you're used to rigid-hull dinghies and skiffs, you won't expect
much from the Porta-Bote. We didn't, but we couldn't resist
trying a twelve-foot hull that weighs less than seventy pounds
and folds flat for transporting. As you might have guessed,
trying is believing.
Porta-Bote is made from four sheets of polypropylene, joined
by a patented-and mysterious-hinge at the keel and chines. Each
hinge is capped with three-quarter-round polypropylene tubing.
The polypropylene is treated to prevent damage from ultraviolet
rays. Three seats each equipped with fold-down center supports,
fit into clips beneath the gunwales and give the boat shape.
Locking pins make sure they stay put.
Among dinghies, and inflatables, Porta-Bote wins the
overall boat championship.
Porta-Bote folds flat, gunwales into the keel then in half at
the keel. If the distance to the water is great and you don't
want to carry the boat, an ingenious device with a pair of wheels,
allow you to roll the boat to the water. The dolly is called
folded Porta-Bote is four inches thick, about 24 inches wide,
and it will fit into a station wagon, a pickup truck or atop
your car. A pair of nylon straps that hooks under the doors
let you carry Porta-Bote like a surfboard.
To unfold the boat, place the hull flat on the ground, keel
away from you. Step on the chine hinge of the lower half, then
unfold the upper half. Insert seats and transom.
Porta-Bote is an anomaly, and in order to appreciate it, you
might have to forget everything you've learned-about rigid boats,
that is. Soon, you'll realize that Porta-Bote is almost
as stable as a barge. I weigh 160 pounds and had to
work very hard at getting the side gunwale down to the water.
way in a chop of a couple of feet and in winds to twenty mph.,
Porta-Bote jabs, feints, and takes the square waves like a bantam-weight
Porta-Bote’s ultra wide 5' beam, Deep V entry hull and
chines dig in and give her much more directional stability than
flat-bottomed twelve-foot inflatables. She's also a great deal
more comfortable at speed in a chop than a rigid skiff or an
inflatable. She doesn't bounce like an inflatable, and
she doesn't pound like a rigid boat. The flexible polypropylene
hull absorbs the impact.
Porta-Bote’s size and weight allow her to be wonderfully
maneuverable under power.
She stops quickly,
turns sharply and backs accurately, as you'd expect, but her
performance under oars really surprised us. We rowed her in
a wind and chop. She showed good directional stability on all
points and carried way remarkably well.
The oarlock horns clamp to the looms of the aluminum-and-plastic
oars, and although the gunwales flex a little with each stroke,
we were able to transmit plenty of power.She reliably pointed
about thirty degrees stern to the wind.
hull is extremely durable and naturally buoyant. Foam flotation
along the inside of the hull just under the gunwales makes the
boat virtually unsinkable. She is easy to transport, easy to
use, and easy to buy. She brings out the Huck Finn in reasonable
adults and gets our vote as a great boat for diddling the day
away on the water.