I bought an S4 a few months ago and wanted to share what I’ve done with it and how I’m using it.
Couldn’t be happier with the boat.
I bought an S4 a few months ago and wanted to share what I’ve done with it and how I’m using it.
Couldn’t be happier with the boat.
Updated April 10th, 2018
The purpose of this article to answer a frequently asked question (FAQ) from prospecting clients, which is “What outboard motor should I choose for my S4 skiff?”
The answer is that the outboard motor and propeller you should choose for your S4 depend mainly on two factors, which are –
There is a trade-off between power and weight, namely that the more powerful the motor, the heavier it is, and the harder it is to carry it.
Recommended reading: How to measure an outboard motor’s propeller shaft length? »
Another important trade-off that you should be aware of is related to propellers: High pitch propellers are designed to deliver more speed and less torque (thrust, push force), and they work best with lightweight boats such as the S4, while low pitch propellers are designed to move bigger and heavier boats at lower speeds, but they should not be used with lightweight boats such as the S4, since they might make the motor run at a too-high RPM.
Outboard motors manufacturers’ websites say that (quote) “UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU EVER USE A PROP WHICH WILL ALLOW YOUR OUTBOARD TO OPERATE ABOVE THE OUTBOARD’S RECOMMENDED MAXIMUM RPMs“. This means that you should avoid using propellers designed for use with very heavy boats, namely propellers in the low-pitch range.
Note that 20″ long (L) propeller shaft motors typically ship with propellers that are not necessarily optimal for very lightweight boats such as the S4. For example, the 6 HP 20” long (L) outboard from Tohatsu often comes with a medium range 8 pitch propeller, which is fine, but mounted on the S4, such a motor could drive the S4 12% faster if outfitted with a 9 pitch propeller.
Propeller pitch information is available on outboard manufacturers’ websites.
A hydrofoil is an add-on device attached to the outboard motor’s propeller shaft (a.k.a. “leg”). The hydrofoil generates lift at the boat’s stern – The higher the speed the more lift. Hydrofoils can help correct various problems that a powerboat may have, but the S4 has no problems that require correction. This said, hydrofoils help keep the bow down and the stern higher, and a boat that travels this way, namely in a more level position, planes better than if its bow was higher and stern lower. Therefore, outfitting your S4’s outboard motor with a hydrofoil device can result in higher speed on flat water when driving in a solo mode, that is without a passenger in the front. The downside of using a hydrofoil is that when driving with a lowered bow in the ocean, the boat might generate more spray as it bumps into big waves, especially if there’s a passenger in the front. Bottom line: If you like driving solo at high speed on flat water, consider adding a hydrofoil, and if you need to drive in big waves with the hydrofoil on, trim the motor less aggressively by using its trim angle adjustment rod, or knob, especially if you have a passenger on board whose presence also works to lower the bow.
For the S4, small size means a highly portable but under-powered outboard motor.
Outboard motors in this class weigh around 30 lbs, which makes them fully portable even for a user who’s not very strong. A 2 HP motor can propel an S4 skiff with one person on board at speeds up 8 mph, even in choppy water. This speed would decrease as the boat is required to carry more passengers on board. S4 owners who tested such motors with their S4 skiff reported that the boat felt under powered, which means that they felt like going faster, but the motor lacked the power required for this. For this reason 2 HP motors are not popular with S4 users. Another reason for their lack of popularity is the fact that being air cooled makes these small motors noisier than bigger, water cooled motors.
Propeller pitch –
The Honda 2.3 HP comes with a 4.75 pitch propeller
For the S4, a medium size outboard motor means powerful enough but still portable. Motors in this 3.5 HP to 6 HP range are the ones we recommend for most users.
Outboard motors in this range weigh around 40 lbs, which makes them still portable, but less so than 2 HP motors. A 3.5 HP motor can propel an S4 skiff with one person on board at speeds up to 11 mph, even in choppy water, and it can propel the boat at 8 mph with three passengers on board in moving water. This size motor is popular among S4 and W700 users, as it offers a good trade-off between power and weight for people who must lift the motor or carry it by hand over long distances.
These motors are also less expensive than bigger ones.
Propeller pitch –
For their 3.5 HP motor, Tohatsu recommends either the 7 pitch (Plastic) or 6 pitch (aluminum) propellers, for lightweight boats such as the S4 (under 500 lbs). We say get the 7 pitch propeller, unless you think that you need the more durable aluminum propeller.
Outboard motors in this range weigh around 60 lbs, which makes them portable only over short distances, and not for everyone.
A 6 HP motor can propel an S4 skiff with one person on board at 17 mph, and it can propel the boat at 12 mph with three passengers on board.
6 HP is the second most popular motor size among S4 users.
For their 6 HP outboard used with lightweight boats up to 500 lbs (such as the S4), Tohatsu recommends their 9 pitch propeller. The 8 pitch propeller would work too, especially if you intend to have the boat fully loaded, so that it would weigh over 500 lbs in total.
8 HP to 10 HP outboard motors are too heavy to be carried by hand, and they may be too powerful for inexperienced drivers to use safely. However, some of them come with electric start instead on manual start, which is a nice feature. They also come with an alternator that can serve to power small electric devices on board.
Outboard motors in this class weigh between 65 and 80 lbs. At such weight, these motors can no longer be considered as portable, and the main reason to use them is the fact that are offered with electric ignition, which eliminates the need to start them by pulling a cord. People who like driving at high speed may prefer these motors to less powerful ones. The S4 outfitted with an 8 HP motor performs well in choppy water, but it could feel over powered for an inexperienced driver, which should avoid using such motors with their S4. Heavy users may benefit from driving with a U-jointed tiller extension, in order to move some weight forward from the stern towards the middle of the boat.
Note that these bigger motors don’t come with an integrated fuel tank, but this isn’t necessarily a problem, since external fuel tanks can fit inside the S4’s hulls.
We tested the S4 with a 9.8 HP Tohatsu and a 9.9 HP Yamaha outboard, and it worked well. Practically, this class of heavier and more powerful motors offers no advantage over smaller motors unless you’re a speed fan, and you’re also capable of driving small boats safely at such speeds. To those who want to take the risk of overpowering their S4 with such big motors, we recommend reinforcing the mounting plate.
This video shows an S4 powered by a 9.8 HP Tohatsu motor filmed from the deck of an S4 powered by a 5 HP Tohatsu motor:
Currently, the S4 is the world’s fastest designated kayak. The 17 mph kayak speed record was achieved by Captain Larry Jarboe, of Key Largo, Florida, in his S4 outfitted with a 9.8 HP Tohatsu outboard motor.
After years of testing motors and getting input from our clients, we can recommend all Japanese brands, namely Honda, Suzuky, Tohatsu and Yamaha. Mercury is a Tohatsu brand, and the small, portable motors offered by Evinrude are made by Tohatsu. Motors from all these brands are good, and your decision about which motor to use with your S4 should be based on factors such as price, weight, features, availability, warranty, etc.
A kicker motor is a name given to any outboard gas motor used on a big boat for trolling, or as a spare motor, and for positioning and driving sailboats over short distances when sailing them is not possible. Being used on bigger boats, kickers often feature a 20″ long (L) shaft, which is the right size for the S4, but the propellers used with them are typically low-pitch models that are not optimal for lightweight boats such as the S4.
If you buy a kicker, check its propeller, and if it’s not a model with the highest pitch that the manufacturer recommends for lightweight boats, replace it with such a propeller.
Most motors feature a surface drive, and they offer a huge advantage to people who want to drive in very shallow water, mud, water with many underwater obstacles, and water with plenty of vegetation. Mud motors are bulkier and heavier than regular outboard motors of similar power.
A 3 HP long tail mud motor weighs about 40 lbs, and as such it’s portable. It works well both in flat water and streams, although not very fast ones. The S4 can definitely use much more powerful motors.
A 6.5 HP mud motor weighs around 80 lbs, and it’s not portable. The reasons you’d want to use such a motor instead of a regular outboard of similar power are if you need to go in very shallow water (skinny water) and mud, and if you fish or hunt in water with plenty of vegetation and underwater obstacles. The S4 performs very well with a such a mud motor. We do not recommend using less powerful mud motors because typically, these motors require more power than regular outboard motors do.
Typically, electric trolling motors are not powerful, and they are designed to propel heavier boats than the S4 (e.g. bass boat, skiff, Jon boat) at a very low speed, namely trolling speed. This type of application requires high thrust (small pitch) propellers, and it’s also the reason why trolling motors are rated in thrust units (lbs) and not in horsepower (HP or KW) – When you buy such a motor, your primary interest is how big (heavy) a boat it can move, and not at what speed.
Some electric trolling motors are described by their manufacturers as “outboard motors”, namely comparable in performance to small outboard gas engines. If you’re interested in such electric motors, we recommend comparing apples to apples namely power units to power units, and not power to thrust, which is meaningless. Remember the laws of physics, and apply the formulae for Kilowatts to Horsepower conversion, which are:
No amount of words can overcome this reality.
Electric motors are discussed in the Electric Trolling Motor or Outboard Gas Engine section of this article »
It has a 3.5 gallon tank that fits perfectly in the 9 inches wide gunnel, and a hand bilge pump.
The maiden voyage was extremely lot of fun. Took it out by myself.
The outboard had a 9 inch prop, and it went way too fast. I’m going to calm it down. I’ll put a smaller diameter propeller on it, so it doesn’t go as fast. I think it was going between 5 and 6 miles an hour at idle.
It was pretty choppy but the boat handled it really well. A little scary at first, then I fine tuned it and brought the trim down.
I just ordered a handle extension.
Larry’s main goal in conducting this series of experiments that lasted for several weeks was to find the “sweet spot” for 15″ (S) outboards, namely a setup that would enable him to successfully outfit W500 and W700 boats with such motors, which are typically cheaper and easier to come by than 20″ (L) motors.
His secondary goal in running these extensive tests was to check the performance of Wavewalk’s TMM 700 HD motor mount, and see if we could improve it.
Larry is a passionate fisherman, mechanic, and seaman. He works as a commercial fisherman and fishing guide, and he is Wavewalk’s distributor in Southern Florida.
For the past fifty years, Larry has been involved in using, building, refurbishing and testing motors in various land and water vehicles, including electric racing cars, regular cars and trucks, a wide range of small watercraft, and big diesel engines in stern-drive commercial fishing boats, such as he still operates in Key Largo.
In his tests Larry used five portable outboard gas motors that he had refurbished and tuned himself. Some of the motors had 15″ short shafts, and the others had 20″ long ones, and their horsepower rating ranged from 2 HP to 5 HP. He also tested a couple of electric trolling motors.
Larry conducted his experiments systematically – Being a handyman as well as a mechanic, he built a series of transom motors mounts that enabled him to mount outboard motors of both sizes in various places at the boats’ stern.
In his tests, he changed the height of the mounting plate, and/or its distance from the cockpit’s rear end.
There is no “sweet spot” for mounting a 15″ short (S) shaft motor on a Wavewalk, and any configuration involving the use of such size motor would inevitably result in sub-optimal performance compared to the use of a 20″ long (L) shaft outboard motor of the same power.
The main problems that Larry found with 15″ short (S) shaft outboard were the following:
Outboard manufacturers recommend mounting outboard motors with their anti ventilation plate (sometimes called “anti-cavitation” plate) immersed a couple of inches below the boat’s lowest point, which by definition is always immersed. This inevitably means that the anti ventilation plate is several inches below the surface. If the propeller rotates with its blades too close to the surface, it sucks air from the surface, and instead of rotating in water it rotates in a mixture of water and air bubbles. As a result, the propeller loses efficiency and power.
Splashing – In order to avoid ventilation, it is possible to mount 15″ short (S) shaft outboards at a lower level, with its propeller immersed more deeply. This can be done when a specially designed motor mount is placed several inches behind the cockpit’s rear end. However, at such position, the lower part of the motor mount’s vertical mounting plate is too low and too close to the surface of the water, and it will come in contact with the water. In such cases, the result is spray splashing over the motor’s head and into the cockpit’s rear end. No such problems occur with 20″ long (L) shaft outboard motors when mounted correctly on a standard Wavewalk motor mount.
Discomfort – When the 15″ short (S) outboard is mounted several inches behind the cockpit’s rear end, it is harder for the user to reach the motor and its controls (e.g. choke knob, starter grip), and it is harder for them to steer. This is not the case with 20″ long (L) motors that are mounted at the rear of the cockpit.
There is no “sweet spot” setup that allows for mounting a 15″ short (S) shaft outboard on a Wavewalk (500 or 700) without it incurring serious drop in performance. The way to motorize a Wavewalk is to follow the recommendations of outboard manufacturers about mounting their motors, as well as Wavewalk’s recommendations that fully coincide with them, namely to use only 20″ long (L) outboard motors with Wavewalk’s kayaks and boats.
When Larry checked 15″ short shaft, weak electric motors, he found that the ventilation problem at higher speed didn’t occur, because such motors lack the power to propel a kayak at speeds that are high enough to make it reach a semi-planing mode, or have the propeller suck in air from the surface. Knowing about such a sub-optimal performance envelope, the user already expects sub-optimal performance. This said, this rule is not ironclad, and ventilation may still occur in case the boat makes a sharp turn.even when it is propelled by such weak 15″ short electric motors, and while going at low speeds.
This is to say that Wavewalk recommends not to use short shaft motors even in the case of weak electric trolling motors.
This article is an attempt to answer some questions that Wavewalk skiff owners ask in the process of choosing an outboard motor for it –
We definitely recommend using outboards that feature a long (20″) propeller shaft, and for multiple reasons, which are discussed in this article entitled Outboard motor propeller shaft length for Wavewalk fishing kayaks and boats »
We recommend not to be tempted by the availability and lower price of 15″ short shaft outboard motors, because such motors don’t fit the W700, and using one would never produce optimal results, even for a highly skilled individual with a lot of experience in boat outfitting.
Here is a list of long (L) 20″ shaft outboard motors currently available in the 2 to 6 horsepower range, and their HP rating:
Recommended reading –
Water cooled motors are quieter but heavier than comparable air cooled motors.
The only motor featuring on the above list that’s not water cooled is the Honda 2.3 HP. It is very lightweight, and works very well, but being air cooled makes it considerably noisier.
Note: Outboard motor manufacturers recommend flushing the motor’s cooling system with fresh water after every trip in saltwater. It’s possible to flush an outboard with a garden hose outfitted with a special adapter.
Nearly all new small motors on the market are 4-Cycle (4-stroke) and not 2-Cycle (2-stroke).
The advantage of the 4-Cycle system is twofold –
Some experts argue that for the same displacement of its combustion chamber (cc, volume, size), a 2-Cycle engine in more powerful than 4-Cycle one, but we think that convenience and fresh air are more important.
Many Wavewalk owners outfit their W500 and W700 with electric motors in the 30 to 50 lbs thrust range, and some go as far as 70 lbs thrust. They use their electric kayaks and skiffs for assisted paddling, recreation, touring, trolling, fishing, snorkeling, etc., but we prefer not to include electric motors in our list of “real” outboard motors for two reasons, which are:
All small outboard motors listed above are considered to be Portable. However, between the 29 lbs of the 2.3 HP Honda and the 59 lbs of the 6 HP motors there is a considerable difference, if you need to carry the motor by hand over a distance.
Most of the small outboard motors listed here offer to lock their propeller shaft in an intermediary position between the vertical (down) and horizontal (up) positions. In this intermediary, slanted position, the propeller drafts less than in the vertical position, and this allows for driving the boat at a moderate speed in very shallow (‘skinny’) water. Therefore, if you’re looking to fish in skinny water, we recommend that you look for this feature.
Most outboard motors on our list feature a gear shift level, and this is a good thing, because the alternative is a centrifugal clutch that lacks an absolute neutral position. The absence of a full neutral gear can make starting the motor a little tricky, if you’re a beginner.
Our preference goes to the outboard motors that feature the gear shift lever at the front, rather than on their side. The frontal position makes it easier for the driver to access the lever whether the motors points left or right, and even if the driver is facing forward.
All the above listed outboard motors come with a built-in (integrated) fuel tank, and this is a convenient feature considering the alternative is to have a fuel line run from a separate tank to the engine. When you operate such a small craft as a Wavewalk, simplicity becomes increasingly important.
The propellers that come standard with these outboard motors fit Wavewalk’s kayaks and portable skiffs. Typically, these motors propel much heavier boats, which is why the propeller’s diameter and pitch which determine output in terms of speed and torque are of no real consequence to the owner of a Wavewalk under normal conditions.
All the brands listed above are known to produce quality motors, and in fact some of them produce motors for others. For example, Mercury is a Tohatsu brand. This is to say that we see no reason to pay more for a particular name brand, and we recommend to consider only the motor’s technical attributes, and its price.
6 HP is the absolute maximum for which the W700 is rated, and this is only for its RIB model. Overpowering your Wavewalk can be hazardous, and if you use the wrong motor mount you’d be calling for trouble. This said, if you happen to own a 20″ shaft 5 HP motor and your W700 is rated for a 4.5 HP motor, you can keep your motor, and you won’t necessarily have to get a new one. Similarly, if your W700 is rated for up to 4.5 HP and you found a nice 4 HP that you like, you’d be fine with it.
If you choose to make a DIY mount for an electric trolling motor, chances are that you’ll succeed, since these motors are so weak that they’re not likely to cause trouble. But this is not the case with the gas outboard motors in the range that features on the above list.
There are several issues to overcome with motor mounts, and the motor’s weight is the least of them. The main problem is that operating at the end of a 20″ lever, the motor’s propeller generates a great amount of torque, especially at high speed, in rough water and when making sharp turns at high speed. This torque can twist and crack a 4×2 timber, and pull out nails and screws from their place. After having seen motor mounts get broken by outboard motors ranging from 6 to 3.5 HP that were mounted on them, we strongly recommend not to build a DIY motor mount for these motors, and to use only the motor mounts that Wavewalk recommends.
Some of the more powerful outboard motors listed here can be outfitted with an alternator and an AC to DC converter. Note that such accessories cost hundreds of dollars.
The electric current produced by this system can be used to power lights on board, or to charge a trolling motor’s battery. Such setups are common in bigger boats (e.g. bass boats) that feature much more powerful motors. Although some Wavewalk owners have outfitted their W700 with two motors (a powerful one for driving and a small one for trolling), we don’t know of anyone who’s outfitted their outboard motor with an electric current generation system.
Skiffs, Jon boats and other small boats sometime come with other motors, among which are air drives or air motors (large diameter propellers) for running marshes and flats, jet drives (similar to personal watercraft, a.k.a. jet-ski), long shaft mud motors for going in shallow water and over obstacles, and outboard motors that run on propane.
While each of these motors offers certain special advantages, and we’d love to see the W700 outfitted with any of them, as well as with other propulsion systems ranging from sails to oars, and even pedal drives… we think the common small outboards such as we listed here offer the optimal mix of price, performance, reliability, versatility, ease of use, and ease of maintenance – Just think how common are boat dealerships and repair shops that service these motors… And if you know how to use your outboard motor and you take care of it, it’s truly a wonderful thing that you’d enjoy for years, and possibly even decades.