Boating; which are the best online discussion forums for motor boats?
January 15, 2008 9:52 PM   Subscribe

I just moved onto the Puget Sound and need a small, affordable, transportable power boat and want suggestions from you about the best online boating discussion forums to ask further questions!

Hi All,

I recently moved onto Alki Beach in the Puget Sound and want to get a low maintenance easy to transport but safe boat to place on the mooring buoy included with my home. I want the smallest, SAFE, boat with high transportability factor. Not looking for a yacht. Was thinking something like a Zodiac Futura MK III HD, or a RIB, or boston whaler. Something under 20' for sure.

My ideal situation would be an inflatable such as the above Zodiac, without a rigid hull, as this would allow me to deflate and easily transport and store the thing. I don't want to deal with marinas, winterizing, boat trailers, all that junk.

Now, I don't know if a 14' inflatable is a safe vessel for the puget sound.

I want suggestions from you about the best online discussion forums where I could ask more specific questions, as to what type of boat I should look for, etc.
posted by Ligament to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
From a lifelong resident on Puget Sound I can say that a lot of what you need to know can be found at the Boat Show. From personal experience a 14 footer on the Sound is more than adequate for a couple. If you're into solo travel you might try the kayaking folks. Seattle Parks Dept. offers kayaking classes on both Greenlake and Lake Washington as an alternative to commercial lessons.
posted by ptm at 5:38 AM on January 16, 2008

The Northwest Boat Forum is pretty active and Seattle-centric.

I know you didn't ask for advice, but, I have a lot of experience running zodiacs, boston whalers and other boats in the Gulf of Georgia as well as upcoast B.C. So FWIW:

If you don't want to mess with a trailer, your only choice is a zodiac (unless you consider an older style rivetted aluminum cartopper) (not recommended). A 14 ft whaler weighs about 300 punds IIRC, and a suitable engine another 140 or so, plus fuel tanks. No way are you cartopping that. Perhaps you can find a dryland storage spot on the water with a dolly you can use? But, part of the benefit of portability is you can drive where you want to go, then get in your small boat.

So: zodiacs. The old Mark IIs are good boats and at ca. 12.5 feet long will plane for 3-4 people. You want at least a 20 hp to push them, preferably a 25. Don't overpower it though, and be very very sure to get the motor fitted to the boat -- that is, the leg length has to be perfectly aligned, sometimes by building up the transom, especially with the new four stroke outboards -- otherwise, you WILL get backwash up your exhaust when decelerating. A folded Mark II is about the size of two steamer trunks. You'd want two gas cans for that, and the outboard will weight 125 pounds minimum. Inflating a Mark II, inserting the floor boards, mounting the engine takes minumum 30 minutes. If you ahve a pickup truck, you could keep it inflated. But, One person cannot manhandle the inflated zodiac, let alone with the engine on. They make sets of retractable wheels you can put on the transom - these are cheesey, but work. But -- if you are planning on deflating after each use, be aware that it's a non-trivial task that works up a sweat, and not always what you want to do after a day running in the Puget Sound mist.

Boston whalers and their knock-offs are good boats. Get console steering if you can, sitting twisted in the stern sucks (in a zodiac too, but at least the sidewall is soft). A 14 foot whaler is going to require a 30 - 40 horse engine to run well. You'd need a trailer of course, but the engine can stay on the transom (and be bolted on for security) and you can store your gear in it.

Both zodiacs and whalers are problematic for going on the beach, but whalers more so. Zodiacs are great on sand or gravel and better for launching in wavey conditions. Whalers suck for this: heavy and brittle. Neither do rocky shores well. With the wheels, two people can run a zodiac up a beach and this enables camping. Both boats are open and prone to spray coming inboard.

Both of the above you could get set up for less than $10,000

The best small boat in my opinion is a welded aluminum skiff with a centre console. More expensive, and takes a bit larger engine. One with a small cabin even better - don't underestimate the value of getting out of the rain. As soon as you go over 30 horse, it can become much harder to have a pull start engne, and suddenly you are into batteries and starter motors and charging and electrical and so forth. Major ramping up of hassle. Also, not trailerable. You'd be looking at more like 15k I would guess.

Once you are over say 16 feet then there are many more options, but really you'll need a trailer. Having the boat mounted on a trailer -- which I know you say you don't want -- saves huge hassles and you would definitely use your boat more, and in a greater variety of places. Having any kind of cabin or enclosed space will make a huge difference in all-season running (and keepig your stuff dry as well as you) but comes at a weight/portability cost.

re: safety.

Personal safety, obviously the basics of a PFD, whistle, light, reflective hood, etc are essential. A "cruising jacket" bomber style is comfortable and warm. Wear the PFD. If you don't want to, get an inflatable one and wear that. Always use the kill cord when running solo especially with tiller steering.

Boat safety - well its not the size of the boat, its the size of your brain. Use running lights even at dusk or dawn. Put lots of good quality reflective tape on your sides and topsides and on the top of the motor -- makes a huge difference. Mount a small cylindrical radar-reflector vertically off the transom. Get a clip-on set of running lights for a zodiac, which commonly dont have them munted permanently. A hand-held chart-based GPS unit can be had for about 600 bucks -- indispensible for the fog. Carry the regulation safety kit in case you are inspected -- heaving line, flares, etc. Always have paddles. Preventative maintenance is the best safety policy -- keep water out of your gas, keep your spark plugs clean, don't run old gas, keep your fuel line clear and not-pinched, make sure your pump works, have a bailer onhand, etc. Don't break down and know where you are going and where you are, and you will be ok.

For small boats though (well any boats), the biggest safety factor is BE ALERT and know your limitations. I've run Mark II zodiacs extensively in some of the nastiest water in the world off the west coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands and they are perfectly safe boats. I'd rate them higher in bad weather than whalers, which are wet boats, until you get to about 17 feet when they have higher gunwales. The welded aluminum skiffs are the safest and most versatile of all IMHO. God luck and have fun
posted by Rumple at 8:56 AM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Dear Rumple,

This is wonderful information and thanks for your advice.

I'm open to advice from anybody else as well, but wanted to be sure to get discussion forum recommendations.

I'm happy to hear about the Mark II Zodiac information.

Primarily, I want to keep the boat moored on the mooring buoy year round if possible. I do not plan on taking the boat to other waters. If I move, I want to deflate her, and put her in a self storage place as opposed to a marina, which I'd have to do with a rigid boat.

Thanks for comparing whaler vs. zodiac. I love the whalers and have a lot of experience on a 13' Whaler sport in freshwater Michigan lakes but have no Puget Sound boating experience.

Keep the info coming! THanks!
posted by Ligament at 3:00 PM on January 16, 2008

I mefimailed you before I saw your response - won't repeat that here. Since you are thinking of a mooring buoy -- whalers will fill in the rain and you'd need an automatic bilge pump. They make little trickle solar chargers to keep the battery topped up. Whalers take covers pretty well which would keep the worst of it out. Puget Sound can get choppy but you won't get really big seas, except as wake from all the big boat traffic. If you are experienced with whalers you know about all that. The big transitions from fresh to salt water are going to include (1) the intertidal zone! If you want to go ashore you have to beach the boat on a surface which is a moving target, and may also have a lot of jaggy rocks, cobbles, barnacles and so forth which can be hard on rubber boats. So getting familiar with anchoring off a small boat from shore is well worth it. (Get a folding grapple anchor, 15 feet of chain, and 50 feet of rode, plus, 150 feet of narrow nylon braid so you can push the boat off, pull the anchor off the bow, then tie off to shore and it is safe from the tidal change - obviously you can't just nose your boat onto shore and leave it) and (2) sea water is very corrosive and you have to watch any electrical systems like a hawk, not to mention your engine wiring, intake ports, etc, and (3) reading charts such that you can quickly translate reefs and rocks into depths below current tide and not below chart datum and (4) the water is cold year round and you want to not be getting wet if you can help it.

Also, make sure you have the right to set a mooring buoy -- not sure what US Law is but in Canada you can't just do it, and have to move your boat every two weeks if on an anchor.

In case anyone else is interested in welded aluminum skiffs, this is a link to a good Canadian manufacturer.

I hope the NW boat forum is useful.
posted by Rumple at 7:50 PM on January 16, 2008

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