Thursday, June 20, 2013

Going Electric, Part II (The New Dinghy)

I explained in my previous post that, for a variety of reasons, we decided to sell our gas-powered outboard motors and instead use a new, electric trolling motor.  Although our new trolling motor is the most powerful 12-volt model we could find (55 pounds of thrust), it does not have nearly the power of our old 15-horsepower gas outboard and will not be able to adequately power our inflatable dinghy, which rather gracelessly plows through the water.

And so we purchased a new (actually used, via craigslist) Porta-Bote, which is a dinghy that folds flat for storage but, when assembled, is rigid enough to efficiently move through the water with a small outboard (or even oars). Sea Gem's former owners used to have a Porta-Bote for rowing (attempting to row an inflatable dinghy is more stationary exercise than a means of propulsion), but unfortunately lost it in the Red Sea during a storm.  Sea Gem still has the mounting brackets, however, which enables us to securely (but apparently not securely enough for a Red Sea storm) store the Porta-Bote flat against the lifelines, out of the way.  We settled on the 12-foot model (Porta-Botes come in 8-, 10-, 12-, and 14-foot models), which seemed to be the best compromise of capacity and size.

When assembling the Porta-Bote, I briefly regretted the decision to buy it.  It was really no easier to assemble than the inflatable boat.  Although it doesn't need to be inflated with air, it needs to be held open (I accomplished this by awkwardly standing in it), and each of the three seats need to be inserted and secured into place with locking pins.  Then, the transom needs to be inserted and bolted into place with 4 bolts and wingnuts.  There are several small parts that need to be retained for this purpose, and it is overall a cumbersome process.  Although certainly no worse than the inflatable boat it replaces, the assembly process was nonetheless a disappointment.

More significantly, the Porta-Bote made a mess of the deck.  The seams of the boat are protected by black plastic rub rails that leave black scuff marks all over the deck.

Not Non-Marking
The scuff marks can be scrubbed off, but scrubbing the deck is not a task I look forward to.  In addition, the Porta-Bote has black foam flotation on the seats and the inside of the hull that sheds little black flecks when touched.



Just when I was ready to fold the Porta-Bote back up and list it on Craigslist, Krissy thought to remove the foam from the seats, which both solves the problem of black specks getting on our clothing and and also makes the seats, which are now a fraction of the thickness, much easier to store.  A filet knife made quick work of the foam.  Although the boat will no longer float as high in the unlikely event that it becomes swamped (fills with water), we will carry a bailer (a bucket to remove any water that gets inside), and that downside is more than outweighed by the more compact stowage, the additional safety of sitting lower in the boat, and the lack of black specks getting everywhere.

Our New, Used, Cushion-less, 12-Foot Porta-Bote
And so, scuff marks and all, we decided to give the Porta-Bote a try.  And we loved it. 


With the new, lightweight trolling motor, I was able to get the boat in the water and set up myself (whereas the heavy gas outboards required at least two people and a hoist).  The motor pushes the Porta-Bote at a reasonable speed without noise, smoke, pull-cords, or fanfare.  You twist the throttle and it goes.  It is that simple.  We ran the motor for about 90 minutes, going much further than any ordinary shore trip, and had battery power to spare.  We also found the Porta-Bote to be much more comfortable and dry than our inflatable dinghy, and it is also surprisingly stable.  I can stand on one side of the floor without compromising stability, which I wouldn't dare do in an ordinary rigid dinghy.  Overall, it is hard to imagine the Porta-Bote fulfilling its core mission--being a boat--any better. 

Beached Boat
And so, although the dinghy isn't perfect, it certainly beats our old one.

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