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Bob Banfelder

Bob is an award-winning crime-thriller novelist and outdoors writer. "The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water" is endorsed by Lefty Kreh and Angelo Peluso~online at Amazon.

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September 01, 2016

PORTA-BOTES ~ Four Fantastic, Foldable, Affordable, Angling/Hunting Boat Models ~ Part I

by Bob Banfelder

Imagine four portable boat models that fold to a four-inch thickness, are the shape and width of a surfboard, come in easily transportable lengths of 8½ feet, 10 feet 8 inches, 12½ feet, 14 feet, and are comparatively lighter yet more durable than other boat manufacturing materials. The second generation Alpha Series Porta-Bote design boasts a one-piece integral transom. Forget about inflatables. This assemblage of foldable Porta-Botes is the epitome of portability.

Packaged and Shippped Securely

Somehow, someway, the Porta-Bote International line of portable, foldable boats had eluded me as it has a good many angling/hunting folks. In my research, I had asked myself why this is so. How could a mode of truly fantastic, foldable, portable, affordable watercraft have escaped me? Over 100,000 Porta-Bote owners throughout the world are more than satisfied with their readily transportable craft and its unique features. Why not a million-plus people? Many folks are not even privy to these remarkable boats. Perhaps the answer lies in that Porta-Bote's older Genesis Series models (dating back twenty of now forty years of operation) had a separate transom, which required more setup time, plus the fact that there were minimal leaks along the seam where it joined the hull when attached. Not the case with the Alpha Series one-piece foldable transom. This more modern innovation incorporates an intricate multi-step welding system that joins four foldable panels by way of a sealant sandwiched between them via an injection process, incorporating a series of stainless steel wire staples that secure the seams and form the transom—guarding against leaks. Ingenious! This technique is also utilized in the aerospace industry.

Still, we're talking two decades where I somehow missed the boat so to speak; that is, the foldable, affordable Porta-Bote evolution. In its hull construction, Porta-Bote employs the space-age material polypropylene-copolymer, which is nearly twice the thickness (i.e., ¼ inch) of the aluminum used in building both riveted and welded recreational crafts. Unlike aluminum, polypropylene-copolymer is virtually puncture proof. In my opinion, referencing portable boats, this aerospace material makes all other materials obsolete. We'll see precisely why as we move forward with one of the most exciting watercrafts that I've reviewed to date.

Had I known about Porta-Botes earlier in time, I would have purchased one of four models from which to choose in lieu of most any kayak on the market. Granted, different types of vessels serve different purposes. A kayak can, indeed, get you into some very skinny water. So, too, can Porta-Botes with their 4-inch draft—and with considerably more comfort, room, and, most importantly, superb stability. Had I known about Porta-Botes back then, I would have purchased one in lieu of any inflatable boat. A small to medium-sized inflatable will serve as a suitable tender (dingy) as well as a fair-to-middling fishing craft. However, in reality, an inflatable boat, regardless of the size you select, you'll find that the interior space (beam, length, and bow area) has considerably less room than first imagined because of the vessel's air chamber diameters. As a comparative example to my 10-foot 8-inch Porta Bote, an Achilles inflatable model LSI-330E also has an overall length of 10 feet 8 inches; yet the inflatable has an actual inside length of only 5 feet 8 inches. Its overall beam is 7 feet 5 inches, which interiorly narrows down to 2 feet 7 inches because of a pair of 18-inch air tubes taking up most of the space. Ostensibly, you may be thinking that you're getting a 10-foot, 8-inch length inflatable boat with a beam of about 7½ feet when in actuality you're getting far less interior space than what you first imagined. You'll note the difference the moment you sit inside. Narrowing things down factually and arithmetically, you are losing approximately a whopping 67% of otherwise usable interior space!

Keep in mind the fact that most inflatable boat owners generally leave their crafts inflated for seasonal use, deflating then inflating them biannually for winter storage and spring commissioning, respectively—negating the purpose of normal portability. Why? The answer is because it is a commonplace pain in the butt to manually pedal-pump up those air chambers: three air tubes on soft bottom inflatables (two side tubes serving as bulkheads (walls)–one keel tube serving for the floor (deck). As a tender aboard a larger vessel, an inflatable is just easier to leave inflated, contending with either cumbersome maneuvering or expensive davit systems.

Porta-Botes offer considerably more comfort, room, and outstanding stability than inflatables, with emphasis on the ‘stand-alone' root word, standing, for you can comfortably stand, dance the jig, and maneuver about without fear of tipping over when casting or fighting a denizen of the deep. A promotional video on one of their web sites shows this antic. Trick photography you may be thinking? For those of you who know me well via my article writing—through the years—know that I tell it like it is. If a product has certain flaws, many a magazine would edit out such negatives, or wouldn't run the article at all. Nor'east Saltwater allows me to present both sides of a controversial argument. I have owned and/or paddled sit-in and sit-on-top type kayaks as well as touring and fishing canoes. I have propelled many a rowboat on rivers, lakes, bays, and the ocean. Porta-Bote's foldable hulls are stability personified whether purchased in 8½ foot, 10-foot 8-inch, 12½ foot, or 14 foot lengths.

Let's start with Porta-Bote's smallest 8½-foot model, weighing in at 68 pounds (less the weight of two seats). The hull's beam is 4 feet 8 inches. It most definitely serves as a great tender as well as a doable craft for two anglers. The integrated foldable transom will accommodate up to a 35-pound gas engine. The craft is easily carried short distances by one person from vehicle to nearby access point. Too, setup is a breeze.

Since Donna and I were looking for more comfortable angling conditions, I opted for the 10-foot 8-inch model, weighing in at 78 pounds (less the weight of three seats). The extra 10 pounds over that of the 8½-foot model is certainly a consideration as far as portability is concerned if handled by one person. Although Donna and I are up there in age, we have no problem lifting and positioning the folded boat atop our Subaru Outback—and that's without the aid of any mechanical device. It lays folded flat to a 4-inch thickness, 2-foot width. The integrated foldable transom will accommodate up to a 56-pound gas engine. I have a 3.5hp Tohatsu 2-stroke outboard engine weighing 28.7 pounds. Also, I have a 5hp Yamaha 2-stroke outboard engine weighing 46.2 pounds. As both engines have integral gas tanks, you need to factor in the weight of the volume of gas for each engine. For my 10-foot 8-inch Porta-Bote model, each engine's internal gas tank filled to capacity falls under the maximum engine/gas allowable weight specification.

After unlocking then locking the integrated rail cross bars across the roof of our 2015 Subaru Outback, we have a sturdy platform for which to safely transport our 10-foot 8-inch Porta-Bote. Love this vehicle, love our Porta-Bote.

For example, my Yamaha 5hp 46.2 pound engine has an integral gas tank of 2.96 quarts. Gas weighs just over 6 pounds per gallon. Therefore a quart of gas is 1.5 pounds—multiplied by approximately 3 quarts is rounded off to 4.5 pounds. Hence, I have to add approximately 4.5 pounds to the weight of the engine, bringing the now total weight of engine and gas to 50.7 pounds, which is still 5.3 pounds under the allowable total weight to hang from the transom. Good to go. Keep in mind that the newer 4-stroke engines are heavier than the older 2-stroke engines, so do the necessary math before deciding which model Porta-Bote and gas engine is right for you, both in terms of the maximum outboard weight allowable and portability. I use the lighter 3.5hp engine when traveling some distances from body of water to body of water. I use the 5hp engine when leaving the boat set up locally, no differently than most folks leave their inflatable or rowboat set up with the engine secured to the transom.

One day when I upgrade from my older 2-stroke engines, I'll research dependable 4-strokes. A suggestion would be to consider Suzuki's model DF6S 6hp outboard engine with a 1.5 liter (1.585 quarts) integral gas tank. You'll be good to go for the 10-foot 8-inch, 12½ foot, and 14 foot Porta-Bote models; the latter of which will accommodate a Suzuki 4-stroke 9.9hp engine. I mention this because Porta-Bote offers special pricing on Suzuki models 2.5hp–30hp. Of course, for covering small bodies of water, Porta-Bote's oars and oarlocks (included) will suffice. These 2-piece oars are made from lightweight yet durable plastic blades and aluminum handles. They store conveniently crosswise and out-of-the-way beneath a seat. Whether under oar or outboard power, our craft rides high and tracks extremely well due to its patented semi tri-hull configuration.

Our 10-foot 8-inch Model Porta-Bote

To facilitate matters when traversing demanding distances from vehicle to access area, the Porta-Dolly's™ 13¾-inch wheels are an indispensable, optional item. They are cleverly designed and install in seconds. You can even wheel the boat right into the water then quickly and easily remove the pair. I'm very impressed with this setup. Save yourself a step and order the dolly wheels when you order your Port-Bote. You'll thank me later. The dolly wheels and adjustable frames fit all four models. Also, note that I bungee-cord a pair of Type II life vests beneath the mid-section bench seat for out-of-the-way stowage. Good to go.

Porta-Bote & Porta-Dolly

Tomorrow, September 2nd, we will continue with Porta-Bote's Alpha Series and its superb construction, including the 12½ foot and 14-foot models.

Bob Banfelder

Award-Winning Crime-Thriller Novelist & Outdoors Writer
Member: Outdoors Writers Association of America
New York State Outdoor Writers Association
Long Island Outdoor Communicators Network
Cablevision TV Host Special Interests with Robert Banfelder & Donna Derasmo
Bi-monthly contributor to Nor'east Saltwater

Now available on Amazon in paperback and e-book formats

Now available on Amazon in paperback and e-book formats

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