Hi Guys! Hi! Leslie said everyone liked my post about our dive trip so much that I can write another post. This one! I get to write this post. We were having a hard time deciding what I should write about, but then one of my friends on Facebook (ok, one of Leslie’s friends) asked her to do a product review of the one and only, amazing, all powerful Port-a-bote! Leslie hates product reviews, she thinks they are boring. So, I said I would do it! I can write an amazing review of the one and only, amazing, all powerful Port-a-bote! I know everything about Port-A-Botes! I am a Port-A-Bote Expert.
What? Yes. Sonrisa, I know! Shhh.
Sonrisa says I am a Port-A-Bote. Of course, I am. I know that.
Sonrisa says to tell you that I am probably not “ob. jec. tive.”
I don’t know what she means by that, but I’m going to ignore her and you should, too.
All I know is that every time I go to shore, all the Australians swoon over me. They walk past me, stop, turn their head. They take a loooooong look, walk a few steps forward then stop again. They can’t resist my charm! They look back, scratch their head, then return to take a closer look. They squat down where I’m tied up to the dock, tug on my tether and bring me closer. Always the Australians.
I give them my good side to admire. Then my other good side. They can see my solid, grey polypropolene hull, and usually, they give me a little knock. “Yep, solid, isn’t it!” I say. “This is probably my most handsome attribute. Saltwater Crocodiles can’t puncture a hole in me!” The Aussie always nods with approval. I never deflate while waiting at the dock for Andrew and Leslie to return with groceries. I am much less trouble than inflatable dinghies, those old windbags.
The Aussie then turns me bow forward. (My third good side). Pointy! Very pointy. Perfect for cutting through waves like a champ. When Kitty and I want to, we can go very fast. Much faster than those other dinghies, filled with hot air. I don’t take as much gas, because instead of squashing against waves, my hard bottom and pointy bow take me up, over and through in a rather streamlined fashion. We like to race my friends; and sometimes, we win!
Plus, just like the airplanes with two engines - I row well for added safety! Either Andrew or Leslie can row me far away places, all by themselves. Well, they could when we first left. Andrew lost one of my oars the first night in Cabo San Lucas, and we haven’t replaced them properly since. Now, if we want to paddle, Andrew sits at the very front and paddles me like a kayak: one oar, two paddle heads, side-to-side. We look odd, but it works great. I’m an Oddgodfrey, too!
About now, Andrew sneaks up on the Australian checking me out, and stands behind them for a while until they get the sense they are being watched. “Oh, hey, Mate! Is this yours?” Andrew is proud as punch, and he always says - “yes!”
Is it one of those fold up boats? Why, yes. Yes, I am!
Is it hard to fold up?
No way! I can fold up or down and be fully ready to go in five minutes flat if Andrew and Leslie focus. If they are feeling lazy or distracted, it can take 20 minutes or more, but I don’t think that is my fault.
How do you fold it?
We have our folding procedure down to a science. Andrew and I tie up at Sonrisa’s stern, and unscrew’s Kitty’s bolts. (Kitty is my svelte 5hp outboard engine.) Leslie hoists Kitty onto the stern arch with our crane. Every single time, I cheer “up, up and away, Kitty!” And she goes.
“Later, Grin-Gator.” She says. Grin-Gator. I love Kitty, she’s so funny.
Andrew removes all flip flops, paddles, leftover beer bottles, scuba gear and other adventure menagerie and places it in Sonrisa’s cockpit for later handling. Then, Andrew takes us around to Sonrisa’s port side, hand over hand, carefully pulling us along Sonrisa’s rail, because now that we don’t have Kitty or a paddle, he has to make sure we don’t float away. If there is a lot of current, open ocean behind us, or heavy wind, Leslie will lead me around using my leash.
Once we are along side, Andrew loops Sonrisa’s Spinnaker Halyard around two of my removable benches. He climbs aboard Sonrisa and keeps hold of my leash. Then, Leslie winches me up. “Crink, Crink, Crink” goes the winch and the ropes stretching against my weight. I always try to be good, but sometimes I get distracted by other dinghies going by, or thoughts of adventure, or because I spy a good wave break I would like to surf. Then, the wind takes me sideways in the air and its hard for me to swing over Sonrisa. Leslie always says, “Grin. Cooperate!” And I try.
Once I am on deck, we remove my halyard and my benches. I have four folds: my two topsides fold inward, and then I fold in half again. When all is said and done, I am about the size of a long, skinny surfboard: 24” wide, 12’ long, 3” thick when folded up.
Is it heavy?
I am a robust, but manageable 78 lbs (or 34 kilos) with my benches in. I wish I had better handles on my sides so Andrew and Leslie wouldn’t struggle so carrying me out onto the beach. As it is now, Andrew picks me up using Kitty’s motor shaft, Leslie picks up my bow from the fancy spectra rope they installed to help me safely tow behind Sonrisa. They seem to manage. The crane that pulls dinghies onto shore in Niue broke every afternoon. The crane always worked to pull me onto shore, but by the time Andrew and Leslie returned to go home to Sonrisa we were all trapped on land. I am light enough that the two of them could pick me up, carry me down the awkward stairs, and toss me back into the sea. We make do.
Where do you put it?
I sleep right on Sonrisa’s cabin-top during passages. Leslie lashes me down to Sonrisa’s handrails all folded up. At night in anchorages, I stay unfolded. If it doesn’t seem like anyone will boatnap me I sleep tied up next to Sonrisa’s hull. Sonrisa has dinghy davits (an elevator system for dinghies) on her stern arch, so I can sleep there if I like. It makes it just a little more complicated to boatnap me from there, and then I don’t get slime growing on my bottom. But if it’s wavy, I bang against Windy the Windvane. So, neither Andrew nor I prefer to hang me on the dinghy davit. We might try a system in which I hang off my halyard at anchor, but that remains to be seen. In the South Pacific, the people are nice and no one boatnaps dinghies here.
My wife says they look rickety. Do they feel rickety?
Rickety! No. Sheesh. I am a sleek performance vehicle. Riding in a port-a-bote is like riding in a Mazaratti compared to an Old-Man-Chrysler. I might wiggle a bit more than an inflatable when you first step into me, but I never tip over, in exchange I am speedy and maneuverable.
But The Whole Structure is Held Together By Those Benches?
Yes. True. My benches keep me unfolded. If you take all my benches out, I start to fold. But why would you take my benches out while underway? That would be a strange decision. Usually, the benches stay in place. If we are driving aggressively in very bouncy waves with a large load of humans or groceries, one of the bench supports might pop out of place and slide sideways. Andrew or Leslie will just reach down and pop it back into place. It has never been a problem as long as everyone is paying attention. I admit though, if you go faster than 17 MPH (which is very, very fast in a dinghy) my floor starts to feel funny. It tickles.
Is that a 5 Horse Power Engine?
Yes. Kitty is 5 Horse Power. We can go fast with Kitty! Kitty and I can plane with just Leslie and Andrew in the boat. If we have Leslie, Andrew and my scuba gear, we can’t plane as easily - especially if it is wavy - but Kitty is light and easy to handle so Andrew prefers her for the crane process. We used to have a 15 HP engine. That was a bit too heavy (I am definitely not rated to hold a 15 HP engine), but that is what Sonrisa came with and we gave it a shot. I never sunk. In fact, one day we had groceries, four adult humans, and a 15 HPOutboard on me. We were fine until that 15 HP’s drive shaft broke. Then, we had to paddle miles until some Tahitians offered us a tow. (Paddles well for extra safety!)
I loved the 15 HP. We could go SO FAST! So fast that Leslie wanted to try waterskiing behind me; so fast that Andrew almost killed us at least twice. This was not my fault though. It was Andrew’s tendency to only halfway fix that silly old motor. I’m just sayin’…
Eventually, we found some locals on the beach who wanted that old motor for a parts motor. It's time had come. Then, we bought Kitty. I think an 8 HP, Two Stroke would be perfect. A 10 HP, Two Stroke would be awesome, too. But for every jump up in power, you add weight and complexity for repair. So, I think Andrew still is happy with his decision about the 5 HP. Plus, no one out here wants to steal a 5 HP. I think they would prefer to motor nap a 10-15HP.
Does she have a name?
Yes, I have a name. It’s Grin. But, I am a boy.
Aren’t all boats girls?
Apparently, not. I’ve never been a girl, at least I don’t think I’ve been a girl. I will admit, most boats are girls, and this is to my benefit. I meet all sorts of ladies every day; in fact, right now I am courting a cougar named Salty. She is so beautiful.
Oh, Ok. Does he tow well behind your sailboat?
I LOVE being towed behind Sonrisa. I get to practice my surfing! I love surfing. I think I’m fine to tow behind Sonrisa in almost any whether or speed, but Captain Andrew disagrees. He gets stressed out anytime we are going in open ocean at all, especially if we have to enter through a reef later. He doesn’t trust me. He also gets stressed out at any speed above six knots. When Sonrisa starts going six knots, Andrew and Leslie start asking me “You doing all right, Grin?” And I say, “YES, WEEEEEE!” I swerve back and forth, surfing the curl of the waves before they roll beneath Sonrisa. Once, we were sailing with Sonrisa’s spinnaker. She got hit by a big puff of wind, a wave picked her up, and even she was surfing! I admit it, there was a moment my heart went into my throat as my tow line tightened and started pulling my bow a bit low in the water. Andrew looked at the GPS and we were sailing at 9.8 knots. “Take it down! Take it down!” With the spinnaker down, we slowed, and all was well again. I am not quick to panic.
I’ve heard these things are unsinkable. That can’t be true, can it?
Oh, it is true! We tried. One day last year, we were trying to rescue SCOOTS from being pinned against a big concrete dock. (I love making rescues; I’m very brave.) One thing led to another and my tow rope slipped beneath SCOOTS’ bow. Before I knew it, I was being pulled under SCOOTS. With Kitty running on my stern, Andrew standing inside me, and SCOOTS pulling me under, the SCOOTS lady untied my line but it was too late. I was already 100% full of water. In fact, I was about an inch under water. Andrew tried to bail me out.
“That….glurgg, blurb, isn’t….gurb, burp, going…..guggg, bluggg to work, BLURPB!” I tell Andrew. You can’t scoop the whole ocean out, I’m under water.
So instead, one of my other dinghy friends towed me to shore. Once we reached the beach, Andrew pulled my bow upward and we were able to dump the water out. Andrew lifted light little Kitty off my stern and took her to the engine repair man that happened to be fifty feet away. They washed her out and off, covered her in DW-40, and replaced her spark plugs. Once she dried out, she has seemed good as new. I was no worse for the wear. Andrew was very happy with me that day for staying afloat and holding both him and Kitty up. He said I am the best, and I think that is probably true.
Are they good for SCUBA Trips?
Yes! I’m good for all adventures. Join me for Grinboat Dive Adventure Tours! I can also provide snorkel trips, trips to the bonfire on the beach, grocery runs, transportation for customs officials, and trips to the bar for happy hour.
I also make an excellent swim coach. Sometimes, Leslie likes to drift snorkel. She ties me to her waist, and I follow along as she drifts in the current. Then, she likes to swim back to Sonrisa. She swims, and tugs me a long. I cheer her along until she sees a scary shark. Then, she jumps in quick as a wink and Kitty takes us home.
But how do you get in from the water?
Well, you can buy a ladder for me, but I think that is unnecessary. Just climb aboard! I’m not saying you are going to always look graceful, but it’s not too hard. If you put your hands on my side rail, kick with your fins and hoist your belly onto one of my benches, you can pull yourself up. I never tip over. Leslie looks pretty graceful most of the time, but Andrew…oh Andrew.
How much do they cost?
I am around $2,500 with oars, shipping, and such. I could be a sailboat for an additional $900 or so! Then Sonrisa and I could race. How cool would that be? Andrew says we can’t buy that kit because we have nowhere to put it.
Where are they made?
All Oddgodfreys are made in America. Sonrisa, Andrew, Leslie, Osmond, Me! Well, I guess now we have that rolly-polly kiwi; she’s a Kiwi.
Does he get along with the other dinghies?
Dude. Guy. Mate. Come on! I am the life of dock parties!
Do you have any complaints?
I hate it when beach dogs pee on me.
No, I mean does Andrew and Leslie have any complaints about you?
Oh! Let me ask.
I asked my team if they have any complaints. Sonrisa says I am too impulsive, I like to party too much, and I’m too impatient. She also says sometimes I smell like fish if barnacles start growing on my bottom. Andrew and Leslie said “They can’t think of anything.” And this makes me happy!
I am the amazing, one and only, all powerful, unsinkable Port-a-Bote!
P.S. Port-a-Bote did not pay anyone for this review. But, maybe they should!