Opinions sought on Walker Bay tenders vs. RIBs and Portabotes. - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 05-21-2007
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Opinions sought on Walker Bay tenders vs. RIBs and Portabotes.

Some of you have seen the steel pilothouse cutter I'm planning to use by 2009 for long-term cruising. I own a mid-90s Zodiac C310 Yachtline rigid inflatable with 16" PVC tubes. These tubes are filthy, gummy and surprisingly not currently leaking. The RIB part now has a new glassed in center strake. The possibility exists to completely replace the tubes with Hypalon pontoons and to size them upwards to 17 inches for better buoyancy and protection from the sea. The weight is about 50 kilos empty (112 lbs.)

I also own a mid-80s Honda BF100 four-stroke (9.9 HP) and a late-90s Mercury 9.9 HP two-stroke. The Honda needs a carb rebuild but was laid up for 12 years and looks much newer. The four-stroke weighs about 44 kilos (100 lbs.) and the two-stroke about 30 kilos (70 lbs.)

Given my desire to use a windvane and the fact that I have a transom hung rudder, I have decided against the use of davits. I had a pair until one snapped, and not only do I not wish to repeat that experience, I do not believe they are appropriate for bluewater cruising.

So, the tender will be lashed forward on deck. I plan on anchoring out a fair bit. I am considering the following options as a tender:

1) Retube the Zodiac for approximately $2,600 in Hypalon. Expensive, but the PVC will die in a week in the tropics. Yes, I've covered it.

Pluses: I know how to drive it and it carries 500 kilos of gear and would make a decent dive boat and is beachable. While no replacement for a proper liferaft, it's hard to sink. It rows adequately, and can be towed easily.

Minuses: It is 3.10 meters (10' 2") long, which is a lot of foredeck. It isn't easy to bridle on and off the boat, and I am not convinced that I really want to take a 9.9 HP of any description on and off it. Sure, I can use it as a 'fun boat' on quiet nights (it will do nearly 20 knots on the plane with full throttle), but I don't see that kind of activity being a big part of living aboard as we cruise.

2) Porta-bote: Porta-Bote Dinghy

Pluses: Very stowable, especially as I have overbuilt railings and a pilothouse roof to which I could lash this. Definitely the winner in terms of keeping clear of a working boat. Requires only the smallest of outboards (4 HP or less), is light (28 kg for the 10 foot model), can carry 300 kgs or so, can be sailed and rowed. Can be towed. Durable, and won't degrade in strong UV light. At $1,500-$1,800, comparatively cheap.

Minuses: Must be assembled, and I understand this takes a minimum of 15 minutes. I have questions about build quality, and hear that the plastic seats are too flimsy and must be replaced with wood. I don't hear enough of how they work in a seaway of any size (I've had an inflatable in four foot waves, and while I got good and wet, I got through and didn't feel in any danger.) I don't know if I'd want to take a loaded Porta-bote through a choppy harbour.

3) Walker Bay Rigid Inflatable Dinghy Model 275R or H:
Walker Bay® | products | Dinghy, inflatable boats, small boats, small sail boats, row boats, small fishing boats

Pluses: A hard dinghy and a good rower with an inflatable collar that greatly increases stability and allows it to be used as a dive/swim boat. Compact: two feet less than the Zodiac and Portabote, and at 40 kilos, easier to bridle into the water. Can be sailed with an optional kit. Takes the same 2 to 4 HP outboard as the Portabote. The whole sailing kit included model costs $300 less brand-new than just retubing the old Zodiac in Hypalon. An additional benefit is that it is like a harder-to-flip Opti that I would let an eight-year-old use as his "fun boat" in 10 knots or so. Not the case with a Zodiac or a Portabote with an outboard. Easy to tow, and easy to keep clean.

Minuses: Smaller, three people maximum, but the "deck footprint" is more modest. Cargo capacity is lowest: this is strictly a people-mover for two adults and a kid, or a grocery-getter for one adult.

So I am soliciting comments and observations. I don't mind rowing, but my kid would love something that could turn into a sailboat, I'm sure. I suspect I will downscale the outboard size, however: I just don't want to haul the thing on and off everytime I use the tender, but I can no longer be convinced that davits are sensible (and they cost too much).

Thanks.
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Old 05-21-2007
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I have a 12' 6" portabote... and it handles choppy water pretty well, especially with an outboard, rather than rowing it. They're actually pretty stable, since the hull tends to absorb and deflect waves a bit more than a rigid dinghy of the same size. Pretty easy to get into from the water too. Rows pretty well too in a pinch.

Definitely need to replace the plastic seats and transom with marine ply, preferably fiberglassed over... Two people can assemble it in about 10 minutes, once the boat has "relaxed" and they've gotten some practice doing so.

They also have a sailing rig for the Porta-bote.
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Old 05-21-2007
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I had an Avon 3.1 RIB with a Mercury 9.9 2 stroke, both model year 2000, and it DID perform well in most ways, but it was a BEAR to stow on the deck (especially in stiff wind) and it was virtually impossible to row into any kind of wind and current. There were CONSTANT maintanence chores and frequent repairs. I had to find and fix two tiny little leaks in the hypalon and disassemble the carb several times for cleaning. And putting that outboard on and off in any kind of rough weather was a nightmare. Plus, I either had to remove the engine at night, worry about the entire boat and motor being stolen (a reality even here in sunny Cortez) or chain and lock everything to Falcon at night. I was SO glad to sell it.

The Walker is not a good choice, in my humble opinion, because it is made of plastic. Not the nice plastic we call fiberglass, but more like that OTHER plastic we call PVC and use to make plumbing with. It SEEMS like a good idea, but let me tell you a true story.

"When I first launched Falcon in November in Lynn Harbor, a little ways north of Boston, I didn't have a dingy, so a friend gave me a plastic dingy. It worked fine and rowed easily back and forth the half mile out to Falcon. One brutally cold night a month later, at 11 PM with the wind howling straight at me from about where Falcon was moored, I rowed steadily outward over a small (about two foot) chop that was beginning to foam the bay. Halfway out, I felt water splash onto me heels. The full moon revealed a crack, starting at my left hand oarlock and reaching almost to the keel. Each time I crested a wave, more water came in. Cold, cold water. I redoubled my efforts and rowed like a maddog for Falcon and the crack reached the keel. When I grabbed Falcon and pulled myself aboard, my ass and my feet, halfway to the knees were soaked and the dingy filled with water and floated like the sodden wreck it was, nearly awash to the rail. I tied it off and reminded myself never to trust a plastic dingy again."

For now, I am rebuilding a sweet little fiberglass punt-nose sailing dingy that rows well, is east to stow, sails as well as might be expected, and has excellent flotation. I am also looking at a small Nissan air-cooled two HP outboard that I think weighs about 8 kg or 18 pounds. Surely not as flashy as a $5500 RIB setup, but very gentle on the mind and the wallet.

Hawk
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BTW, got a 3.5 HP Tohatsu four-stroke for the Porta-bote and the inflatable dinghies... very nice little engine...
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Old 05-21-2007
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So far, I've found a dinghy that will cover some ground in a short amount of time is a plus. I have a Walker Bay 8 (without tubes) and a 2hp motor. My choice was based solely on weight and storage space on deck. I can't say I'm displeased with it, just wish at times I had more.

Oh, price was a consideration as well.

Currently at 25 46 43 N 80 11 08 W
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Old 05-21-2007
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Thanks for the responses and keep 'em coming. If I can get enough evidence in favour of the Portabote, it's the clear winner in terms of stowage, a tie for sailing ability (I think it uses lee boards like old Dutch boats), and even costs the least. The assembly aspect is a drag, but I can glass over a board easily enough.

I was surprised to hear of the Walker's fragility.

Of course, I could always get a Fatty Knees or other Pardey-approved traditional tender, but I wanted something a little less massive and a little more stable. I can see being in perhaps less favoured anchorages due to the size of my ground tackle and the seakindly motion of the boat, an advantage over the lightweight cruisers that must get well inshore. So I can see some longish hauls.

Keep it coming, guys. Telling me what has failed miserably is just as instructional as a positive testimonial (unless it's a Solar Stik, and then I don't want to know...)
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Just FYI, the only reason I got an inflatable, is that I can't normally store my porta-bote on my boat, since the amas are folded so it can fit in a slip. So I got the inflatable to use while I'm just weekending and daysailing. When I go cruising long-term in it, I will leave the amas unfolded.. and the porta-bote will store on the ama deck, which keeps it out of the way and fairly safe from most mishaps.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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Old 05-21-2007
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I'm not so sure he was referring to the Walker Bay in regards to fragility. Mine seems quite sturdy, and the material doesn't seem prone to becoming brittle in cold weather based on my experiences this past winter in below freezing weather.

Currently at 25 46 43 N 80 11 08 W
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Old 05-21-2007
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I would not rule out the Walker just yet. Hawkeye borrowed a "plastic" boat, not a Walker, and there are all sorts of plastics. He was also in freezing temps which, I suspect, caused the failure. No freeze where I am going.

PBreez made the compromise I prefer...easier to stow, lighter engine (I'm 4 h.p.) I would rather get wet on occasion and make extra trips once in a while rather than struggle with size, weight of bigger, heavier options.

Most common compromise is a 9' inflatable with 2 stroke 9.9 h.p. 2 stroke Yammies can be serviced anywhere. Not so for Honda and many others.
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Old 05-21-2007
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There are lots of choices and it depends on your requirements as to what the solution is. We decided that for cruising in our Watkins 25 we would go with a 9' 3" Avon R260 Hypalon rollup inflatable, 100lbs, 17" tubes. Stowage underway was a big consideration. Merc 5hp 2 cycle weighs 47lbs and pushes the Avon to plane empty, has plenty of power loaded to get back to the boat with stores and 2 people. No inflatable rows as well as a hard dinghy but I don't intend to row in rough weather. Setting out a kedge in rough weather....if it happens I'll worry about that then, of course the motor probably won't start and I'll lose an oar anyway .

As far as using an inflatable as a life saving platform read about Dr. Alain Bombard's intentional 1953 Atlantic crossing in a 15' inflatable with small sail and NO provisions. He was the founder of Zodiac. Also a must read is Navy pilot George Sigler's book 'Experiment in Survival' (c. 2001 Vero Technical Support, Vero Beach FL) about his 1974 trip from San Fransisco to Hawaii with another pilot Charlie Gore in a 15' inflatable with sail. I worked at West Marine part time for 5 years and literally 'snapped together' a few Walker Bay Boats for sale. I chose not to own one for my purposes although for use on a lake or overnight gunkholing they are a reasonably low cost solution.

Our son returned from a 6 month cruise to the Bahamas and back last year in his Watkins 27. He has decided to do a circumnavigation but in a 35' boat this time. He has chosen to make his primary dinghy an old 10' fiberglass sailing dinghy, 150 lbs, that will take a 10hp o/b. If he can afford it he will also get a used inflatable, probably a Carib.

Last edited by CosmosMariner; 05-21-2007 at 11:21 PM.
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