Newspape article just received via e-mail from our Nova Scotia/Canada Distrbutor
- Just received this article written by one of the top outdoor writers
in Canada who just purchased an 8' Porta-Bote dinghy. Thought you'd
get a kick out of some of his comments. Sandy Kaye
SUNDAY HERALD COLUMN -- May 28, 2003 [HH0321]
THE DINGHY DILEMMA
by Silver Donald Cameron
A woman can never be too rich or too thin, said the Duchess of
Windsor. And a man can never have too many small boats. I own an
armada of them -- a gorgeous Phil Bolger-designed Gloucester light
dory, an old flat-iron skiff, a plastic canoe, a sparkling white Force
4 inflatable dinghy made in New Zealand, and a 7-foot plywood dinghy
which I built to fit on Silversark's foredeck.
So why did I buy another?
Because Magnus, our newly-refitted motorsailer, needs an appropriate
dinghy. And none of the above will do.
For adventurous, independent cruising, a good dinghy is essential.
Your dinghy, says cruising guru Tom Neale, is "the family car, the
family pickup truck, the fuel tanker and water barge; it will probably
be your towboat or tugboat, your fishing boat and your reef-diving
boat; it will be your far-off and rough-terrain exploration
four-wheeler. And that's just the beginning."
But the dinghy is always a problem. You can hoist a wooden or
fiberglass dinghy aboard, which is not much fun, and then it will
cover your hatches, block your vision, attack your shins and snag your
lines. Towing one is literally a drag. In a breeze, the towed dinghy
will blow around, fill with water, or perch on the waves astern and
then charge downhill at the mother ship.
Alternatively, you can get nesting dinghies -- two or three boxes
which nest inside one another and can be bolted together to make a
boat. You'll love doing that in a lumpy, windy anchorage.
So most people use inflatables. Alas, even the best small inflatables
are poor boats. Rowing an inflatable is like levering a doughnut
through Jello, almost impossible in any wind. With an outboard, an
inflatable moves like a doughnut driven by an eggbeater. Inflatables
are desperately wet in a chop, and they are always vulnerable to
abrasion, chafe and puncture. You can't let them rub on things or drag
them up a rocky beach. The nails of a dog can do them in.
Furthermore, most sailors never flate their inflatables anyway. The
boats are inflated in the spring and (maybe) deflated in the fall. So
the inflatable proves to be just as much of a bulky nuisance as a hard
dinghy, and much less of a boat.
And that's why I bought a Portabote (www.portabote.com) -- a folding
boat made of polypropylene. (The Atlantic dealer is Paul Woodhouse of
Quispamsis, NB,).The Portabote's two sides fold down against the
bottom, and the two halves fold together, making a surfboard-sized
package four inches thick, two feet wide, and 8, 10 or 12 feet in
length. Our 8-footer'hull weighs just 47 pounds. Prices are very
competitive with inflatables.
A folding boat sounds gimmicky, but Portabotes have been around for 30
years, and more than 50,000 have been sold. The hulls are guaranteed
for 10 years, and the boats are almost indestructible. The Japanese
Coast Guard tests every import shipment by loading a Portabote with
600 pounds of concrete and dropping it 21 feet.
Portabotes get rave reviews from cold-eyed judges such as Practical
Sailor, Field and Stream and Canadian Yachting not to mention
several Nova Scotian owners. They're also popular with hunters,
fishermen and RV owners.
To open a Portabote, you unfold it, hold it open with a spreader
stick, insert the seats and the transom and remove the spreader. How
hard is it? Practical Sailor assembled the boat in 10 minutes. When
our boat arrived the other day, I opened the package, read the
directions, assembled the boat, went up to my workshop for a pair of
oars, dragged the boat down the rocky beach into the water, took it
for a row around the wharf and dragged it back on the shore all in
well under an hour.
The 8-foot version is over four feet wide, and very stable. I can
stand up in it anywhere. The flexible hull material yields easily
underfoot, which is disconcerting at first. It dimples when you stand
in it, and goes back to shape when you move away. With its drooping
nose, the boat looks odd but rows well, it's vitrually unsinkable,
and it carriers a huge load. There is even a sailing kit for it.
Practical Sailor describes the Portabote's performance under power as
"startling." It is, too. With a borrowed 2.2-hp outboard, our boat
lifted itself onto a plane and went screaming across the harbour. It
rode softly and quietly, and steered nimbly. Onlookers guessed it was
doing 10 or 12 knots. That's quite possible: Practical Sailor clocked
a 10-footer with a 4-hp motor at more than 15 knots.
Portabote owners love these innovative little boats, and no wonder. In
just two days, mine has become the envy of the harbour.