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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.