Tag Archive: lateral wind

Jon Boat Stability vs. Wavewalk® S4

Are Jon Boats Stable?

 

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.

Is there a stability difference between a Jon boat and a skiff?

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

Who Uses Jon Boats, and Where?

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.

Factors in Jon Boats’ Stability

Structure, size and passengers

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

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).

Size matters, but it may not be enough

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:

Captain Larry Jarboe, of Key Largo, Florida. Click image to read the story

 

Balancing capability

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.

Directional stability and lateral stability

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.

Stability: Jon Boats vs. Wavewalk® Series 4 (S4)

 

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.

Portability and paddling capacity

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).

 

 

Seaworthiness

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.

 

 

 

Payload

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.

What makes the Wavewalk 500 faster and easier to paddle than other fishing kayaks?

Before getting their Wavewalk kayak, many of our clients had tested or owned common fishing kayaks, and they weren’t too happy with the way these kayaks performed with regards to several basic requirements which are essential to paddling. In contrast, the same people find the Wavewalk 500 very easy to paddle and handle.
This article explains some of the technical differences between the W500 and all other fishing kayaks, and how these differences work to the advantage of W kayakers.

What makes common fishing kayaks special as a class of kayaks?

If you walked into a store that sells all kinds of paddle craft (e.g. canoes, touring kayaks, sea kayaks, recreational kayaks) and you looked at at the fishing kayak models side by side with the other kayaks, you’d notice that fishing kayaks look chubbier. In other words, they are wider than the other types of kayaks, and some of them are almost as wide as the big canoes displayed in the store.
The main reason for this is that fishing kayaks are required to be more stable than other kayaks, and the only way to make a mono-hull kayak stabler is by widening its hull.
This gain in stability comes at a price, and you as a paddler pays it by having to paddle harder since your kayak is slower and tracks poorly – It zigzags and responds better to the wind that deflects it from its intended course than to your efforts to go straight forward.
For this reason, fishing kayaks have a bad reputation among kayakers, who call them barges, and rightfully so.

What makes the common fishing kayak design so problematic?

Poor tracking – To begin with, a wide kayak hull compels the low-seated paddler to move their paddle more horizontally than vertically. This drives the paddle blade in a curved trajectory rather than an efficient straight trajectory in parallel to the kayak’s direction on travel. As a result, each paddle stroke changes the kayak’s direction in a way that’s easily noticeable, and the paddler must correct it with a paddle stroke on the kayak’s opposite side, which in its turn would deflect the kayak to the other direction… Such alternation between left and right is known as zigzagging, and it’s a most inefficient way to go forward because it increases the actual length of your route, and on top of this, changing course in itself requires acceleration, which is lossy in energy terms, especially when it’s done repeatedly with every paddle stroke.

Poor tracking under wind – This is a special case in which the wind works to deflect the fishing kayak from its course, and since these kayaks neither paddle nor handle well, they become particularly hard to paddle, to a point where getting back to shore may no longer be guaranteed… This difficulty in tracking is why practically every high-end fishing kayak is outfitted with a rudder, which can help the paddler track, but further slows them down – Using a rudder slows the kayak by 10% in average.

Low speed – A boat’s speed is closely associated with its hull’s length – The longer the faster. It’s also associate with its hull’s width – the narrower the faster.
In hydrodynamic design terms, a hull whose Length to Beam (length to width) ratio is below 6:1 is considered to be slow, and a hull whose L/B ratio is over 20:1 is considered as optimal for speed. Typically, recreational boats’ hulls have a L/B ratio somewhere between the two.
To better understand this, let’s check a few examples –

  1. a typical sea kayak (fast touring kayak) can be 18 ft long and 24 inches wide. Its L/B ratio of 9:1 makes it fairly quick.
  2. a large size fishing kayak that’s 14 ft long and 30 inches wide has a 5.6:1 L/B ratio, which is rather slow.
  3. a fishing kayak that’s 12 ft long and 36 inches wide has a 4:1 L/B ratio, which is extremely slow and pretty much impossible to paddle to a long distance.
  4. a fishing kayak with a 12 ft long and 41 inch wide hull has a 3.5:1 L/B ratio, which makes it really hard for a one person crew to paddle to any distance, and –
  5. a fishing kayak that’s only 10 ft long and 38.5 inches wide has a 3.1:1 L/B ratio, which could make paddling a stack of plywood easier, if you wanted to try paddling either of these floating objects.

In other words, the chubbiest among fishing kayaks are unfit for paddling, unless your plan is to fish in ponds or in small, protected lakes.

How does the Wavewalk 500 compare?

Unlike mono-hull kayaks, the W invention offers a totally different way to make the kayak stabler without making it excessively wide. This offers advantages in speed and tracking as well –

L/B and speed – In comparison, the W500 is 11.4 ft long, and each of his twin hulls is 8 inches wide. This 17:1 L/B ratio for one hull and 8.5:1 ratio for the two hulls joined together is far better in speed terms than the fastest fishing kayak hull out there. In real life terms, this design allows the W500 to be as fast as a 13 ft touring kayak, which is a narrower and faster design than fishing kayaks of similar size and even bigger size.  More info on kayak design for speed >

Easy tracking – The W500 is just 29 inches wide, which makes it the world’s narrowest twin hull (a.k.a. catamaran). It also allows the paddler to paddle it from a higher position. The combination of these two attributes makes it easy for the paddler to apply vertical strokes and have the paddle blade travel efficiently in parallel to the kayak’s direction of travel, instead of moving in a curved trajectory. This in itself improves the W kayak’s tracking, but the fact that the paddler rides the saddle in a position that’s more powerful and ergonomic than the L kayaking position offered by other kayaks adds another dimension of efficiency and power to the paddler’s ability to handle their kayak and make it go where the  want.
Catamarans have a longer wetted length (WL) than mono-hull kayaks of similar size, and this feature makes them track better. In this sense, the W kayak is a catamaran, and indeed it tracks better than any other kayak out there, including sea kayaks that are much longer. In fact, no paddler ever found it necessary to outfit their W kayak with a rudder.

Great tracking under wind – One the the W kayak’s unique features is its long saddle that offers the paddler a simple and easy way to relocate for and aft in the cockpit. By doing so, the paddler can instantly change the kayak’s center of gravity (CG), and with it the way the kayak reacts to strong wind. In other words, the W kayak enables the paddler to use the power of the wind to help them direct the kayak, I.E. to stay on track. This simple, unique and most effective steering method is explained in an instructional article entitled W kayaking in strong wind >

Other considerations – Ergonomics and bio mechanics

Since all mono-hull kayaks offer variations on one paddling position known as the L position, these considerations are not useful for understanding differences between mono-hull fishing kayaks and other types mono-hull kayaks, such as recreational kayak, touring kayaks, etc.
In contrast, W kayaks offer several paddling positions, including the Riding position, which is both more powerful and more comfortable than the L position. This offers yet another advantage to the W kayaker, in the sense that they don’t suffer from back pain and leg numbness that are typically associated with traditional kayaking, and for this reason they don’t have to struggle with premature fatigue and discomfort, and thus dispose of more energy to keep paddling even in adverse weather and water conditions.
This is why the W kayak is favored by paddlers and anglers who suffer from disabilities, are middle aged or elderly, non-athletic, and by those who don’t benefit from a high level of physical fitness.
Indeed, W kayakers can often be seen out there on a river or a lake in poor weather conditions that drive other kayakers back to their homes, or discourage them from going on water to begin with.

A river rat’s kayak fishing trip down the W. Susquehanna river, by Joe Stauder

The fall feed is on in PA, and it creates great fishing opportunities.
Here is one of the Smallmouth bass I hooked while on a 10 mile float down the West Branch of the Susquehanna river, in my Wavewalk kayak.

I’m not much of a story teller but I stood up most of the time which allowed me to wing a crank bait out and run it through the deep water haunts where the breeders lay.

I had no need to stop, cause I could stand to fish and sit down to relax every so often. This is extremely important to me cause I have gone through three back surgeries and I need to be able to stretch out once in a while so I don’t get stiff.

There was a stiff cross wind blowing up river which would be a problem with any other kayak, but my Wavewalk tracked straight and true even in the cross wind.

Joe

Hawg Buster Stand Up Fishing Kayaks

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Paddling my W kayak on a windy day

Today I took my kayak to lake Massapoag, for a paddling trip.
This time, I was able to get it inside my midsize SUV almost all the way in (see picture), which made its transportation even easier than attaching it to the car rack.

fishing kayak transported inside SUV

We had 15-20 mph wind, with gusts over 25 mph. Lake Massapoag is about 1 square mile, which means we had white caps. There were no kayaks, canoes or paddle boards on the lake, except a kayak outfitted with an electric trolling motor whose driver did the smart thing and drove close to the bank where houses and trees offered him some protection from the wind. No fishing boats in sight either, naturally, since you can’t cast under such wind.

I launched my kayak at the northern beach, and paddled standing to the other side, taking the short road through the center of the lake. That was pretty easy, considering the wind was blowing generally in my back and my side, and it was so strong that sometimes all I had to do was just stand and steer with my paddle and make sure the waves don’t play a dirty trick on me while I’m taking a free ride.

But then came the second part of the trip – the way back…
I decided to take the same way, through the center of the lake. There was no way I could have done it standing up and paddling against such powerful headwind, of course, so I sat down on the kayak’s saddle, and started paddling against the wind, thinking that if I had a paddle board instead of a W kayak, the only way for me back to the car would have been getting out of the lake and walking…

Paddling was slow and hard, but I got a chance to practice various paddle strokes and paddling styles, including different positions such as riding while leaning forward (more ‘umph’), kneeling with one knee all the way down to the bottom of the hull, canoeing (paddling on one side), Greenland kayaking (sliding the paddle sideways rather than pushing it backward), rotating the torso (traditional kayaking), etc…
It was fun, and the fact I could track effectively saved me both time and energy.
Another important thing worth noting was that being able to switch positions and paddling styles improved the effectiveness of my response to variations in the wind’s direction and force, as well as to the waves that reached 1 ft on several occasions.
I’m not in great shape, so I was thankful for being able to make these changes, since it minimized fatigue and prevented me from getting injured.
This time I remembered to cover the front part of the cockpit with the cockpit cover, so I stayed bone dry, although the waves were breaking on my kayak, and the wind was pushing spray all over it. Only the top of my head and my face got wet from drops of water that flew from my paddle – I should have worn a hat!

After I beached, I attached a strap to the two front handles of my kayak, and dragged it through some grass, so by the time I got to the car, I didn’t even have to wipe the sand from the bottom of the hulls – You live and you learn! 🙂
I just tossed the kayak in, lowered the rear hatch, and used the strap to attach the door handle to a hook at the bottom. It took me less than a minute.
Needless to say that it was easier than attaching the kayak to the car rack.

Here’s more info on one aspect of kayaking in strong wind > – tracking and steering.

First offshore kayaking trips in my new W500, by Darcy Paulin

fishing kayak beached in Vancouver, BC, Canada

The Kayak Arrived safe and sound about 3 weeks ago, and I am enjoying it a lot.
I have taken the kayak out 3 times now.
The first time it was very windy and English Bay was pretty rough. I was far too eager to try it out so I put on my life jacket and went for it. The Kayak handled really well and was easy to adapt to. The Waves just off shore move perpendicular to the beach and so I tried catching them on my way to false creek. I never quite managed it but I had a lot of fun.
I was out for 3.5-4 hours and when I stepped out of the kayak at trips end I nearly fell over. I thought my legs must just be numb from cold. But for the next 2 days I could barely walk because the muscles in my legs were so sore. My arms an shoulders didn’t really hurt at all. I did not expect my leg muscles to be so affected and they still were 5 days later. 🙂

The second trip was a little less rough but still quite wavy. I Traveled across English Bay this time from Kitsilano to West Vancouver when I looked back I was surprised how far away Kits was. I beached for a bit, bought some pizza, took pictures of a Seal and then headed back. The next day I wasn’t sore at all which is bizarre. I assume it was the extra wave action that was responsible the first time.

Thanks again for the excellent Kayak. 🙂

Darcy

Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada

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