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Old 19-01-2022, 16:02   #1
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Portland Pudgy ! Yes ? No ?

Hello to everyone,

We are looking at hearing from anyone that owns a Portland pudgy. We are considering purchasing one, to serve as both our tender and our life raft down the road.We have read and watched a few reviews, but they are so mixed, itís hard to come to a decision.

I am interested in knowing if anyone has used one as their tender in rougher waters in the ocean heading to shore? The most confusing thing, has been the fact that reviews are so opposing in most cases. The difficult thing about reviews in regards to YouTube, is you never really know who is being sponsored, or given the product in return for a decent review.

We have no illusions, that the Portland Pudgy would truly compare with an expensive quality life raft. We realize, that this purchase would be no different than the purchase of our blue Bluewater sailboat, in that there is always compromise and there is no perfect boat, or perfect tender for said boat.

We are looking to some point down the road , when we are more experienced, to be crossing oceans. Just to give a little perspective. We realize in the end, we may choose to go with both a tender and a life raft. However being budget minded, we realize we will have to make some sacrifices , or choices that would not be made had we an unlimited budget.

At this point in our research on the Portland pudgy, the bigger concern is it use as a daily tender in the live aboard lifestyle. As clearly we could at a later date purchase a life raft when the situation warrants. However it would be an extremely expensive lesson we would rather not make when it comes to using a Portland pudgy as our daily tender.

We are just looking for some shared insight, or thoughts on the matter. The fact remains that life rafts come with their own set of issues and problems. Itís not just a matter of buying an expensive life raft and knowing itíll be there when you need it and operate the way it supposed to, and save your life in the process.

We realize that a life raft is similar in mindset to insuring your bricks and sticks house. We all buy home insurance, yet almost nobody ever collets. However almost no one goes without house insurance.

Donít know if this makes sense, but just looking to start a conversation on the subject and pour some insight on the matter . Thank you to all who take the time to reply.
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Old 19-01-2022, 18:19   #2
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Re: Portland Pudgy ! Yes ? No ?

We had one for the year we cruised around the US east coast and Caribbean. Didnít worry much about the life raft aspect, it was a dingy for us.

Main pros:

Rowable - itís nice to not have to mount the outboard when you donít feel like it.

Tough - you can just drag it up on shore regardless of how rocky it is, itís never going to pop. Ours got trapped under a dock at one point, getting bashed upward by swells against steel and concrete for several hours. Was a little scratched, but otherwise completely fine.

Wonít sink - separate from the life raft idea, itís nice that if you accidentally flipped it somehow it wonít head to the bottom.

Main cons:

Heavy - If I remember right the bare boat is over 100lbs. We hoisted ours onto the for deck for any significant sailing, and it was definitely a chore.

Hard - You have to fender it when you leave it in the water so it doesnít bash against the big boat. It will still find a way thump and wake you up in the middle of the night at some point.

On balance we liked it, especially the never pops/leaks aspect.
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Old 19-01-2022, 18:28   #3
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Re: Portland Pudgy ! Yes ? No ?

We have friends with a Pudgy. Mr. cthoops and I were considering one until I joined my friend one day on a shore trip. The water was choppy, but not ridiculously so, and we were soaked. I was surprised at how wet the ride was. When I got back to our boat, as I was drying myself off I told Mr. cthoops that there was no way we were buying one.
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Old 19-01-2022, 19:14   #4
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Re: Portland Pudgy ! Yes ? No ?

Welcome. We have friends in Winnipeg and ourselves are just south of you (in the land of the Free and the right to Arm Bears).

I offer you my notes on liferafts:

Typical yacht liferafts carry 4, 6, or 8 people and cost around $2,000 to $4,000 plus $500 for the cradle. They require service every 3 years. Typical service prices are around $700 for the 1st/3rd and $1000 for the 2nd/4th. Prices vary a little from place to place and pickup/dropoff/shipping charges can also be a factor. Most of the cost is replacement of deteriorated and expired items e.g. batteries, flares, water, food.

By the 12 year service it becomes more likely that significant repairs will be needed and most people would start over instead.

This works out to around $400 per year life cycle cost.

This is for uncertified liferafts for private yachts. The USCG/Solas commercial life rafts require more frequent service.

Most of the criticism of the Pudgy falls into four categories:
1. It is a poor substitute for a liferaft (see below)

2. As a dinghy, it is too small (7'8"), too heavy (128#), and too expensive ($3000) for what it is.

3. Aesthetics

4. Some people don't like hard (non-inflatable) dinghies and dismiss it on those grounds.

I have an 8', 120# dinghy that I am trying to sell, that I paid $200 for as an experiment. It is simply too small. It would be fine for a thin couple with no friends or kids. It is also too heavy. I got it because I wanted to use it for a specific trip with my 26' sailboat and it was the only thing that would fit. I like hard dinghies and am in the planning process for building a Chameleon nesting dinghy. They are 10'4"; my target build weight is 80# (plus oars).

On suitability as a liferaft, main points of criticism are: too slow to deploy in an emergency, not stable enough in heavy seas (real liferafts have ballast compartments to keep them from flipping), insufficient capacity, liferaft components (canopy, lights, flares, etc) add weight and reduce capacity of an already heavy, low-capacity boat.

Consider whether a lifeboat is necessary for the kind of sailing you will be doing especially at first. Chances of survival at sea in a lifeboat are grim; even having a fantastic liferaft is not a "get-out-of-jail free" card.

Consider the fact that you will still incur most of the maintenance costs of a regular liferaft because most of these involve periodic replacement of flares, batteries, rations, etc. and you will still have these costs; if you get the inflatable roof you will have its initial cost as well as periodic replacement of the CO2 cylinders.

Aesthetics, be aware it will fade in the sun and can't really be repainted (since paint will not adhere to polyethylene)

Many makers have exited the hard dinghy business due to the widespread adoption of inflatables. Look at the Walker Bay 8 and 10, they are inexpensive and a good value.
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Old 20-01-2022, 16:59   #5
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Re: Portland Pudgy ! Yes ? No ?

We own a Pudgy and it is great. It is in our Ranger Tug that we use in Maine in the summer. We also own a 9 1/2í RIB that we use on our 42í sailboat in the Caribbean during the winter months. Both have electric outboards, both serve their purpose well. We would not consider the Pudgy as a dingy for our sailboat. Small, heave, slow, and not good as a tender/dive boat/taxi/grocery hauler like our RIB is. We would not even consider it. Coastal Maine? Perfect. The Caribbean? Wrong tender. We do have a lifeboat, and it is expensive insurance that has a very low chance of ever being used. Getting into a lifeboat in extreme conditions is very difficult. Staying in one is uncomfortable and disorienting. Using A Pudgy as a lifeboat when things get rough? Not a chance. It just isnít a big water vessel. If you are coastal cruising and like the Pudgy, it is a really good product. Blue water sailing? I wouldnít recommend it.
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Old 21-01-2022, 09:03   #6
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Re: Portland Pudgy ! Yes ? No ?

We are full time, all season liveaboard cruisers in the PNW and love our Portland Pudgy. Here's why-

1. Rows well
2. Unsinkable
3. Indestructible- rocky beaches don't faze it, robustly built- no flex and seems impossible for anything to crack or break
4. Lots of in hull storage accessed via waterproof hatches, including for paddles
5. Sail kit is fun
6. Lifeboat kit replaces need for life raft (unless offshore)
7. Can handle a LOT of weight for such a small boat (est. 450 lbs when we provision with two adults)
8. Remarkably stable- takes a lot to flip it
9. Handles rough conditions well (I've rescued other boats in gale force conditions in anchorages and have rowed back to our anchored boat after the engine quit- shear pin actually, against 30 knot winds and 3-5 foot waves- not easy, but the boat performed well)

Here's some cons:

1. Small- 3 passengers comfortably, can handle a 4th but it's a tight fit and not rated for that amount of weight.
2. 135 lbs- heavy for some if you care about that. (we prefer strength over weight)
3. Lifeboat kit works well for short times and distances, suitable for coastal cruising but does not replace a life raft for longer times and distances so is NOT for offshore. Two people can lay down and the kit includes a drogue and inflatable cover that should make it easy to right if capsized.
4. Lifeboat kit needs to be pre-installed to be used in an emergency. Installing it after an emergency happens would not be safe, would take quite a while, and you'd probably get really wet.

That's all I can think of for now, let me know if you have questions. Photos attached.
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Old 21-01-2022, 10:15   #7
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Re: Portland Pudgy ! Yes ? No ?

Thank you to all who have replied, and your insight in your replies. You have given us much to think about , and more to hym and Haa ! over , lol . We have as a result come to the conclusion that if we plan ocean crossings one day, we would have to have a high quality life raft regardless.

Still awaiting the invention of an off shore affordable submersible, to do all perfectly. Till then we will continue to learn to compromise and Hym and Haa as always.

Happy sailing and safe travels to all !
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Old 21-01-2022, 10:56   #8
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Re: Portland Pudgy ! Yes ? No ?

I have a pudgy and use it full time as my tender, I have owned it for 10 years, now cruising the Caribbean. it is indestructible, I love it every time another cruiser is pumping up his deflatable. It is slow, so is my sailboat, it is ok to slow down. It is a wet rid if it is rough no doubt, if by myself I sit near the back and the front comes up and I stay dry. I take 4 people and my 55lb dog, works fine. I have been in very rough conditions and never worry about flipping, it's very stable, very good getting in and out at the dock. I had friend in it one day and he loved it, saying he would much rather be in the pudgy than in the lift raft he was in one night as they could hear the waves crashing on the reef getting closer and closer. mine fits on my back deck, only 7 ft long and is ready to float away anytime needed. A lot of life rafts don't work when needed, have not been serviced properly, get caught or torn when deployed, can't imagine trying to use a flare in an inflatable. I love my pudgy wouldn't consider not having it.
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Old 21-01-2022, 14:18   #9
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Re: Portland Pudgy ! Yes ? No ?

wow , that was super helpful ! Thank you or your insight ! It has truly, given us reason to pause and reconsider the Pudgy. It a shame they cost so much all the same.
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Old 24-01-2022, 07:07   #10
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Re: Portland Pudgy ! Yes ? No ?

We have a Portland Pudgy, and have used it as a tender. We purchased it for the same reasons many do, can't deflate, rows well, life boat options. I bought it about 3 years ago, and have no regrets. It is heavy, but very stable for what it is. It has been used will a 3.5 hp OB, with the sail kit, and oars. When cruising I like to do a morning row. It does that well. We have no regrets, and would do it all over again. We will get the lifeboat kit at some point, more so to keep things dry when we are out on windy days, as well as "just in case". But if we do that, then we will know how to set it up when needed, but hoping we never will.
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Old 24-01-2022, 10:11   #11
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Re: Portland Pudgy ! Yes ? No ?

Good vid on the pudgy if you haven't seen it already
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Old 25-01-2022, 09:54   #12
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Re: Portland Pudgy ! Yes ? No ?

One item I forgot to mention was the support from the company has been great! They have been very helpful with our Pudgy, even though we purchased ours used. We will be getting more accesories for it as we go along.
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Old 25-01-2022, 11:57   #13
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Re: Portland Pudgy ! Yes ? No ?

Iíve considered the question of dinghy as lifeboat vs liferaft for over a decade now. The following I wrote several years ago.
Originally Posted by Adelie View Post
Depends on the circumstances where you would need to abandon the mothership, depends on the dinghy, and depends on your feelings about risk.

Why would you need to abandon the mothership
A. Breaking apart during a storm
B. Fire
C. Explosion (propane let's say)
D. Aground and breaking apart
E. Water ingress due to hole: whale, Conex, log in the water, another vessel keeping as bad a watch as you were,. . . .

If the boat capsizes, you lose steering or the rig, that's not a reason to abandon ship. If it's still floating, stay on the mothership.

A. During a storm you are going to want to get into something stable enough to ride things out. An offshore life raft is designed for lots of stability and seems to be the obvious choice in an ultimate storm if you can deploy and board it. As the severity of the storm decreases at some point it becomes possible for the dinghy to serve the purpose. Where that line is depends on the severity of the storm and the particulars of the dinghy.
B. During a fire, speed of departure is likely to be very important. On the face of it the liferaft seems to have the advantage, but only if it is stored on deck in a covering that can be quickly stripped away. If the liferaft is stored in a lazarette and the dinghy is on deck tied down and all you have to do is cut the straps and turn it over, the dinghy will be preferred.
C. In an explosion there will be a certain amount of luck involved. Anything in a locker will probably have shifted around and may be damaged. Damage may still occur to items on deck but I'm guessing the odds are a bit better. I'm going to guess that a hard dinghy will do better than an inflatable dinghy or liferaft.
D. If the boat goes aground on rocks I'm going to say the dinghy is a better bet because there are likely to be other things around you may not want to wash up on, other rocks, rocky shore, cliffs. In that case the dinghy is better because with oars or better yet a working motor you have some ability to escape the rocks, shore or cliffs or at least influence the final resting location to be a less bad place. If you go aground on the leeward side of land, a dinghy offers you the possibility of going upwind to make landfall whereas a liferaft means drifting downwind until somebody comes and gets you. If all's that's downwind is a gently sloping sand shore it really doesn't matter either way.
E. Surviving random water ingress is going to depend on how fast you lose the boat and weather conditions. If the dinghy is on deck and the liferaft below, . . . If the loss is slow enough that you can depart with time for deliberation, then put the liferaft in the dinghy and take the dinghy.

As for the dinghy let's say there are 4 types of dinghy:
1. Hard
2. Folding
3. RIB
4. Inflatable

I've done a fair amount of research on liferaft survival and hard dinghies or rafts generally survive MUCH longer than inflatables. The only only recorded inflatable drift I know of that lasted more than 100 days was the Baileys. There are numerous stories of folks that drifted for over 100 on hard rafts or dinghies, a couple made it over 1 year. The above list would be approximately in order of durability with an inflatable liferaft being #5. If you think that triggering an EPIRB will bring rescue in 2-5days wherever you are then durability may not be as an important an attribute.

It seems to me that the above list is in reverse order of stability. That doesn't mean you can't improve the stability of a hard dinghy or folding boat. If I had a hard dinghy or folding boat I would find oversized cylinders of the foam they make pool-noodles out of, cut them in half length-wise, encase them in Sunbrella and find a way to attach them to the rails of the dinghy and voila, hard dinghy or folding boat is now essentially a RIB, but without the risk of puncturing an inflation cell. Water ballast bags for any of the above could be fabricated which would make them much more resistant to capsize in heavy seas. These ballast bags will not make a dinghy as stable as a round raft, but they will improve the situation. Pool-noodles are again an inspiration for creating a canopy that also helps right the dinghy from a capzise. Take some fiberglass tent poles to make an arch, cover with noodles, encase everything in yellow or orange Sunbrella. Ironically, I see this working better with the hard dinghy or folding boat than with the RIB or inflatable, I can't see good ways to anchor the ends of the tent poles to the tubes that doesn't also risk spearing and puncturing the them if things come loose like they will in extremis.

Lastly, what are your fears? If you really have a serious fear of the boat sinking during a severe storm then go with the life raft. Having the mother ship sink is a pretty low odds event. Having it sink in a situation where an inflatable life raft would be the only via exit is an even less likely event. If you can life with that rationale and you'd rather spend the money upgrading the dinghy, or better yet making the mother ship unsinkable then maybe you can skip the liferaft.

There are other considerations. What are the fears of the other folks aboard? Are there insurance requirements? Are you part of a group such as ARC that requires a liferaft?

If anybody want's I can compile the list of liferaft survival books I have. The best are compilations of stories or historical overviews.
I read somewhere recently, Fatty Goodlander maybe, from somebody that had worked at a secondhand marine shop. They had a bunch of liferafts that nobody was buying and needed the room for merch that was moving.
The decision was made to chuck them. Just for giggles the set them off before pitching into the dumpster. The ones stored below and kept dry were mostly in decent condition. The ones in deck, hard or soft valise, didnít fare well at all, apparently due to water damage.
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