1.3-Year Porta-Bote and Kayak Review

January 17th, 2007 by: cheyenne

When we set out from Coyote Point, we had not one, but two dinghies aboard. (Mighty elaborate for a little 5000-pound boat.) We still have the two of them but neither is performing up to spec exactly and we are starting to think about how they might be more appropriately replaced, er, repaired. Or something.

clear blue hawaii inflatable kayak on the beach. Ensenada Muertos, Panama

[Patches discussed below are visible in this photo; there is another smaller patch on the other side in addition to a patched patch under the large panel patch.]

Dinghy #1 is the kayak, the inflatable two-person yellow kayak whose initial yellowness was so extreme that I was forced to squint my eyes and view the thing through the haze of my own eyelashes lest I damage the very cones of my retina and see nothing but purple the rest of my life. Joshua named it “Tigralita” after some tasty shrimp-like critters we used to eat in Barcelona, but we usually just call it The Kayak (or The Yellow). These days the kayak is not so yellow, rather, a pale misty cream dusted with sand and dotted with mud and cut with large swaths of silver-blue Cordura, which we use when we have to patch the thing. We’ve patched it now three times, the last patch basically replaced 50% of one entire side and it ripped out again the other day and needs yet another patch. Currently it is lying deflated and growing mildew in our port ama.

All this patching is getting to be a fat hassle. Basically, the protective sheathing around the inflatable tube is made from Cordura, a material that is not UV-resistant. Breaks down. Turns to crapola. So, every stress point on the top of the kayak (where the handles are attached, where the cargo D-rings are attached, etc.) is in danger of failing at any moment—that is, those that have not already. Irritatingly, the only light colored material we have lying about the boat for repairs is more Cordura so we get to gripe as we replace sections one by one with more UV-weak material. In addition to breaking down rapidly in UV, the color fades just as fast (as I mentioned above). This is hardly a problem for me since as far as I’m concerned, the less yellow and ratty looking, the better—provided that functionality is not compromised. Also, there’s a tiny hole in my inflatable seat lifter that leaves me sitting low after an hour or so. I remedy this by using an additional cushion so no biggie really.

I guess the good thing is that for an inflatable kayak, it is still kicking, somewhat. Once we patch it yet again, that is. Clearly the manufacturer of this kayak expected it to be used once or twice per year at most. A more appropriate material for repairs might be a light-color Sunbrella (dark colors are too hot and cause the innertubes to swell dangerously) and we will probably pick some up someplace to make additional repairs, thereby introducing yet a third weird pastel into the works. Other than the Cordura, the kayak is holding up fairly well, particularly the bottom, which is made of PVC. The clear PVC panels are still transparent but I have to say they never really worked very well because they warp the image on the bottom. I appreciate the gesture, but oh well. We might look into buying a rotomolded two-person kayak, which wouldn’t deflate and put away, but it would be a hell of a lot more tough.

Dinghy #2 is the Porta-bote, or ‘Bote’ as we generally call it. When we took off we had Joshua’s dad aboard for the initial run and we it was clear that a two-person inflatable “dinghy” was not exactly going to cut it. The bote is the 10-foot model and I bought the demo model from the Mountain View warehouse. We have used both dinghies about equal time on this trip; the bote is used when we have guests or when we are in ports where we need to tie up at some scrungy dock. So, this porta-bote has gotten its fair share of abuse I should say.

How it’s held up: Not too great but it still works, technically. We mentioned earlier in the blog how we busted the transom, and in addition, the middle and aft seats have split. Honestly I don’t know how we did that, these just split over time after usual wear and tear. Now, with the transom cracked almost in half (it sits in its place at a strange angle but still sort of helps reinforce the aft area) and the two after seats cracked in the middle, the boat is somewhat less stable than it used to be and there is no way a motor could be used anymore (we’ve used a motor on the dinghy only the time we were in Bahia del Sol to combat the 6-knot tides so it’s not like we’re devastated but just the thought that we couldn’t motor if we wanted is irritating).

Since we haven’t been motoring, what we have been doing is rowing. There’s a whole bucket of wormy gripes: the bote, although it rows admirably, has a built-in rowing setup with oars that is in general kind of crappy. The oars are cheap aluminum with a flat plastic spade on the end; conversely, they are lightweight and come apart in the middle. However, the place where they come apart makes the oars sort of wiggle in the middle. (Layer upon layer of trade-offs!) So, to lock the oars into the rowing position, an aluminum box is riveted to the sides of the hull and the oars have a pin that fits down into the box. This works okay if you row in placid water but if you have to really pull against a stiff wind, the oarlocks seem suddenly very flimsy. We popped a rivet only the third time we used the bote when we had to row against a wind in Bahia San Quentin on the outer Baja. Eventually the holes in the oar boxes wore wider and wider with the oar-peg action until the oar pegs pretty much swam around in the oar boxes (this had the gross side effect of oozing black sludgy oxidation all down the insides of the bote). Finally the oar-pegs just failed where they attached to the oars and we replaced them with standard ring-style oarlocks. Yesterday when we were rowing back to the boat, one of the oars just broke in half (not at the joint either, but halfway between the joint and the end—just ripped apart). Jeff ought to be happy to hear this as he was always highly skeptical of those funky oars. We’re currently faced with the quandary of whether to replace the oars altogether or try to fix the one; it’s probably only a matter of time before the second oar rips in half.

Another gripe about the bote is the flotation foam around the inside of the boat. Porta-bote boasts the virtual unsinkability of this bote due to flotation provided by a strip of raw black styrofoamy closed-cell foam that runs around the inside perimeter of the boat and the sealed bulky seats and transom. Well, now that the transom and the two larger of the seats are busted, they hold water better than they repel it so that leaves only the foam. Which is not UV-resistant. How much of a leap is it to realize that a boat might actually be out in the sun and plan construction materials accordingly? All Porta-bote has to do is coat them in some UV-resistant vinyl or something and they would be fine (I know this stuff exists and works because it is what covers our closed-cell foam cockpit cushions and they have been out in the sun for two years now and they still look brand new—disclaimer on the link: we would say this even if we weren’t related to the owners). So, basically, the foam is breaking down all over the place and there are little bits of crumbly black stuff all over the inside of the boat or you if you happen to brush up against the foam. We should just rip it out I guess and hope we don’t sink again. OH, and the flotation aspect? We did swamp our bote once (when we broke the transom) and while I wouldn’t say that it floated, I want to stress the “virtual” part of virtually unsinkable; we were able to get back to shore by getting out and guiding it (underwater) to shore.

The gunwale of the bote has a black plastic protective covering. In older models, it has a tendency to pop off but in our model, it has actually been riveted in place. Unfortunately, the rivets used are large and aluminum and scratch the hell out of anything they come up against (like the side of the mothership when tied alongside). We bought a length of clear plastic hose, sliced it lengthwise and wrapped it around the black plastic. This helps but we have to babysit it to keep it from popping off.

One last thing: the seats and transom are made of black plastic and they COOK when in the sun for even just a few minutes. They are frequently excruciatingly painful to sit upon and I never seem to remember to bring a towel or something to cover them with. Most people we have met who have Porta-botes have replaced the seats and transom entirely with lower profile ones made of wood and painted white. I highly recommend doing this and I wish we had done ours as well back in Bahia del Sol. One boat we met also covered his foam with a cheerful stripey Sunbrella and this kept the crumbling at bay somewhat.

Someone commented recently that we should contact Porta-bote to see if perhaps the transom (or seats) was covered by warranty since a lot of people have reported transom failure and so we emailed them a couple weeks ago. I sort of waited on posting this dinghy-review post because we wanted to be able to include information about whether Porta-bote indeed covered damages to the transom or not but they still haven’t gotten back to us and I’m not optimistic that they ever will. I know the email address is viable too because we used it when we had a motor question (like, we were interested in buying a motor) and we had a cheerful response in less than a day. Sooo… that’s sort of irritating, especially since all she has to do is just say “No, we don’t cover the transom under warranty,” and that would be that. As it is, I feel like they are deliberately ignoring us. Another sort of weird thing is when we talked to other Porta-bote owners in Bahia del Sol (there were five botes there at one time), every one of them had had the same issues and they had been reporting back to Porta-bote with some impression that their feedback was appreciated and the issues were being worked on or fixed. However, our bote was new and none of the common complaints had been addressed.

disassemble the porta-bote. Bahia Santa Maria, Costa Rica

[The putting away of the bote. See how flat? The bulky seats are another story but we just stuff them down in the ama.]

Anyway, that all said, maybe the bote model after ours has all the problems fixed and somehow our recent email got lost in the ether. I don’t know. I’m a little irritated with all this but then there are some really great things about the bote that have been perfect for us. It folds up. When we put it away, we just strap it down underneath the catwalk and it all but disappears! Amazing. It takes maybe ten minutes to take apart and stow entirely. And the plastic material that the hull is made of is very strong; we drag it over sand and rocks and tie it up at rusting charred docks where it bangs around and the outer hull is holding up just fine (it shows all the scratches, but that’s fine). The bote is not something desirable to thieves either. That’s because it’s so ugly! Most of the locals view the bote with extreme amusement and incredulity that it is even vaguely seaworthy. (Don’t even get me started at the reactions we get when they see me rowing it—and Joshua relaxing on the stern.)

One other thing I should mention: “used porta-bote” is the single most common search request that leads people to this blog, so these boats are definitely sought after. Used ones in particular since new ones are very pricey.

To sum up: Kayak—we are seriously considering upgrading to a hard kayak (two person kayaks are so damned big though). I do like having it deflate and go away. Bote—so many problems that could so easily be remedied by Porta-bote, such as installing a UV-resistant foam if they actually intend this to be used for safety purposes. That the botes are so very expensive makes me think that it’s within the budget but what do I know. I still like the bote, but it just needs work. We need to replace the seats and transom entirely with something more durable (wood) and light in color and the foam needs to be removed or replaced. CCushions said that Porta-bote contacted them about making a closed-cell vinyl-coated foam for them but it was too expensive, yet we might end up replacing it with C-Cushion on our own anyway. Also, the rowing situation…yeesh; I’ll just stop now.


Porta-bote did eventually replace the seats and transom for free. Here is a quick round up of follow up posts.

33 Comments on “1.3-Year Porta-Bote and Kayak Review”

  1. jeff says:

    great expose on the dinks

  2. Sandy Kaye says:

    Hi Joshua,

    Just read you interesting comments about our unique folding Porta-Bote. Sixty thousand+ Botes out there. Been in business over 32 years. Perhaps we’re doing something right.

    Here are some of my thoughts:

    1- Your original message was probably lost when the company that is our ISP, migrated our site to another, faster server. Because of some admitted incompetence on their part, we were down for several days. They assured us that none of our messages were lost. Since then we have (for the first time in 32 years) received complaints similar to yours that we never responded. We have always prided ourselves in being a service oriented company. So therein is the irony of this situation. Of course, you could have used our 1(800) number which is good throughout most of the world. You chose not to.

    2- “Cheap Foam”. We don’t use cheap Styrofoam. We use a costly copolymer based closed cell foam. This stuff lasts for years. But, like any petrochemical based material, if you don’t take reasonable care of it, the very strong UV rays of the sun can do some damage. How do you take reasonable care of it? As explained in the instructions, just apply ArmorAll or a similar plastic protectant every few months. We’ve seen 30+ year old Botes with the foam in great shape.

    2- Cheap Oars? The shafts are constructed of an extremely lightweight and strong aircraft alloy. Then they are gold anodized. The lower shaft is filled with foam. The paddle is a carbon based plastic that is also very strong also. “Cheap Oars?”

    3- Seats and transom? Anytime you come across another owner who claims to have had problems with the seats or transom please have him/her contact us.

    4- Ugly? That’s what they used to say about inflatables also. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We think our Botes are absolutely gorgeous. But, we may be a little prejudiced.

    I could go on and on. But, I appreciate your letting us respond. As far as the boat is concerned, many have outlived their original owners of two generations ago and I predict your Bote will still be around long after we’ve all gone to that great fishing spot in the sky”.

    Sandy Kaye
    Porta-Bote International

  3. cheyenne says:

    Hi Sandy, (this is Cheyenne responding since I’m the one who wrote the review)

    First of all, I appreciate your response to my Porta-bote 1.3-year review. I do wish you had responded to the two e-mails Joshua had sent you regarding our concerns/complaints over the busted transom and seats because, although I would have still posted my thoughts on my website about the bote, I admit I might have been a little less snarky. It still gets me that you respond immediately to our request for outboard info, not to mention our correspondence containing the link to this review of your product (what was that, 1 hour?).

    The bote in general? I DO like it. There are a lot of things wrong with the design (as I detailed in the post) but in general, it has been good for us. It’s what we spent our money on and what we still intend to use. We live on a sailboat that weighs less than three tons and carrying anything larger/heavier is simply not an option. I hate having deck clutter and a boat that can be put almost entirely away is nothing less than awesome. We explain it to curious locals as the ‘origami boat’ (which amuses them greatly).

    1. Okay; so our original emails regarding the warranty (if any) on transom or seats were lost. No worries. We did not call your 800 number because we don’t have a phone. Or internet access except when we bus the computer to a bar that has wireless (we do this maybe once a week but usually we just check email in internet cafes to make sure there are no emergencies). What we DO have is email. And so do you. I guess it just didn’t work out this time.

    2. I did not say that you use “cheap foam.” What I DID say is that it was a raw closed-cell foam, uncoated, and susceptible to UV breakdown; and yes, it IS styrofoamy–not actual Styrofoamâ„¢, but styrofoamy in the same way that Cheese Balls are styrofoamy. And it doesn’t last for years unless you mean as small crumbly bits wedged into the very crevasses of the Porta-bote’s keel. It’s breaking down this very moment and as a matter of fact, I do use Armor-All but it is a spray and takes nearly an entire can to effectively cover the entire surface area of the foam (I’ll admit I am a little neurotic when it comes to detail). I hate to use the stuff too because it is oily and leaves a very funky coating on everything it comes into contact with; for example, everything you transport as well as you and your clothes (but perhaps I should write Armor-All with those complaints). Other Porta-bote owners we have met have done this: a) Cover the foam with a delightful stripey Sunbrellaâ„¢. Cute! Efficient! Holds the crumbs in! I love it! b) Remove it entirely. Well, it IS supposed to provide floatation but we might end up going this route. c) Bitch and complain! (Yep. Working on it!)

    3. “Cheap oars.” I DID say that didn’t I? (Man, I love seeing my own words in quotes.) Well, they are lightweight so that’s cool (and I’m ALL about lightweight) and they come apart (modular! How can you go wrong?), but they are a thin aluminum and I’m telling you one of them broke in half already. We bought some new ones at Abernathy here in Panama (comparable in price to West Marine probably) for $14 apiece and, while they don’t sport the blingy gold-anodized shafts, I have to say they really seem to be of a better quality.

    4. Owners I have met who claim to have had problems with the seats or transom can just drop you a line (I’ll let them know). Here are some owners I have met. SV/Lotus: seats pop out of plastic seat holder/tracks (newer botes use metal tracks). SV/Enteleque: seats cracked and transom broke; had some constructed from wood in El Salvador (this is the same guy with the sweet Sunbrella foam covers). SV/Secret O’Life: (I quote a message posted on the blog) “I just replaced my transom with a wooden one. When I removed the plastic one it was cracked exactly where yours broke!! I think it’s a standard detail. I cut up the old one – there was a chunk of aluminum plate where the motor mounts, but I think it just contributed to the breaking stresses on either side.” We haven’t had a chance to meet this person yet but in the last two days here in Panama City, there is a new Porta-bote at the dinghy dock and we see that his seats have been replaced with wooden ones. As a matter of fact, we got the idea to E-mail Porta-bote about a possible warranty on the transom from a comment left by someone I’ve never even met who reads the blog: “I noticed that the transom on your porta-bote cracked. It’s a known design problem on porta-botes supplied with plastic transoms. If your bote has a plastic transom it might be worth contacting the manufacturer regarding a replacement under the warrantee.”

    5. Ugly. I’m sorry. It sort of IS though. If it is any consolation, I think inflatables are just as ugly if not more so. If I had a 50-foot boat with room to carry any dinghy I possibly wanted, it would be a cute wooden sailing number with a two-tone outer hull and lots of sparkling varnished wood inside that I made myself, just so you know where my tastes run. I wasn’t kidding though when I said that being “ugly” is a good thing for a cruising dinghy because local residents view it with curiosity if not outright suspicion as to its seaworthiness and it’s utterly invisible to thieves.

    Anyway, again I appreciate your taking the time out of your day to respond to my concerns even if you still haven’t answered our question as to whether there is any sort of warranty on the plastic transom or seats.

  4. Ginny says:

    I am in the midst of making a decision about a dinghy for a sailboat. I just saw Porta-bote at a boat show and it is certainly intriguing option for a cruising sailboat dinghy. I’m hoping you might give me some real-world feedback on using the bote as a sailboat dinghy.

    1. I’m curious, how easy or difficult is it to assemble/disassemble the bote? Do you assemble it on deck or in the water?

    2. What are your observations about taking on water into the porta-bote?

    3. Your comments about the transom & seats certainly give me pause for concern. Given your experience & hindsight, would you opt again for a porta-bote?

    Thanks & Happy Sailing,


  5. joshua says:

    We don’t regret the purchase. The folding ability is obviously the single most compelling feature. It goes together in just a few minutes. We are unwilling to keep an inflatable on deck and the porta-bote goes together much faster than inflating an inflatable. The main thing to keep in mind is that you also need to store the seats and the transom. Not a small thing. In addition to the hull, you need a space approximately 52″ x 14″ x 14″ to store them in one bundle. This is no problem for us on a trimaran because they are light weight and we can put them in an ama. On a monohull it may be more of a problem.

    The hull of the porta-bote really is strong and will probably last many years. However, the seats and transom will fail within a year or two. We have seen a couple of dozen porta-botes since we’ve been cruising and none of them have the original seats or transom. They may last if you use the boat a few times a year, but they simply won’t hold up to daily use.

    Contrary to what porta-bote will tell you it will not float. It has neutral bouyancy and will float just below the water when completely flooded (without an motor). You can tow it to shore like this with another boat, but it is not possible to self rescue if you get flooded and are far from shore. For this reason, it is also not suitable for long trips in chop or heavy seas. An inflatable is much more seaworthy in this regard. If you are a diver an inflatable is also a better option because it can be difficult to enter the porta-bote from the water.

  6. Erik says:

    I just have to leave a comment in reply to Sandy Kaye’s comments. I am intrigued by the design of this little “bote” and am considering buying one. It has a number of very neat qualities it seems. Of course, there are trade-offs to everything. The review seemed to be a pretty fair evaluation of where those trade-offs were good and bad. (Oars that are modular and light will never be as “solid” as a wooden oar – that’s OK – it is a trade-off.)

    After reading the review, I continued to be interested in the boat, and just happened to look at these responses in case there was some additional feedback. I have to say that after reading Sandy’s comments, I have changed my mind.

    All Sandy had to do was say something like, “wow, I am REALLY sorry that we failed to respond to your question on warranty. I could make excuses, but instead will just hold my hat in my hand and say ‘sorry’. More importantly, here is the answer to your question…” He/she did neither of these things – instead seeming to blame the customer for not having a phone. He/she could have taken it a step further by offering a description of design changes that they have implemented in response to the issues that the review raised – obviously these are issues with other owners as well. Now THAT would have been real customer service! Instead, Sandy made it abundantly clear that the reviewer and the other owners that the reviewer has come across are simply wrong in thinking that there could be design enhancements to the product. I see lots of justification and excuse, but very little in the way of representing a company who wants to improve a product and be responsive to customers.

    I own companies and deal with customers. I am also a customer. I see both sides of the whole “customer service” equation. I have to say, Sandy, that customers generally don’t want to hear about why you are right and they are wrong, they want you to help them understand how you will solve their problems – that is why they are willing to give you their money for your product. The attitude that the president of the company displays means a lot, and when you make it plain that you think that you have solved all the problems and have nothing left to learn, I probably look elsewhere for someone to give my money to.

    Thanks much!

  7. TimeMachine » Follow-up Porta-bote Review and Aftermath says:

    […] We had held out posting our 1.3-year dinghy review until we heard back from Porta-bote on our inquiry regarding warranties (so we could include at least one piece of useful information for our “used porta-bote”-Googling friends). Since they didn’t respond, we just posted the review anyway and mentioned that Porta-bote was not being expedient about getting back to us (with a palpable note of irritation). We again emailed Porta-bote, this time to ask about outboards since we were looking to possibly buy a 9.8 Tohatsu and the company used to deal Tohatsu outboards, and we got a fantastically prompt response. So Joshua responded once more asking if they had received our previous email regarding the Porta-bote and if there was a warranty; again, no response. A couple days later, Joshua responded with an irritated ‘curious-you-respond-so-fast-to-a-potential-sales-lead -but-not-to-a-warranty-inquiry’ and gave the URL for the bote review blog post, in case they were interested. Within one hour, a lengthy rebuttal was posted to the blog by Sandy, the president of Porta-bote. Of course, I had to type out my lengthy response to her very defensive response, and well you know how it goes. And she still hadn’t answered our question as to whether there was a warranty. […]

  8. Steve says:

    I was very interested to read your review, exchange of emails with Sandy, and the follow-up comments. I’ve also had a cracked transom on a 7 month old 12′ Porta-Bote and have been exchanging correspondence with other owners of Porta-Botes in Australia who have experienced similar failures. It seems to have been a common problem in Porta-Botes sold with plastic transoms and seats. Sandy replaced my transom under the new bote warranty.

    I’ve reviewed my bote here: http://oneblokefishing.com/ and there are links from the review to the descriptions and photos of the problems with my transom.

    Did Sandy (he’s a bloke) replace your transom and seats?

    Regards, Steve

  9. cheyenne says:

    Sandy did replace the seats. We never heard back but two weeks later, a large package arrived at my mom’s house. Who knew? I totally figured we’d never hear from them again.

    I totally assumed “Sandy” was a woman’s name. Oops. Sorry Sandy.

  10. greg says:

    dear cheyenne,

    thanks for writing a review of the porta bote. i own a 70s model porta bote. even my cool 14 year old loves this thing. it still folds and unfolds and functions. we have lost some rivets over the years and our plastic trim is mixed blue original and black irrigation pipe, but it all works (the factory told me how to use the irrigation pipe to make a repair). i am only on my second set of oars.

    while reading your article i started wondering what type of other equipment you have. my experience is constant repair and modification of things to keep them in service. my experience with the porta bote is that it needed less upkeep than most of my things and proved itself to be very rugged.

    after all we: melted part of it on our boat heater chimney, regularly smash it on rocks and drag it up beaches, towed it full of water after a wave hit it until the painter broke, overloaded it with people and stuff, left it in piles of dirt, under piles of firewood, and in general torture tested it in the worst way. ( i have three children who are rough players ). all i have to do is add pop rivets.

    i honestly wonder why everyone doesn’t have one of these boats.

    i have no affiliation with porta bote, in case you are wondering.


  11. cheyenne says:

    Howdy Greg: Our hull is in fine shape as well and only once have we met a cruiser with a hull that failed (leaked and was impervious to glue or other leak-stopping tricks). Frankly, I can’t imagine our hull failing anytime soon. We are fairly good to it aside from dragging it up onto beaches over sand and rocks. It is only the transom, seats, and oars that have broken and the foam is decomposing. These can all be replaced and the foam simply removed entirely but it’s sort of a drag.

  12. Ken T. says:

    Thanks for all the info that everyone here provided. I was reading about the Porta-bote to see if it was a good solution for my dad’s needs. I have to say that I am with Erik on his assessment of the customer service response to the review. I am the kind of person who just does not put up with arrogant salespeople and I really appreciate it when they learn from the comments instead of making excuses why it wasn’t their fault this happened. It’s a total turnoff.

    I’m really not trying to put Porta-bote down intentionally, but I was actually concerned when I went to their homepage. It looks as if it was made by a 12-year-old. If they sold 60,000 boats at almost $3,000 a pop, then they ought to be able to afford decent web designing folks. They need to understand that cheap webpage makes people think they sell a cheap product.

    Just my $0.02

  13. Sandy Kaye says:

    Hi again,

    1- Never received your original “two requestes”. You also never responded to our other emails ????

    As you are aware, we replaced your seats and transom free of charge.

    Have a feeling contacting you by ordinary email doesn’t work too well. Neither does your ability to contact us. This was the original reason you got upset. It wasn’t that we were not willing to respond. We never received these emails.

    This is the reason I am trying to contact you in your own blob. This may actually get through OK.

    Anyone else who wants to contact us: sk@portaboat.com

    Oh well. Such is life.


  14. See latitude 38 comments on Porta-Bote says:

    I have used a Porta-Bote on sailing vessels for over 10 years, and have been very happy with its ability to row and motor. It does flex a bit in a sea, but it’s clearly not a problem. A Porta-Bote is superior to an inflatable for rowing, but inferior to a dinghy designed specifically for rowing. Although I now own a 9-ft model, I prefer the larger sizes for rowing and comfort. I have tried the sailing rig, but do not recommend that option. The Porta-Bote is quite stable in surf, and virtually indestructible on rocks and other hard surfaces. While in Florida, I have seen Porta-Botes that are more than 20 years old still giving good service. In my opinion, they meet all the requirements for cruising – easy to store, functional, and durable.

    Terry Phillips

  15. cheyenne says:


    We posted follow-ups here (Feb. 23) and now here (May 17).

    Also, you must know that we received the replacement seats and transom because not only did we send an email to you acknowledging their receipt and thanking you (on 3/4), you actually responded back to this email.

  16. joshua says:

    Evidently Sandy would like us to recant or take down our review. In general we don’t edit pasts posts except for spelling and grammatical errors, but we do try to keep things up-to-date by posting follow-ups and comments. We posted a follow-up blog post when Sandy graciously offered to replace our seats and transom even though they were out of warranty. We may have been a little remiss in not explicitly pointing this out in a comment. However, there is a automated ping-back that appears in the comment list which points to the new post. Here is a recap of our criticisms of the porta-bote and remember that we have stated again and again that overall we like the porta-bote and still think it was a good choice for us.

    1) They failed to respond to warranty questions by email. In the end, we’re willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this. You only need to read through the exchange to realize that it’s not their preferred method of contact.

    2) The oars are a non-issue. The oars that come with the bote are clearly only intended for emergency use. No one is fooled by this and we mentioned it only because ours had failed recently.

    3) The foam breaks down in the sun. ArmourAll or no. This is an obvious issue and the best solution is to cover the foam with fabric on receipt of your new porta-bote.

    4) The black plastic gunwale with rivets will scratch and mar the hull of your (and your friends) boat(s). We solved this problem by covering the gunwale with a split piece of clear water tubbing (1″ internal diameter). Some porta-botes do not have the rivets and these are less destructive. However, the rivets lend a lot of strength and allow you to manhandle the bote on the beach without pulling off the gunwale.

    5) The drink holders don’t fit any common drink container. Ummmmm. Not really a problem just weird.

    6) Black plastic burns your booty in the tropics. Obvious — bring a towel or something to sit on.

    7) The seats and transom are not strong enough and don’t last. This is the only serious complaint. Remember that our review was based on using the porta-bote as a yacht tender while cruising. In general, this means daily use. Since we began having trouble with our seats I have spoken about it with every other porta-bote owner we’ve encountered (about 20). Without exception everyone has a broken transom and at least one broken seat. Solutions vary from total replacement with wood to attempts to reinforce the original material with wood or fiberglass. We know that porta-bote is aware of these problems. You can prove it to yourself by asking about the warranty. The hull has a 10 year warranty but the seats and transom only carry a 1 year warranty. The obvious reason for this is that porta-bote is well aware of the fact that the seats will fail long long before the hull starts to give out. It’s also important to point out that aside from the disappointment in it’s longevity everyone I spoke to was happy with the performance of their botes.

  17. cheyenne says:

    We finally received the replacement parts but they sent us the seats only, when it was the transom that was really the bad part. Sandy said that they were sending both seats and transom replacement parts so I guess there was a mix-up somewhere along the line. I’m pretty bummed out because the seats are only cracked, but the transom is broken nearly in half and only marginally usable. I guess I’ll let Sandy know since he was always very keen to hear if we got the replacement parts, but I don’t exactly expect them to come through with the missing transom. We’ll probably build a new one of wood, something we should have done seven months ago.

  18. TimeMachine » Porta-bote Again says:

    […] This is a follow up to older stories: 1.3-Year Porta-Bote and Kayak Review Follow-up Porta-bote Review and Aftermath Porta-bote Redux Redux […]

  19. John L. Johnson says:

    As a fresh, new (and so far, happy) porta-bote owner, (12-ft model) just wondering if you ever received a new transom??

    I will not be using this boat daily, so I will expect the seats and transom to last longer than yours have…but I’d still like to know if they came through.

    Also…seems like a small, cottage industry of manufacturing and selling “beefed-up” seats/transoms for these may have to begin..somehow…somewhere. Looks like the market may exist.

    Thanks for your thourough, albeit “snarky” efforts!

  20. cheyenne says:

    Yep! Did get the transom a couple of weeks later (from when we received the seats). Interestingly, they have added a metal piece across the bottom as reinforcement so perhaps they have begun to address the failure issues. A photo of the new piece is on this page: http://sv-timemachine.net/?p=301

  21. Gubby says:

    Hello all – I recently aquired the 14′ model and I am extremely pleased with the overall product – upon receipt of the original craft, I immediatley knew the transom was not of adequate design – I immediatly fashioned a reinforced transom insert and seatbackings out of 1/4″ 5016 aluminum – no problems at all – I have further manufactured aluminum brackets to fit directly on ice chest sides to replace one of the aft seats – the sides were also giving me difficulty upon accelaration under the power of my 4 stroke yamaha – I resolved this issue as well by lacing a 2″ heavy duty ratchet strap around the top of the sides of the boat – and securing the strap to the reinforced transom using a pair of D hooks – the boat performs flawlessly I have gotten the boat to 40 mph and not a single worry or problem at all! – I further used alodyne to coat the 5016 alloy in a light gold color to prevent corrosion and oxidation and i can tell you this is the best small craft I have ever purchased – Granted the time and materials were pricey but what a great boat now – WOW!! If anyone is interested in a mod “kit” for their boats to make the craft perform as it should from the factory – I might manufacture these if there is enough interest.


  22. CT says:

    Hhhmmm….I was really sold on the Porta-Bote idea, so I bought a 12′ just last month. It won’t be on the water for at least 4 more weeks ( Chicago ), so I haven’t had a chance to break any of it yet. I’m glad I read these comments! Just to be safe I plan to beef up the transom and seats, probably per Gubby’s ideas as opposed to making a transom entirely from wood. I appreciate any comments or suggestions from those that have modified things that might make my life easier. Give me a price for the supports, Gubby! If it saves me shop time, I’ll go for it!

  23. HYoung says:

    Interesting comments from Gubby regarding the sides during acceleration. I have an older 12′ model with wooden seats and transom. They have held up reasonably well with moderate use over 12 years. I use a 8hp motor but can not use full throttle (maybe 2/3) and definitely notice that sides want to flex away from the middle seat. Gubby would you mind elaborating on your method of securing the sides?

  24. JAllen says:

    CT, I am a bass fisherman in Texas who wants a small rig for private lakes. I am very interested in your mod “kit”. This could be the factor that makes me purchase the bote. Let me know what and where you are on this?


  25. HB says:

    I just purchased the 14′ bote. Curious about BUYER feedback, I came here first. Glad I did, I will cover the foam with fabric. I would like to reach Gubby of the above Sept. 26,07 post. I am interested in his mod “kit.” Please share his email with me or share my email with him.
    I would also like to learn of his experience with taking the bote up to 40 mph.

  26. Ammon Conyers says:

    I too am interested in the mod kit for the porta bote, when will that info be available?

  27. Rich L says:

    I purchased a used 9′ Porta-Bote with the flimsy wooden seats and transom. I think it was 3/8″ or 1/2″ marine plywood. The transom was held in with a PLASTIC angle iron that was showing signs of tearing. I called Porta-Bote and they suggested I upgrade the plastic with anodized aluminum angle iron that would be permanently attached to the transom, whereas the plastic support was riveted to the hull. I simply popped the 2 top rivets out, left the bottom one (because it is so low to the waterline) and now attach the transom with the old wing nuts and some stainless eye-bolts. I had most of a sheet of 5/8″ or 3/4″ AC Fir (I forget which) and fashioned new seats and transom, having to shave down the undersides of the seats to slide into the old aluminum supports and spar varnished them. The only flotation I have is the crumbling stuff on the sides of the boat. The transom reinforcement works great, and my 2.5hp Yamaha 4 stroke will put my 210 lbs up on a plane if I move up to the front seat and put a PVC pipe on the tiller arm. I regularly launched it from oyster beds, and it’s great. Next step will be to rip off the remaining flotation, because it crumbles everywhere. The Porta-Bote website says to only apply Armor-All to the outside of the boat, I would assume due to slipping hazard. Quote:” 3-. MAINTENANCE: Your Porta-Bote’s copolymer polypropylene hull is not adversely affected by salt water. It will come clean with soap (Bon Ami) and water. At least once a month during the season, apply “Armorall” or similar plastic protectant to the outer sides and bottom (the part that touches the water) of the hull and tubing and plastic seats and transom. If boating in salt water, always rinse all metal fittings with fresh water. If your boat will be stored so it Is constantly exposed week after week to the UV rays of the sun, protect it with a suitable light covered tarp or cover. ” As you can see they DON’T tell you to spray that crumbly foam crap. A cheap upgrade provided by them to replace it would be great

  28. CRC Vancouver WA says:

    I’m on my seconda portabote. The first I bought used. It has the wooden seats and transom and is still a great boat. I just bought a genesis 12 with the plastic seats and transom because it is a bit lighter and faster.

    We use ours with a 6hp.

    I never had a single problem with my older boat. I haven’t used the new one enough to know about it’s performance with the motor but do know that in a brief non-motor test it moved through the water with less resistance. I simply haven’t had the crumbling foam problem, but here in Vancouver it isn’t subjected to intense sunlight for long periods :)

    On the older model I replaced the seat attachments with easier to use locking pins. The newer model has upgraded to (sorry I don’t know the name – perhaps clevis pins?– the kind that compress to fit in the hole and then expand. If you want more seat security I suggest replacing them with the aluminum pins that attach with a simple push through pin on the bottom of the seat. Easy to use and they aren’t going to come out.

    I do have to agree about the portabote website. The website is AWFUL. Hard to navigate and, to be honest, doesn’t include the info you are looking for when you go there. They ought to upgrade it and I feel certain that the website reduces their sales. It certainly doesn’t reflect the quality of the product. They ought to clearly show their lineup of boats, prices included, along with a list of replacement parts and the cost . My experience has been that they always refer you to some guy who sells them in the area. Irritating.

    2 other quick points:
    1. I bought a set of wheels to use with my first bote. I promptly lost one through my own fault. PortaBote quickly sent me a complete replacement set and only charged me for one because I had so recently purchased the original set. You can’t fault that customer service.

    2. Cabelas now carries PortaBote. That says something about the product quality and reliability.

  29. SonnyZe says:

    I was glad to find this blog. I am expecting my 12-6″ porta-bote in May. I did alot of research before purchase. Did not find this one though, which is typical after you buy something. Anyway, thanks for the info. Sounds like if there is a problem with the boat, and porta-bote does not take care of it, that a fix is still possible. Eases my mind.

  30. alan robinson says:

    I purchased a second hand 10 porta-bote last year, it was two years old when i made the purchase but had only been on the water a few time, it had been kept assembled and on a trailer, i took it to my villa in spain to use on my holidays, it has been stored for 10 months folded up in the garage, today 6 jan 2011, i assembled it for the first time to use it and found the transom outer skin has a split from the top edge down to about 3 inches in length, I thought this material was bullit proof! now I face the problems of 1, patching it, 2 trying to get the whole piece replaced, before the split continues down to the water line. to say how much these cost and the claims about durability made in the advertising blurb, I must say I am very dissapointed with my purchase, if it were wood or grp it would be a simple task to repair, but this might be more than i am able to cope with, I am told the hull has a warrantie of ten years , if that is the case maybe porta-bote will come to my assistance. fingers crossed.

  31. Steven says:

    I purchased a new 2005 12′ Porta-Bote. I used it a couple of years and sold it. I can honesty say that it served me well, is rugged and is a great boat. So much so, that I am going to purchase a 10′ boat. I love the way it folds up. It’s a little work for set up, but it is certainly worth the trade off.

  32. Marty says:

    I purchased a used 12ft Genesis 3 in 2000. I’m guessing it was manufactured in the 80’s. It has wooden seats and transom, all secured by wing nuts. I’ve done no maintenance at all – never even washed it. Its been abused something savage, left in the sun for years and bashed into everything on the water.

    The boat is still great. No problem with disintegrating foam or broken transoms. I use a 3.3hp on it nowadays and it gets up to about 12 knots with just me (90kg) and my gear.

    I do have a leak from the join between transom and hull. Its apparently easy to fix but I don’t bother. After a couple hours, its 3 inches deep at my end of the boat and I use it as a live bait and keeper tank. I use a 4 litre ice cream bucket for bailing when required and can get all the water out in around 2 minutes if I want more speed.

  33. Gary says:

    Having purchased an older porta-bote it was interesting reading the many articles and complaints. I have formed the conclusion that this company always has an excuse and as far as having sold so many all that really says is they are good at marketing. Both folding side seams on my transom have split all the way down. When I purchased it they had been sealed but not so the boat could be folded. My plan is find a rubber membrane and with glue and rivets basically eliminate the folding problem. When the membrane wears out it will not be a big deal to replace it. It will be about as ugly as the rest of the boat but I suppose there in lies its charm :)))

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