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Q & A
Fish and Foto (photo). This boat was designed to allow a single fisherman to cruise upsteam and drift downstream. Or a photographer to observe and shoot wildlife from the water. Or a nature lover to cruise a lake and investigate shallow, narrow coves and streams they have never been able to get to because they never had time. Or... One can easily cover 40 miles or more, even upstream, in an afternoon. And on a gallon or less of fuel.
Yes, though made to be cruised with a motor over long distances, the Lean 'N' Steer 10 FF paddles as a small recreational kayak. Most people would average 2 - 3 mph in normal paddling. Paddling is recommended (or required) in very shallow water. With the motor tilted up, draft is only 3 - 3.5 inches. This allows you to go anywhere a standard recreational kayak can go. The motor allows you to efficiently cover larger distances quickly.
You steer it by leaning the boat (Lean and Steer), using the paddle, or both. It is very easy to learn. In about 15 minutes, even someone not familar with any type of boat can be quite proficient at it.
Small Gas or electric outboard motors, including electric trolling motors can be fitted easily and quickly to the 10 FF. Most gasoline powered outboard motors up to 6 hp can be fitted (safe, but NOT USCG approved in the outboard motor safe power standards).
The outboard motor mounting bracket (on the motor) can be no wider than 6.8 inches.
The Lean 'N' Steer 10 FF accepts motors with a standard outboard motor clamp-on bracket. The maximum width of the clamp-on bracket is 6.8 inches. This is to prevent current motors larger than 6 hp to be mounted on the boat. The boat is designed to prevent larger motors from being installed. Please note that Coast Guard approval is only for motors up to 3 hp. For ergonomic reasons, I recommend the 2 - 2.5 hp class motors since they are lighter and easier to use.
No, you can launch it on a any shoreline you can launch a kayak.
Efficiency, weight savings, ease of maintenance and adaptability.
Outboards are more efficient than jet pumps. For example, the Mokai jet pump powered kayak ( a boat I really like) can hit 14 mph, according to the manufacturer, using a 6 hp jet pump. Our hull, using a 4 hp outboard, can easily and routinely hit the same speed. This makes the combination of our hull design and the use of an outboard motor 50% more efficient.
Using an outboard motor, in combination with our unique hull design also result in very little wake.
Maintenance: Parts for outboard motors are relatively easily available. And what if your engine or drivetrain is no longer repairable, or you just can't stand it and want a new one. That's easy. With a proprietary inboard design, that is not so easy, maybe not even possible.
Adaptable: Pick a motor, gas or electric, more powerful, or less powerful, old or new. And small outboards of all types will be going through some big changes in coming years. If you want the latest and most efficient models, all you have to do is get it and clamp it on. Simple.
Short answer, NO. At least not nearly as much as the sight of a paddle swinging back and forth on a kayak or canoe.
The Long Answer. In addition to designing products, I have worked as a wildlife photographer for several years, and have usually noticed that I had to stop paddling long before I reached within range of my subject, particularly birds. This would usually entail paddling up a good head of steam when I was still at least 200 feet away, then letting the kayak drift. I usually found that just the sight of paddle movement was enough to drive away many subjects, yet if I didn't move the paddle, I could usually get close to all but the most nervous of critters.
So when I tried the outboard motor, I thought that certainly the noise would totally drive most birds away. Quickly, I noticed that most animals really didn't react to the sound of the motor. I found I could get closer, and quicker than I had before. I also found that it definitely wasn't the boat, the motor, or me that would scare them off. But if I raised the paddle off the deck, bang, zoom, they are off, or diving under the water.
Since the Lean N Steer can be steered without the paddle, with your hands free, if you are skilled at approaching wildlife, the motor should not present a problem. Well, unless you are in an area where the sound of a motor means death or dismemberment to some creature.
( I should probably note that I am very experienced at presenting myself to most non-lethal species in a manner that I have been able to have wild birds stand in my hand, a ground squirrel climb into my lap and fall asleep, wild deer very closely surround me and even have a Laughing gull fly into my car and try to come home with me, among other things. So this will probably not work for everyone. Oh, and case you are thinking its food that gets them close. Nope, the best way is defending them from something else. There is nothing like a big friendly predator that keeps other predators away.)
A big advantage of the Lean 'N' Steer boats is that you can use a wide variety of small outboards. If you already have a small one, it will probably fit.
At this time, the motors with the best advantages were the 2 -2.5 hp 4 stroke outboards made by Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Tohatsu (Note:Tohatsu, Mercury, Nissan are the same manufacturer.) These motors weight 29-41 pounds. The recommended ICE motors are the:
2 hp Honda, only WITH clutch - 29.5 lbs.
2.5 hp Suzuki - 30 lbs
2.5 hp Yamaha (My personal favorite) 37 lbs
2.5 hp Mercury/Nissan/Tohatsu - 41 lbs
Each of these motors has advantages and disadvantages which will be the subject of a motor specifications page. All of the above mentioned motors will acheive over 10 mph top speed with a 7 inch pitch prop. Our Honda and Yamaha test engines have routinely been able to propel the the boats past 11 mph at full throttle. Our Suzuki is a bit slower, but that may be due to the prop. Since interal combustion engines (ICE) are not recommended for extended use above about 80% power, we use the conservative 10 mph top speed as these motors will generally acheive this speed within no more than 500 ft. The top speed we recorded in testing with an out and back run was 13.8 mph in each direction using the Honda 2 hp, but this is unusual.
Recommended cruising speeds, on plane, are 7-9 mph for the 2-2.5 hp 4 stroke motors. Average fuel economy can be expected to exceed 40 mpg. In over a thousand miles of testing, our lowest economy was 38 mpg, and that was with a lot of idling. Our highest economy was nearly 60 mpg, but I would not expect that. Most runs averaged 40 to 48 mpg. As the car manufacturers say, your mileage will vary.
Testing has been done with the larger 4-6 HP class motors, and the boat is structurally designed to support the weight and power of this class of motor. You might say the boats are overbuilt. I originally designed the hull and build the boats this way to insure the long term durability of the craft.
The motor mount, transom, and floor structure of the 10 FF is designed as a very rigid structure. Like the rest of the craft, it is designed to be very tough. Unlike most boats with 2 HP ratings, this is not a flimsy structure. I could have made the boats lighter, several pounds lighter, if I had designed it to the limited strength required to support a maximum 2 HP engine. But that would not have resulted in as durable of hull, so all these boats will be overbuilt.
As a regulatory matter, outboard motors larger than 3 hp do not meet Coast Guard approval due to the Safe Power Regulations on any boat of this size using an outboard motor. In addition, in order to use large flotation chambers as a part of the safety flotation, the boat has been rated for 2 HP motors on the USCG capacity plate.
The larger class of small outboards of 4-6 hp are heavier, weighing from 47 - 60 lbs. Other than the regulatory matters, this larger class of motors do have some disadvantages that cause me to not really recommend them.
First, the weight. You will notice the weight diference when transporting the engine from car to the boat at a shoreline. (The boat won't care, but carrying it will probably get 'old' for most people, given the comments I found reading reviews comparing various 2 - 6 HP four stroke outboards.)
Second, starting. The 2 - 2.5 hp engines can be easily started from within the cockpit in the water. Not so easy with the 4 - 6 hp units. Fo example, our 4 hp Yamaha has such a long pull that it cannot be started from within the boat. This is a real disadvantage. For this reason alone, I would only recommend the larger motors for point to point use. Unless, of course, somebody provides an electric starter for these engines. Once again, these motors are not Coast Guard approved and I see no real advantage. Using the larger class of motors is strictly at your own risk.
Third, they can be more difficult to tilt out of the water while in the boat due to their heavier weight.
For these reasons I tend to recommend against their use. However, there are some advantages.
First, they do have a reverse gear. It is really a minor convenience. But it is nice pulling off a bank instead pushing off with a paddle. On this boat, there really is little other reason for it. (The Yamaha 4 hp is the lightest outboard, at 47 pounds, with a reverse gear. It is also the lightest 4 hp.)
Second, cruising speeds and top speeds are higher. Our Yamaha 4 hp quickly hits a top speed of 14 mph ( once hit 18 mph) and cruises at 12 mph with 36 to 40 mpg average fuel economy. Using lower cruise speeds of 9-10 mph yields average fuel economy of around 40 mpg. This slightly betters the smaller class of motors.
6 hp motors, if you could get a steep enough pitched prop, could probaby hit 22 mph, or faster. Trust me, that is very fast when you are only a foot off the water.
Third, the larger motors can be fitted with an external fuel tank. In the Lean N Steer, there is storage space behind the seat intended for battery packs. A small 3 gallon tank would provide a range up to about 120 miles, possibly much more if the cruising speeds are lower. This would be useful in long point to point runs in quiet streams or canals, particularly locations where damaging wakes are prohibited.
The disadvantage to the external fuel tank is it will interfere with your spray skirt. It also makes the whole motor package even less portable.
The light 2 -2.5 hp 30-37 pound motors will keep looking better all the time you are transporting a 60 pound motor and fuel tank. And two small 1 quart MSR fuel bottles and a full quart of fuel in the integral outboard motor tank should take you a minimum of 30 miles, more than enough for a full days cruising.
Honda doesn't offer a 7 inch pitch prop. Where do I get one?
From us. We will have tough, 7 inch pitch, glass reinforced plastic props available soon for Honda 2 hp 4 stroke outboards. We may offer a prop for the Suzuki 2.5 hp also. Expect them to be about $60.00 each. They are made in limited quantities. I know that is a more than the Honda, but it will be much less than Suzuki charges for their prop.
Note that the stock prop may be used without harm, but your top speed will be lower, and fuel economy will be slightly lower.
VERY IMPORTANT UPDATE (July 2013):
The 7 inch pitch props only really work well with our boat. As it turns out (so far), square stern canoes, kayaks, and other small boats are simply not efficient enough as planing pads to make good use of this prop. Quite simply, if your small boat won't do at least 10 mph into a mild current with a 2 hp Honda 4 stroke, this prop will not work for your hull. It will bog down your motor,generally forcing the RPM's below the recommended range by the manufacturer. I have had many requests for these props and have been meaning to add this update for over a year. Sorry for any disappointment or inconvenience.
For the above reasons, No. And for most people a 8-9 mph cruise would be more than enough. If you are thinking of land speeds, this may not sound like much. But on the water, this is moving along quite well. It does feel fast. This is over twice as fast as even a very efficient kayaker in a long sea touring kayak working very hard. It is also faster than many other small boats, faster than any others you can pick up by yourself. And nothing currently available is faster on only 2 hp.
Stability and efficiency. The fairly wide recreational kayak form, like Folbots, Kleppers, and the original working Eskimo boats are all based o very stable kayak designs. These are not 'tippy' boats.The low center of gravity, along with the hull shape gives them very good initial and secondary stability. Note: these are not boats for standing up in, but then neither are a lot of other small boats that I see toted as stable enough to stand up in.
The kayak style hull is efficient in the water, but then, it should be noted that this is not a pure kayak hull because pure kayak hull designs do not make very good planing hulls. This is designed as a planing hull. And it starts to plane at only 6.2 mph.
Another advantage to the kayak form is the availability of dry, protected storage. The 10 FF also has a large front deck with a tray built in for strapping a drybag, duffel, or tacklebox into for ready access.
Good question, and what I used to think myself. That is, until I had to slough against a 4 mph current, and a 20-25 knot headwind one day coming back in from a remote location on the coast in June 2008. I thought I would not make it back. I decided there was a point to such a craft.
I designed the craft for people who need a lightweight, shallow draft boat that can cover long distances moderately quickly, and can be launched and handled by one person, without a trailer or boat ramp. If you need to cover 10-20 miles (or more) through shallow and deep water and don't want to (or can't) spend all day doing it, this would be a useful boat.
For instance, at Grapevine Lake where I live, I can travel from my cove at the lake 8 miles to the north end of the lake into a wetlands called Marshall creek. It takes under an hour to get there in this kayak. If I paddled any of my four other kayaks, it would take about three hours of constant paddling to get there. I also wouldn't see much because I would not be relaxed. I can also easily go into the various coves and up the creeks along the way. Once in the shallow stream beds, I can paddle and maneuver as a non-powered kayak. Since most of Marshall Creek, most areas of the coves and all of the streams are not navigable in a deeper draft boat, a powered kayak is useful. Those small plastic fishing boats are not safe traveling up a open body of water, nor are they light, or capable of over about 5 mph. They would also paddle at about 1 mph. A Jon boat would even be more restricted.
Because of all this, I have been able to investigate almost all the shoreline, back coves and streams around Grapevine Lake in the past year, just while doing field testing of the boats and motors. (Unfortunately, I was not able to take a camera along because I had to monitor the test.) In the 20 years I have been around Grapevine Lake in various kayaks, I have never been able to check out much of the lake due to the distances involved. I took an all day trip once and was only able to cruise down to a steam about 2 1/2 miles away. I've taken that trip several times in the powered kayaks, completing the whole trip in under an hour, including detours.
I have seen more wildlife and more birds, including some that I had not seen, or rarely seen, in the wetlands near our cove.
And that trip to Marshall Creek takes over a hour traveling by car, most of the trip by highway, then you have to pay a $3.00 park fee to enter the park. The powered kayak uses far less fuel and actually can get there quicker due to charting a straighter course.
This boat would also be perfect for kayak fishing. The fisherman could motor upstream and coast downstream, as many times as they want.
As to the "nature philosophy", this "what, AN engine... On a kayak!", was one that certainly kept me from either trying it, or designing a kayak to use an engine for over 30 years.
The gas engined kayak is not as nature unfriendly as it would seem. First, the modern four stroke motors are reasonably efficient and clean. Then, despite the engine noise, the various water birds are far less bothered by the engine than they are some craft with wildly flawing arms or wings (the kayak paddle) coming near them. I have been able to get much closer to easily disturbed species in this boat using the motor than any kayak using a paddle. In fact, I always used to have to build up some speed, put the paddle down, and coast up near critters in regular kayaks because the swinging paddle is so unnerving to many creatures.
In addition, the wake and water disturbance is actually less from my outboard engined kayak at 6 mph than a recreational kayak at 3 mph. There isn't even much wake at 10 mph.
Personally, I would prefer some type of efficient electric power, but there are many technical problems to doing that. No one else has solved the problems of producing a really useful system for a small, light craft, or one that can propel a boat at over about 5 mph. However, I am working on that and expect to have a system that will propel my powered kayaks to 7-8 mph within a few months. Of course, that means that the system may not be available for purchase for a year. I suspect a good system will probably cost $1000 -1200, a bit more than a gas engine, but far less than the electric outboards that are currently available.
There are two possible competitors to my craft, but neither of them can be picked up by one person, neither are as efficient, and both put out considerably more wake than my design.
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