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2011-07-28

Look out, Portabote




I recently helped a friend sell a PVC Zodiac inflatable and a 15 HP Mercury outboard. Not much remarkable about that, but upon inflation and inspection, the Zodiac proved to have a rotten (as in "transect with poking finger") transom and more than one hole in its various parts.

The buyer, another, unrelated friend, was quite understanding and is endeavouring to salvage the Zodiac, while was just about worthless at time of sale. The engine worked fine, thank goodness.

My friend the seller had never used the thing, but it made me think of the damage, largely invisible in this case, that was done merely in storing a significant piece of boat gear between uses. As one does. Apparently, moisture was also stored with the rolled up Zodiac, and rot was the result.

Extrapolate this to the concept of a life raft case mounted on deck in all conditions, and the concept of "what happens at sea to gear we want very much the one time we really want it". Stuff like "emergency tiller/tiller head", "parachute flares" and "hand-powered watermaker" come to mind, also.

Our choice of nesting dinghy and folding Portabote was in part influenced by such considerations. One can be fixed via familiar epoxy repair and the other with glue and plastic, but both are fundamentally stronger than an inflatable (unless they come in Kevlar, I suppose). The point here, however, is that they are going to be used regularly; problems will hopefully manifest in a small way subject to easy remediation rather than in the "wasn't that supposed to inflate?" way that may be the last words uttered at sea for some unfortunates.

Well, although it's more toy than watercraft, some clever buggers have made an origami plastic rowboat.


Made from a single sheet of plastic (excepting the oars, I gather), the boat was designed in a paper-folding workshop that focused on generating 3D forms out of 2D drawings.
I would suggest they succeeded, although how stable the thing is remains to be seen. What it does demonstrate is that even the very clever and increasingly popular Portabote folder might be yet improved, lightened or made dimensionally more compact, which I would image those who see some compromises with inflatable may judge as a Good Thing.




Of course, there are other ideas on how to get to shore without getting one's feet wet (or semi-wet). I don't see these as practical for any place beyond a mill pond, but they do show innovation and that all the good ideas haven't been thought of just yet.

Consider the Shuttle Bike. It's a way to convert the average mountain bike into a water taxi. As someone likely to bring bikes along when cruising, this holds some appeal.


Or how about an Amphibious Bike? (Shh, it's only a model...)




Or if you can't ride, make like Jogging Jesus and stride across the wavelets.









How many of these concepts are applicable to the cruiser? Maybe none. Maybe I'll follow the herd (and not the Pardeys) and opt for a "soft" over a "hard" tender. (Note to foreign readers: "Hard tender" is one of those nonsensical phrases, like "jumbo shrimp", that litter English. Nautical English is particularly confusing.)

But we shall see, and in seeing, shall learn.

6 comments:

Ken Goodings said...

The venerable Yamaha 2 stroke gas outboard (8-15 hp) is the workhorse of cruiser tenders from Toronto to Trinidad. In our view it's the simplest, lightest and most reliable engine anywhere. Mercs are complicated and hard to maintain, while Johnson/Evinrude/Mariners are seldom seen. Tohatsus are very light duty engines usually seen on charters or ex-charter craft. A few Honda 4 strokes are here but are heavy and reportedly fussy to maintain.
Fuel economy and quietness are benefits of 4 stroke Yamahas and others but weigh very heavily on the dinghy transom and are hard to hoist and store on board the mother ship. 2 stroke motors can be easily purchased new away from North America. Most Europeans arrive in the Caribbean with PVC rollups and 2-4 hp kickers but often move up in hp and buy a RIB. Folding boats mostly rot unused on the rail along with fancy bicycles.

Ken Goodings said...

Snorkeling trips in the dinghy is a favourite cruiser pastime.
When choosing rigid/folding vs inflatables consider just how you would climb back into the boat after a tiring swim on the reef.

Rhys said...

Roger on the Yamahas: their rep is known and respected everywhere.

As I said, we shall see. I've now owned a 9.9 HP Honda 4-stroke (sold recently), a 9.9 Merc two-stroke (sold) and still own a wee Honda 2 HP 4 stroke. Interestingly, I've experimented with locking off the Honda at full throttle AND rowing the Portabote (think "motorsailing") and I can take it to over five knots of speed while putting my own mass at the best place in the boat.

Maybe I'm the first guy to try this oarsome method?

Much of my thinking on this is dictated by Becky's ability to carry things. While she is still relatively young and is certainly strong for her size, her size makes her a limited lever, and our rule of thumb is that she must be able to execute alone all of the common physical tasks aboard. T

This is because we won't necessarily come and go at the same time to and from the boat, of course. Also, when she's on watch, she has to do everything I can, within reason, as I would expect we would rouse the other only in exceptional circumstances.

Watching her bringing the old 10.2 foot Zodiac RIB aboard in 15 knots of wind was painful, even with her use of winches and lines. Hell, it was no doddle for me, esp. after we had a davit fail in a mere five feet of waves. By contrast, she can handle the nesting dinghy and Portabote with more ease, and can one-arm the Honda putt-putt (28 pounds) without a problem.

Again, if we are mistaken, we are capable of change. In the scheme of things, picking up a rollup and an old 8HP is trivial.

As for the bikes, I discussed in a previous post that idea that we would carry a bike rack system with waterproof rucksacks (doubling as laundry and provision duffles for open boat transport) and would rent or buy or lease local bikes, which I would adjust as needed. We would therefore carry the tools, not the vehicles. The only bikes I would consider for storage on yachts would be carbon-fibre folders with belt drives, as they turn to rust in days unless you slather them with more Boeshield/Fluid Film than I care to purchase.

Rhys said...

No love for the inflated "collar" around some folders, eh, Ken? Pool noodles: they ain't just for lifelines anymore.

Like I said, we're not primarily Caribbean-bound, so I am not sure imitating that model holds water, not to make a pun. But if I have erred, I can make changes easily. I know already that davits don't make sense for us, and that the folders/nesters are already an improvement from a space and a handling viewpoint.

Ken Goodings said...

Marc, you have a very nice high transom. Why no davits? The dinghy would certainly be high and dry at sea.Most davits have a 6:1 purchase to make hoisting easy.
It's very important to haul the dinghy and outboard motor out of the water at night for security. What's your plan? Remember that cruising is 90% or more being at anchor, rather than just logging deep sea miles.

Rhys said...

Ken, I HAD davits...and one snapped in a piddly five-foot sea on Lake Ontario, dumping our 10 foot RIB Zodiac into the drink and causing me to dive for the pilothouse to throw the engine into neutral before the davit got acquainted with the prop.

The height of the stern makes for a fairly wide arc in a steep sea, I think, and that might have accounted for the failure. But the davit bases are very strong, and putting in a deck crane for the dinghy engine and jerry cans (I use this on land all the time to hoist boxes and tools instead of humping them up the ladder), and putting the wind gen on the other seems far more practical.

Right now, we have the two tenders that take up very little deck space. Assembled on deck, they would dominate, and so I can see hauling up one by its bow on the deck crane and padlocking a D-ring or padeye for security and quick deployment.

But davits in my mind are useless in a seaway and are no help in conditions where chocks and lashings are required. They are certainly convenient for long periods of anchoring or motoring in calmer seas, but the height of our stern, the bad experience we've already had, and the fact that I already have a gear-laden stern (crane, wind gen, transom-hung rudder, Voyager wind vane, solar panel bimini...maybe a barbeque...)preclude davits.

Of course, if I could afford a 60 footer, I would LOVE a "tender garage" where you just drive into a hatch in the sugar scoop and keep the Zodiac where the aft cabin should go!