Steering your microskiff

Wavewalk S4 micsokiff with three people on board
How to steer your S4 microskiff

You may ask yourself, when is steering the S4 microskiff directly with the tiller preferable to steering it with a U-jointed (articulated) tiller extension, and the answer to this is that it depends –

  • If you want to drive standing up, you need a tiller extension, since your outboard’s tiller is not long enough to allow for this.
  • If you’re driving solo, you’d better use a tiller extension for steering, because you want to drive your S4 from the middle of the cockpit, as this helps trim the boat (level it) in a way that improves its speed.
  • If you have one passenger on board, you don’t necessarily need a tiller extension to steer, but using it is more fun because it allows you to drive standing up.
Joysticks and steering wheels

Steering a microskiff is often different from steering a full size skiff, and it typically involves direct steering with the outboard motor’s tiller, or by means of a tiller extension, preferably a U-jointed extension.
The S4 cat microskiff can be effectively steered both ways.
Other, more sophisticated and expensive steering systems include various types of joysticks, and steering wheels, with the latter being the most common in full size skiffs and big boats.

The reason steering wheels are not common in microskiffs (and Jon boats) is that typically, these systems require some sort of structure (i.e. console) to support them, and microskiffs as well as other small craft sometimes don’t have enough room on board for such a structure, or their owners prefer to use that space for other things.
Another reason is cost – a full blown steering wheel system costs many times more than the  sixty dollar you’d have to spend on the best tiller extension.

Steering vs portability

When the most lightweight microskiff, namely the cartop S4 microskiff, is concerned, weight is another important factor to consider, and even adding just a few dozens of pounds to the boat’s weight can have a serious effect on its portability, both in terms of transportation (e.g. the difference between car-topping and needing a trailer) and carrying, namely the ability to access more difficult launching spots instead of depending on boat ramps –
You want to keep as much portability as possible, because it defines your freedom to launch, go and beach anywhere (coincidentally, this has always been Wavewalk’s motto). This is to say that although the idea of adding a console with a steering wheel in the S4’s cockpit is attractive, we do not recommend it.

Our experience with joystick steering

Years ago, Wavewalk developed a joystick steering system for its W700. It was very easy to use, and allowed for intuitive and effective steering both seated and standing. It wasn’t too heavy either, and most importantly, it was fun to use.
However, we decided to get rid of that joystick product for three reasons:
The first reason is that it was rather expensive to manufacture, but we could not sell it for a high price, in view of the overall low price of the W700.
The second reason was that it took valuable space in the middle of the cockpit, but steering with a U-jointed tiller extension offers similar benefits, namely that it allows for driving both seated and standing, while taking far less space in the cockpit, and in an area of cockpit that’s less useful for seating passengers, and/or keeping fishing gear.
The third reason was that our joystick steering system did not incorporate a throttle function, and in this sense it was inferior to a tiller extension, which does offer this important functionality.

Interestingly, we’ve yet to see another commercial joystick steering system that offers to drive both standing and sitting.

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