A few weeks ago, at one of the local boat shows, I talked to the Porta-Bote representative.

Up until that time I had fully intended on building another dinghy. Probably something nestable; although I have downloaded a few folding dinghy plans that look interesting. Unfortunately, anything involving boats, and in particular boat-building, even of very simple design, takes time. Sometimes a lot of time. Time is something that is in decidedly short supply, so I decided to buy. I like rowing, and inflatables row like crap, so they were out. I was thinking of something along the lines of a Walker Bay dinghy, but my boat is pretty small, and stowing it on the fordeck would be troublesome. So I kind of figured the Porta-Bote would be a good compromise.

The boat I ordered and payed for was the eight foot model. The boat that arrived was the ten foot model. It’s kinda large, and a lot heavier than I’m used to. It is way, way bigger than the old Apple Pie dinghy I built. Frankly, it is an ugly thing. It took me an hour to assemble in my back yard for the first time. I have my concerns about being able to assemble it on the deck of Seeker; but I have high hopes it will all work out. Honestly, about the only time I have to store it on deck is if I’m doing some real offshore work; which, at least for the next couple years, is not likely to be a large part of my life. I think I will be able to assemble it, in any case, if a set it up athwartship, although I may have to drop the lifelines to do it. It will be interesting to find out.

Here’s day one:

Porta-Bote Packaging

The package, as it arrived. The hull itself is wrapped in a heavy plastic. The seats, oars, and miscellaneous arrived in a big box. The photo loses the sense of scale.

Porta-Bote first opening

The first unfolding required more effort than I expected. They do include a notched board which helps to force the boat open.

Portabote opened

After it is opened up a little, I was able to climb inside and force it all the way open. The included “tool” helps keep it spread.

Porta-Bote fully assembled.

Then it’s just a matter of locking the transom in place (the new version…I understand this is a recent upgrade) and installing all the seats. There is definitely a front and back to each of the seats. They aren’t marked so it is necessary to pay attention to their shape.

The oars look OK. I’m not a fan of the oar locks, though, and may change them out.


Item 1: My new Bayfield has a propane cooking system. It used to have a propane water heater, too; but I didn’t find it worth the trouble and removed it (eBay, soon). Propane works, it is convenient, it is already installed, it is staying (for anyone thinking about talking me into kerosene or alcohol). The tank lives outboard on the stern pulpit.

Item 2: I’ve been so frustrated with a phantom drain of amps in the boat, I decided to redo the entire electrical system. It is now much improved (and almost done). I’ve used modern, properly sized boat wire everyplace. I’ve broken circuits out into a couple different panels. I have a battery monitor. I’m happy. Or at least I was…

The problem: I finally got around to hooking up the xintrex S-2 (preëxisting) propane sniffer/solenoid control to house power this past weekend. As expected, the solenoid burns about one amp, which is totally acceptable. What is less acceptable is the propane sniffers (one in the bilge, one in the cabinet directly under the stove) burn around .5 or .6 amps. Now, given that you’d think that the sniffers should be turned on whenever the boat is occupied (and maybe always, depending on your philosophy), I find that the 12 amp-hrs or more a day, just for monitoring, to be an overly serious drain on my limited battery (and charging) capacity. THIS is clearly a big contributor to my phantom battery drain.

The solution: As far as I know, sniffers are not required equipment. However, they do seem rather prudent. I’m thinking of wiring the Xintrex control/sniffer system up to a spare switch on the circuit breaker panel. I figure a decent compromise might be to throw the switch whenever the valve on the tank is on. When I’m well done with whatever cooking I’m doing, I could close the manual valve, and kill the Xintrex at the panel. This has the advantage of saving some electrons and giving me a third place to kill the propane if necessary (at the xintrex control panel, at the tank, and now at the electrical panel). It has the disadvantage of losing full-time monitoring.

I think with the tank at the rail, the solenoid at the tank, and the new propane line entering the hull through a vapor tight-fitting, that I’m covering the important safety bases. Am I missing something?

Spring update

I can be the worst sort of blogger: a blogger who doesn’t blog. Dammit! Time got away from me. Again.

In any case, things have been happening over the winter, although far slower than I would like. In an effort to write something, anything, here is a quick somewhat long-winded run down of this winter’s boat refit projects:

I am in the process of redoing the entire electrical system. Entirely. AC and DC. Everything is coming out and being replaced. I am unhappy with the existing DC system, especially with a mystery current draw when everything is supposed to be powered off, so this seems like a good time to take care of the system. The small panel next to the galley is being replaced with a larger panel next to the nav station (where it really belongs). Wire is being properly sized (the wash down pump, all the way in the bow, was wired with 16 AWG, as was the pressure water system…now, with 12 AWG wire, the lights don’t dim), as are all the breakers. I’m trying very hard to do everything according to modern standards. I installed a battery monitor which is really cool. I’m installing lots of twelve volt outlets (I hate not having a convenient outlet when I need it). A new stereo and a new VHF with built-in AIS reception is also going into the panel. A CO detector is now installed. A bilge water alarm is being installed (insurance company insists) as is a second electric bilge pump in the little sump area behind the engine if I can find a way to shoehorn it in. New batteries will be going in, wired together with an Automatic Charge Relay so I don’t have to worry about juggling the battery on/off/both switch during charging. In fact, I am installing one new switch for house power and one for engine. I purchased four 20 watt solar panels that will be mounted on the dodger. A couple new LED dome lights have been installed. Incandescent interior bulbs have been replaced with LED and I hope to do the same with my NAV lights. There is a lot more, I’m sure. It’s coming along, slowly. Here is a general (although far from comprehensive and not quite up to date) diagram for how things are wired up…I think this will work pretty well.

DC System, version 1

I did pull out the not-really-functioning air-conditioner and was going to install a brand new one; but I decided to order a new dinghy (porta-bote) instead as my old home-built dinghy went with my Seafarer (sadly wrecked by the new owner ) when I sold her. I may regret that should I move aboard this summer. If so, I am keeping the thru-hulls in place, and I have strung new 120v AC wiring so that I can install a new unit reasonably painlessly without having to haul the boat. In theory anyhow.

The old holding tank is out-a-there, as is the old Grocco toilet and nearly all the associated plumbing. I am just about ready to install the Nature’s Head Dry Composting Toilet. Unfortunately, the extra height of the new toilet is interfering with the doors of the cabinet behind it. More work <sigh>.

Mom came down for a few days a couple of weeks ago to help me with the hull prep. Lots of sanding and scraping but it is more or less ready for new bottom paint. The previous owners raised the waterline over the bootstripe. I guess I’ll leave it that way for this year. We’ll see how she sits. Mom also helped with the teak which is great, although there is an awful lot left to do. The old name is gone and the boat is ready to receive her new identity. I can’t wait as I was never really happy with the old name.

The new anchor system will hopefully be installed in the next week or two. A Rocna 10 (22 pounds), with 90 feet of ¼” high tensile chain and ½” 8-plait line on a big roller. I bought a second, matching, roller that should be here in a couple of days that will allow me to keep two anchors on the bow, although I haven’t decided on the second set yet.

There is a lot more to do (always); but hopefully I’ll be able to launch by the end of May. I had intended on trying to sail to Martha’s Vineyard for the Father’s Day party that many of my friends have there that weekend; but that no longer looks realistic as I will be lucky to get Seeker launched at that point, and I am not anxious to try everything out the first time on a big (relatively speaking…it’s not exactly crossing the Atlantic; but it would be my biggest passage as skipper) trip. Instead I think I may try for the Newport Folk Festival at the end of July. That plan would allow Lauren to accompany me as I attempt to get her to fall in love with the whole idea of travel by sea. Unfortunately, work may mess up my plans.