Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Feedback from Bruce Balan, 16 years a Portabote owner.

This information was kindly emailed to me by Bruce Balan who has owned a Portabote for 16 years:

A Cruiser’s Review of the 10’ Porta-Bote

First, a history of our 2 Porta-Botes:

I purchased my first 10’ Porta-Bote in 1999 and Porta-Botes have been our primary dingy every since. I sailed from California to Mexico and back from 1999 to 2001 and then left the USA permanently in 2005. My wife and I have been slowly sailing around the world since.
Copyright Bruce Balan

Many features of the Porta-Bote make it a great dinghy for full-time cruisers. We love that we can easily pull it up on the beach with just two of us. We like how well it steers and tracks compared to many inflatables. The bote gives a fairly dry ride, and goes really fast with a small outboard! It also stows perfectly on our 1969 Cross 46 trimaran.

Unfortunately, we’ve had quite a few problems with our botes over the years.

One of the oarlocks on the first bote pulled out within a year. I repaired it myself. This first bote came with the terrible wooden seats which were heavy. They soon began to delaminate. I upgraded to the first generation plastic seats but they failed in a couple of years. The bote also developed a leaking transom after 7 years. We ended up negotiating to buy a new boat from Porta-Bote for a discounted price. We were in Ecuador at the time so shipping was expensive. That was 2007/8.

The first bote’s black hull flotation had begun to deteriorate badly in the tropical sun so we made canvas covers for the new bote’s flotation.

At 9 years, one of the original oars broke. It cracked at the holes where the two pieces join. We bought a new set when we arrived in New Zealand. Now (2015), the new set shows it is heading toward the same end.

In 2010, the 2008 bote’s hull split at the bow. Using 3M 5200 and rivets provided by Porta-Bote we were able to repair it. Looks a bit dodgy but it is holding well. In 2012, the plastic seats again began to fail. Several of the plastic support brace holders cracked as well as the bottoms of the seat where the metal braces pushed up through the plastic into the foam. We asked Porta-Bote for a new set of plastic brace holders and they refused, saying repeatedly that we were the only ones who have ever had this problem and that we had abused our bote. We were told the braces would cost $144.

After much discussion and additional accusations of abuse, Porta-Bote finally sent some brace holders free of charge. We fiberglassed the seats to repair them.

Copyright Bruce Balan

In early 2013, our bote was put in indoor storage in Thailand for 2 years while we did a refit on our sailboat. When we took it out, the transom split. Now in 2015, we have a temporary (leaking) repair and will try a more permanent repair with some Eternabond tape per Porta-Bote’s recommendation.

We treat our boat with respect as it is our primary means of transportation off of the main boat. Until this month we have used a small 2-stroke 3.3 HP engine (we now also have a 2-stroke 5 HP). My wife and I together weigh about 280 lbs., so most of the time (but certainly not all the time) the boat is lightly loaded.

So, after owning Porta-Botes for 17 years, and using the bote daily for months on end, here’s my take: 

The Porta-Bote is a great boat for the occasional weekender. It’s light, fairly rugged, easy to put together, gives a good ride, and is reasonably priced (if you are in the USA). But the botes just can’t handle daily use as a primary dinghy, especially in the tropics. Moving provisions and jerry jugs back and forth, scuba diving, surf landings, long trips in very choppy conditions – these are all common in our life. In our 10 years of full-time cruising, we’ve run across several other cruisers who have had Porta-Botes. Most people like them and most everyone has had problems with them. Most notably: leaking hulls, broken seats, broken oars, deteriorating foam.

It’s a shame because, as I said, there are many good points to the bote. I have to admit that I have also been very frustrated by the uphill battle that we’ve had in the past with the Porta-Bote company. I get very tired of being told that we are the only people in all the world who have ever had that problem. Though some have had good customer service, our experience has been that the first response from Porta-Bote is you abused the boat and it is your fault.

Since we are very far from the USA, I’ll probably try the Australian Quickboat when I can no longer keep this bote going.

Bruce Balan

s/v Migration

July 2015

West Coast of Malaysia


  1. Hi Bruce,

    I came across your post because I am trying to get compare the Porta Bote vs the QuickBoat. Have you since had the opportunity to purchase/try the Quickboat, and if so, do you have any feedback? I'm about to purchase one or the other so would love to know your thoughts. Cheers! Jeanine

    1. Hi Jeanine,
      I don't know if Bruce will reply but I hope he does see your post.

      This whole blog is about reviewing the Portabote and the Quickboat.

      I own a 10' Portabote and I have experienced a Quickboat on a number of occasions.
      To me, there are a number of things to consider.
      Many people are quite happy with their Portabote, others not so much.

      I have heard of a couple of problems experienced by a Quickboat owner but the majority seem very happy with their Boat.
      This owner was having problems with the clips holding his seats on.

      One excellent point though is the fact that Quickboat came to the party quite readily and replaced the entire boat for that gentleman free of charge, which is their policy.
      They even pay for freight both ways if the boat needs replacing.

      In part, this is what he had to say: "My Quickboat is being replaced


      Postby champ » Wed Dec 03, 2014 4:53 am

      I have had some problems with my quick boat . 2 times the stern has came unclipped while going over a other boats wash and last Wed I was going throw some bad chop and 3 clips that hold the front seat in popped out and fell onto the bottom of the boat .

      The boat has been used less then 10 times . Quickboats is replacing it with a new one . As they said that it should not happen and it would be to hard to sort out . So replace it .


      Portaote on the other hand have a prorated warranty which means, depending on how long you have had your bote depends on how much you will be covered for. It apparently drops by 10% per year and it is the owner's responsibility to pay for freight back to the wherever it has to go.

      A friend of mine who lives in Singapore also has a Portabote, the new Alpha series.
      He has been having an issue with his seats literally for months now with little input from Portabote by way of a solution.
      I believe the latest is that he has to take his boat to the local distributer to try and see what the problem is.

      At first it was suggested that my friend placed something heavy on the seats and that caused them to warp which is not the case.
      So service and warranty wise, I lean toward Quickboat.

      Some people swear by the flexible hull of the Portabote, others swear at it.
      It is excellent in choppy water as the flex does absorb much of the chop.
      The flex however does place a limitation on the maximum speed that can be obtained safely, many owners using outboard motors greater than those recommended by Portabote to obtain higher speeds.

      The Quickboat is a more solid construction and when I have been in one, I am quite impressed with its performance without the need of modifications that a lot of portabote owners do to their botes.

      In many ways it is up to the individual.

      One Portabote owner, when refering to the speed, or lack of, said to me "Many good fishing spots are missed if you are travelling too fast".
      My reply to that was "I have my favourite spots and would like to get there faster than what I am able".

      So it really is up to personal preference, horses for courses as my dad used to say.

  2. I, too, have had issues with my first porta-bote which I purchased back in 99 and I, too, was acused of abusing the boat. I had a leak at the transom within the first 2 years of ownership and after being treated poorly on the phone and me having to threaten to call consumer protection Sandy Kaye agreed to fix the leak and pay for the shipping both ways. However this didn't deter me from purchasing a new 2016 14' ports-bote. The boat fits my life style and I hope to enjoy many years of use worry free.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. Sorry to hear that you had problems with your first Portabote.
      Hopefully all will be well with your 14' Alpha series.
      Please let me know how it goes.

      While there may be some out there trying to do the wrong thing, it's a shame that the actions of these ones spoil it for the rest of us sometimes.

  3. I have looked into Porta Boat and are nearly convinced however I need a test ride. The Australian dealer keeps claiming that he will find me a owner in Melbourne Australia (Geelong would be good) to have a test ride.

  4. Col from Portabote here in Australia arranged a similar "look at" a 10' bote when I was looking at buying mine.
    While i did not get to "test run" the bote, it definately was good to be able to see one up close.
    If Col can arrange for a test ride, all the better!
    Let us know how you get on and your thoughts on the Portabote Alpha series.

    Thanks again,

  5. Reading the cruisers review posted up above makes me wonder how an inflatable or plastic dinghy would have held up over the same amount of years in the tropics? Not a Porta Bote owner yet but it seems like they actually got some pretty good years of service from their Bote. The tropics are really hard on plastics and I really wonder if any other boat subjected to the same life would have really lasted any longer?

  6. Hi Steve,
    It is a fairly tough plastic.
    I believe it is the same type of plastic found on motor car bumpers.
    It also has UV protection which I also believe has been increased with the newer Alpha series.


  7. I am interested in having a ride and as yet no feedback. Also Quickboat web site is static not updated and this worries me a bit are Quickboats going OK? Where can I view their product? We live near Melbourne

  8. Hi,
    Sorry for the delay in getting back.
    I have been in contact with both James and Deryck from Quickboats to find out what is happening.
    Apparently at the moment Quickboats is up for sale and they are looking for a buyer.

    When they find one, I will you know.

  9. Thanks for the update. Up for sale this does not make me confident to purchase? Any how please keep me updated as I am in the market to purchase in the coming months.

  10. No problem with the update.
    James advised me that they will keep me informed.
    Thank you for checking out my blog.
    Kind regards,

  11. I have a Genesis 3 and the seats are terrible. The achilles heel is the leak in the transom at the keel. This happens to portabotes if they are used regularly. Not sure if anyone has found a way to fix these leaks.

  12. Matt, what is the latest from QuickBoats? Have they started production? I am very interested in buying one. Former 12 foot porta bote owner....