:

underside-of-typical-sot-fishing-kayak

Understanding the design of SOT kayaks’ underside

The ‘scupper’ holes

The most striking feature in a SOT kayak’s hull are the holes in it:
All SOT kayaks feature vertical holes connecting their deck to the water below. Kayak manufacturers call them ‘Scupper Holes’ and claim they were introduced into the SOT design as means to drain water from the kayak’s deck, similarly to what scuppers do in normal boats.
The truth is different –
To begin with, these vertical holes were introduced into the SOT kayak design not as means to drain their deck but for a totally different reason: They support the deck from crashing down as the user sits on top of it –
Kayaks’ hulls have thin plastic walls, and SOT kayaks’ hulls have a general form of an empty and flattish eggshell that’s not very strong, which is why its top side (let’s call it the ‘roof’) requires reinforcement.
The way to support the roof of a large structure is by means of vertical columns, and that’s essentially what scupper holes are: vertical, molded-in plastic tubes that act as supporting columns for the kayak’s deck.
This explains why scupper holes are rather dysfunctional as drainage holes – They were not designed as such in the first place.
So next time you paddle a SOT kayak and you notice water splashing through the scupper holes onto the deck as a result of the kayak moving in the water (that’s what kayaks are supposed to do), you’ll know why the manufacturer just had to put these holes there, and why the sensible solution of letting water drain from the kayak’s deck to its sides didn’t get adopted…

The hydrodynamics of scupper holes

Any detail in a vessel’s hull that can generate a noticeable change in the regular flow of the water is unwanted since it increases drag (resistance) and makes it harder to move the vessel. In other words, it slows the vessel down.
Therefore, a hull that features multiple drag generating elements such as scupper holes is very slow, and in kayaking terms it’s hard to paddle or pedal it forward at an acceptable speed without the kayaker making an unusual effort.
Call it a barge and you’d be spot on.

Channels / tunnels

The second striking element that SOT kayak feature on their underside are channels sometime called tunnels. These are the long and narrow grooves stretching along the hull’s middle section.

Why are they there? –

Water cannot be compressed, and it doesn’t like to be forced into narrow and long structures such as these. When it does, it generates friction (Frictional Resistance – FR) and turbulence, and thereby even more drag making the kayak even harder to move, I.E. much slower.
Kayak designers know these facts, or at least they’re supposed to be aware of them, so why do they add such channels to their kayaks’ underside? –
The typical answer you’d hear at a kayak dealership is that channels add to the kayak’s tracking capability. This should be a good thing because SOT kayaks or at least those designed to serve anglers track exceptionally poorly, which is why nearly all of them come equipped with a rudder (yet another undesirable element). But if a kayak features a rudder, it doesn’t need such channels molded into its underside…
So this common explanation is false, and it masks reality –
If indeed channels are there to improve tracking, why does only the middle section of SOT (and ‘hybrid’) kayaks feature them? It would make sense to make such channels longer, so they produce a more noticeable tracking effect, wouldn’t it?
Well, the reality is that such channels are essentially yet another means to reinforce the SOT kayak’s hull, which is why they coincide with scupper holes –
Knowing that the lower end of scupper tube generates considerable drag as it comes in contact with water, the kayak designer may attempt to position it higher, that is at the top side of a narrow tunnel, such as can be observed in the above image.
It doesn’t really work, simply because the kayak sinks lower in the water as soon as it is loaded with a passenger, and if that passenger happens to be an angler, the load is heavier since it includes fishing gear as well.

Other underside elements that slow down the SOT kayak

If you thought that kayak designers and manufacturers would stop at scuppers and channels, you were wrong. In fact, in the race between kayak manufacturers to overdo each other by introducing details and accessories in increasing numbers, many SOT kayaks today feature additional elements that generate extra drag, and further slow you down –
Those include fins, keels and skegs, and pedal driven kayaks feature flapping fins or propellers.
The additional effort required to propel SOT or hybrid kayaks that feature such elements is significantly greater than the effort required to propel simple sit-in kayaks of similar proportions, and it’s much greater than the effort required to propel a W kayak.

Clearly, as SOT kayaks become bigger, wider, heavier, over accessorized and dysfunctional through clutter, we are witnessing the end of a design cycle that began sometime in the end of the 1960s, when people started outfitting paddle boards with seats and footrests and called them sit-on-top kayaks…

DIY W kayak seat and bracket by Danilo Russolillo, Italy

Danilo is an Italian designer who lives near Rome, Italy.
He owns a W500 kayak that he uses for paddle surfing, stand up paddling, and offshore fishing in the Mediterranean sea.
Danilo recently outfitted his W kayak with standard saddle brackets, and now he came up with an original design for a seat equipped with vertical footrests:

Danilo's son sitting in the kayak

Danilo’s son is visibly pleased with his dad’s idea!

High W kayak seat with footrests

Danilo’s bracket features vertical footrests

Click images to enlarge

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