I read a piece on SailNet about dinghys some time ago and it prompted a thought: We want a dinghy that is non-inflatable, stows, strong, stable, and reliable under use. We opted for the foldable Porta-Bote eight-foot model, but it wasn't mentioned in your piece.
We needed a dinghy that we could load large dogs into and not worry about punctures to the material. Also wanted one that could be used with an optional sail for light recreation. What do you think of these boats?
Tom Wood responds:
I plead guilty to not mentioning the Porta-Bote. Your question about the Porta-Bote reminded us of a long-forgotten cruising story. They have been around for many years and seem to suit a few cruisers with specific requirements quite well. They are a form of hard plastic dinghy which folds to a flat sheet about eight feet (or 10 feet or 12 feet depending on the model) by two feet, four inches thick. They are popular in some areas of the country and are most often seen on the sides of RVs. I tend to forget them as we have only met a few cruisers that have owned them.
On a cruise from the Bahamas to Grenada some years ago we repeatedly ran across a single-hander taking advantage of the same weather windows that we were. He professed a great love of his Portabote. After it flipped him in Charlotte Amalie Harbor, he still liked it. Even after it did 360 degree barrel rolls in a St. Maarten gale, drowning his brand new outboard in the process, his passion was still undiminished.
Having never personally stepped aboard one, we can't comment on their relative merits. But we sure are impressed with their owner-loyalty record.