Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Wonderful World of Folding Boats

Porta Bote

I have owned a 10' Porta Bote for the past 3 years and have found it absolutely brilliant in its trans-portability. Especially when towing a caravan. I can put the Bote on top of the SUV, outboard in the back and away I go.
 Lee helping with the Bote setup

What I like about the Portabote is the fact that you can easily work on it and modify it to suit your purposes.
You can add a bow cover, fishing rod holders, flooring, etc, depending on your skills as a handy man.
What I don't like about the Porta Bote is that, at the time of writing, you have to work on it to add your bow cover, fishing rod holders, flooring, etc. as there are no such accessories available.
I stand corrected. There is a bow cover that comes with the bote but in the three years that I have owned it, I have never used it.
What I have also found useful is the Porta Bote's ability to float in very shallow water which has been excellent when trying to get into a shallow creek that drops off  into a deeper section.
This is exactly what my son in law and I did when fishing around Carlos Point near Rainbow Beach, Qld.
My bote in good company at Carlos Point

The water was crystal clear.
As my son in law Lee slowly reeled in his soft plastic we both saw a flathead dart out from under a submerged log and snatch the soft plastic right before our eyes.
It was fantastic! I'd like to add that Beer Battered Flathead fillets are brilliant.

I can only speak from my own experiences and I have found that there are limitations as you would expect from a folding bote made from Polypropylene which is both tough and flexible.

The Portabote is not built for speed. That is not its purpose.
Its main purpose is transport-ability and it does very well.
I have found that with a 4hp 2 stroke outboard, I am able to travel at around 20 kph when on my own.
Add a second person and this speed drops down to around 11 kph.
I have tried a 5hp 4 stroke outboard and I was limited to around 18 kph when on my own.
I have tried a 7.5 hp 2 stroke (Maximum recommended outboard for my 10' Bote is 6hp) and I was able to travel at around 26 kph on my own but this was a bit of a hairy experience.
At this speed also I found water coming over the sides at the stern due to the black plastic tube running around the edge of the Porta Bote.
I believe the maximum safe speed for my Gen IV 10' bote is around 24 kph (15 mph or 13 Knots).
Another issue I have with my Gen IV 10' bote is the transom.
It is made of plastic and has a tendency to flex which creates a problem by allowing the outboard to hit the back of the bote. To overcome this it has been suggested that you tilt the outboard to move it away from the bote.
This is not ideal as the further away from the transom that you tilt the outboard, the higher the nose lifts making it more difficult to get on the plane.
Porta Bote's new Alpha1 model has addressed this issue I believe by replacing the plastic transom with a new folding transom which apparently has no flex.

At time of writing a new 12' Porta Bote is $3,390 here in Oz. (Basic Bote, Seats, hull and folding transom.)

I'd like to add that I am in no way sponsored by or otherwise employed by either Porta Bote or the Quick Boat company.

Quick Boats.

On Saturday I went out in the Quick Boat with James, General Manager of Quickboats here in Australia.
Quick Boats is the new comer to the world of folding boats and they have made some quite innovative additions. 
12' Quickboat (3.7m)

Having had 3 years experience in my Portabote, there were certain aspects that I wanted to look out for with the Quickboat.
I was quite surprised as there is absolutely no flex in the hull of the Quick Boat, nor in the transom which is comparatively thin and doesn't have any aluminium angle to brace it.
Power transfer bracket. 
The seats clip in and lock.
The transom clips in and locks.
The bow cover also clips in and locks.
There are no rivets or staples.
No wing nuts
It can be assembled in 40 seconds with 2 people.
We weren't able to try it with a 4hp, but with the 8hp 2 stroke (It can take a 9.8hp max) we were able to do 30kph (18mph or 16.2 knots) with the 2 of us in it.
The ride is very smooth , very stable and a very dry ride (no water over the hull or bow) even at 30kph
The bladder is made of a material similar to that used on truck covers. It is very strong and doesn’t scratch easily. The bladder is moulded into the hull material to a depth of 25 mm (About 1 inch).
The hinges are made from Kevlar and they've done their robot open/close tests to ensure their suitability. They are expecting them to last at least 20 years.
An unusual fact is that the folded length of the Quickboats boat is slightly shorter than it’s open hull length due to the material and the shape of the hull. (Open: 3.7m, Folded: 3.64m)
Flotation is achieved by having a hull constructed from a high density foam  which is infused with resin and then skinned, as is modern technology in the aerospace industry. The transom is of a similar construction and has no flex.

At time of writing the 12' Quickboat costs $4,375 here in OZ. (Basic Boat, transom, seats, bow cover plus 1x Carry bag for the transom, seats, power transfer bracket and bow cover and 1x carry bag for the folded hull)


  1. Nice pics, Matt - I enjoyed reading your informative article, especially liked the welcoming friendly tone. Looking forward to more fishing scene updates!

  2. Thanks for the feedback Simon.
    I hope to have more information on the new Alpha I Portabote shortly.

  3. Matt, I read about the dusty fathead you linked to in this article. They look ugly and don't sound very nice. Why would you want to catch a fish like that?

  4. HAve you ever eaten one Simon?
    Beautiful, soft, moist flesh.
    Done in a beer batter, they are brilliant.

  5. Hi Matt, So given your experience, if you had the choice of purchasing either boat which would it be? I find myself in this situation and I would appreciate the pros and cons of each.

  6. Thanks E,
    I have given this a lot of thought over the past few weeks and I think there is a lot to be considered. Now Porta Bote have there new Alpha model which features a folding transom. One of the issues with my Gen IV bote, which has a plastic transom, is the fact that the transom flexes.
    To get up on the plane, the optimum orientation for the outboard motor shaft is vertical. Too far back and the boat has to climb out of the water because the nose will lift up. Too far forward and the nose drops.See this article: http://www.spc.int/coastfish/sections/training/fts_pdf/statutory/outboard_lg_en.pdf and check page 11.

    To prevent the outboard from hitting the back of the bote, you have to set you outboard to an excessive angle.
    If you don't do this you risk damage to the bote itself.

    I believe the overall outcome of doing this is that, because the transom does flex, when under power, the transom will twist and allow the outboard motor shaft to move closer to the vertical position. This will allow the bote to plane.

    Even on the new Alpha 1 botes, I have heard that the outboard has to be set to the 4th hole to prevent it from hitting the back of the bote when using a 6hp outboard.
    I posted a question on the Porta Bote forum asking for feedback from Alpha 1 owners.
    I received only 1 response directly in the forum but I have received emails privately as well.
    The person that posted is quite happy with his Alpha 1.
    He doesn't have an issue with setting the outboard to the fourth hole either.
    For some this is not an issue. For others it is.

    There is also an increase in weight of the folded bote due to the fact that the transom is permanently attached to the hull.
    One of the private emails indicated that the extra weight would be a problem for him.

    Again, for some this is an issue and for others it isn't. It would depend on whether or not lifting the extra weight is a problem due to health reasons.

    At the moment the Alpha 1 bote still has a plastic tube running around the bote on the sides.

    The experience of some Porta Bote owners of the other porta botes (Not the Alpha series)is that at speed, water is forced up over the sides and rear of the bote, producing a bit of a wet ride.
    I can't see it being any different until the plastic tubing is removed.
    I may be wrong but that is my opinion.
    If you have a look at the Porta Bote forum you can see modifications that have been made by owners to overcome this.

    Over time I believe that Porta bote will address some of these things. Here is the link for the forum:

    Until it is changed, the Alpha 1 also still uses wing nuts and split pins for assembly, which slows down the assembly time.

    If I was to buy one or the other tomorrow, I'd probably opt for the Quick Boat due to its ease of assembly, non flexing hull and transom and the speed that it can run at. Plus it is a very smooth dry ride.
    In all fairness though, I have to say that I didn't see the Quick Boat in choppy water.
    When and if I become aware of modifications to the Porta Bote, I will also post them in this blog.
    Sorry to be so long winded with this reply, I tried to cover as much as possible.
    By the way, if you live in Australia, you have a choice. If you live in the States and want to purchase the Quick Boat, you'll have to wait until next year :)


  7. Since my last post, I have had one specific request for any negative aspects concerning the Quick Boat.
    I try to be fair in my comments and up until now, I haven't really been aware of any negative points.

    This information came to me through the Porta Bote forum and until now I hadn't even thought of considering it.
    The request for any negative aspects came to me via a private email.

    The problem is that in America, they can not legally make a 2 stroke outboard.
    I believe that if a company has 2 stroke outboards, they can sell them until they run out.
    Of course you can still buy a second hand 2 stroke and use it.
    Due to the maximum transom weight of the Quick Boat, which is 28kg - 62lb, the largest 4 stroke outboard that you would probably use would be a 6hp.
    A new Yamaha 8hp has a weight of 38kg - 83.7lb for example:
    A 9.9hp Yamaha 4 stroke is 40kg - 88lb.
    According to the Porta-Bote website, their latest recommended maximum transom weight for a 12' bote is 25.5kg - 56lb anyway:

    Provided the US Porta-bote website is up to date, I don't view the 28kg maximum transom weight as being a problem, but rather an improvement.
    Some would view this as a disadvantage while others would not. The additional weight involved transporting an 8hp 4 stroke over a 6hp 4 stroke could prove to be a problem for some who have already indicated that the extra weight of the Alpha 1 series Porta Bote would not suit them.
    Of course this is no problem whatsoever here in Australia as you can still buy 2 stroke outboard motors.
    Again it's personal choice and an individual's circumstances that will dictate whether this presents a problem.
    Again for me, due to my health problems I would have to limit myself to the 28kg outboard anyway.

    I feel though that this is an important consideration that has to be made when choosing between a Porta Bote and a Quick Boat.


  8. Hi Matt,

    Would like to clarify that the main reason the Porta-Bote hull is so stable (including the Genesis Series) is the unique shock absorbing deep keel Flexi-hull. You had mentioned in the past that you have had your 3 year old Bote out in some rough water and were impressed with it's stability.

    Porta-Bote's unique hull "flexes" and cooperate with the water. We've been told by many of the 100,000+ owners that they were grateful for the fact that when they entered really choppy waters, they didn't get that pounding in their stomach.and were amazed at the stability of this unique craft.

    Also, you didn't mention that the owner of the NEW Apha series Bote commented on the "dry ride". This is because of the new design changes.

    Something else I think is important to mention. Any of the top grade marine architects will attest to the fact that a mechanical attaching device is much , much stronger in the long run than one that uses glue. This is why after 40 years, the Porta-Bote hinges have never failed (100,000+ owners will attest to that). So the fact that Quickboats does'nt have hundreds of stainless steel staples holding the hinges together at 90,000 pounds per inch is not an advantage at all.

    Sorry to take so much space. But, felt it this was important enough information to warrant some clarification of remarks previously made.

    Sandy Kaye
    Porta-Bote International

    1. Thanks for the input Sandy.

      You are right when you say that I have seen the benefits of the flexible hull in choppy water, which I have not been able to see as yet in the Quick Boat because I haven't been out in a Quick Boat in choppy water.

      As the hull does flex, it tends to absorb the waves and you do get a smoother ride.
      I have no objection to the flexing hull, until you reach speeds above 15mph.

      My objection has been mainly the flexing transom which has created problems for some because they allowed their outboards to hit the back of the bote.
      As you know this can result in a tear in the bladder and damage to the bottom of the bote.

      I too enjoy a dry ride as did the person that replied to my question in the forum, until I was able to travel faster than the maximum recommended hull speed of 15mph. Then I got wet and the bote became squirrely.
      As we don't know how fast this gentleman was going in the Alpha 1 Porta Bote, we cannot say for sure that it will be totally a dry ride, only that at the speeds that he achieved he experienced a dry ride.
      That is why I didn't mention his dry ride. I try to stick to the known facts.

      Now that you have changed the design of the bote, you may be able to get faster speeds due to being able to have a larger outboard (according to the specs on your website the maximum weight for the porta bote transom is still 25.5kg for the 7', 10' and the 12' bote which will limit the maximum size of the 4 stroke outboards that are used in America to 6hp.), but unless the black plastic tubing is removed, I can't see how the wet ride will disappear. You have basically a relatively flat edge hitting a wall of water. It has to go somewhere.

      I also understand the fact that staples are the preferred option over glue.
      Especially when it comes to Polypropylene as this stuff is very difficult to glue.

      Why do you assume that Quick Boats relies on glue?

      I believe they use modern moulding techniques rather than staples, rivets and glues.
      This technique may be a viable option when dealing with Polypropylene. I don't know. It may be an option.

      Thank you for contributing to my blog Sandy.

  9. Since Sandy's input I have asked the guys at Quick Boat about Sandy's comment regarding their folding boat and the use of glue instead of staples.
    This has been the reply from Deryk, who has a strong composite/engineering background:

    From Sandy:
    "So the fact that Quickboats doesn't have hundreds of stainless steel staples holding the hinges together at 90,000 pounds per inch is not an advantage at all.”
    From Deryk:
    "This is a matter of horses for courses. Using mechanical bonds on polypropylene materials makes sense as the long strand polymers make the materials tough but also very difficult to bond to. For these materials using fasteners is common practice. For advanced composites any fastener causes a single load point and therefore is a weakness."

    In reply to my comment to Sandy suggesting that similar techniques may work with the Porta Bote, this is what Deryk had to say:

    Matt - it is not for me to suggest what might best work on other boats however I would not use Kevlar to bond together polypropylene plastic sheets as bonding to the plastic is very difficult as mentioning earlier. When it comes to advanced composites Kevlar is very well known for its toughness (bullet proof vests) and its ability to take large numbers of what are called "stress reverse cycles" (aka bending extremes in large numbers or in our case opening and closing a boat). There are generations of difference between the materials and before once can say they are good or bad I would simply say different.