The account of my first trip with the Porta-Bote!
I asked my wife’s cousin to join me and my brother for the maiden voyage to which he gracefully agreed, considering he has issues with water due to the simple fact of not being able to stay above it on his own.
Addition of Roman on this trip was very helpful in terms of man power since I have not mastered one man loading/unloading of the boat and my brother being in another state was not very helpful in this regard. I was also very happy to have the extra man for the company.
We loaded up around 7 pm and headed out to my brother’s house in NJ. I was understandably worried about things staying on the roof rack and decided to mount my GoPro with the Jaws Flex Clamp mount to the gunnel of the boat so that I can see how things are as we drive. I gave it one last look over and off we went.
I had my phone in the mount with GoPro video preview streaming. Everything looked good, I could see my straps, I could see my bag and the boat. We started moving… First turn.. and I hear metal hit metal and then a thumb on the pavement… “S*&# what was that?!” I ask as I pull over. To my relieve it was only my folding knife which I used to cut a safety line for the GoPro and forgot on top of the boat. We picked it up and continued on our way.
I noticed that we were getting a lot of looks as we rolled down Ocean Parkway. I immediately checked my impromptu ‘surveillance monitor’ -everything was fine. The GoPro on top of the roof rack was the attraction. We drove on.
I stopped a few times to check on the straps, but otherwise rest of driving was uneventful.
We spent the night at my brother’s house and left before 6 am for the Bashakill
The trip to the boat launch took about hour and a half. I was happy with the way things looked on top of the car. I had to slightly adjust the straps for light softness once when I stopped half way for the checkup, they were tight when we reached the destination.
It was a fine morning, we did not need any jackets as there was no wind and the sun already started warming things up over 70 F. There were more people than I expected at the launch, some were taking their aluminum boat out of the water, others just hanging around with tripod mounted optics for bird watching. As it turned out there are lots of eagle nests in the area, one of them being on Bashakill. Older gentlemen who was a member of Bashakill Area Association kept telling everyone to try and not to disturb the eagle near the nest as there was a baby in there and there is a chance for the eagle to abandon the nest if disturbed.
We went to unpack and at that point elder birdwatcher recognized the porta-bote. He asked how fast it is to ready it up so we invited him to watch with the warning that this is the maiden voyage.
I, as the most experienced porta-bote mechanic took the lead. I spread it open with the wooden spreader, pausing to figure out which end of the middle cut out should be away from the gunnel to hold. Then my brother and Roman went to put the seats in and I did the transom. The birdwatcher was happy with what he saw, so was I.
As the saying goes, nothing goes smooth the first time. When I first put the boat together on my driveway I did not care much to have all the seat feet lined up proper, here we had to. The middle seat would not budge no matter how we asked it. We ended up relocating outer feet closer inwards and that solved the problem. This cost us about 10 min and made the birdwatcher smile.
I threw a pair of oars in and pushed the boat in the water. I jumped aboard as it floated away from the shore line. The fact that no water came as I floated about made me very happy. I mounted oars and rowed around letting Roman take a few pictures with his cellphone.
Alex, my brother, was yelling at me to get back as he wanted to catch his first fish of the year and I had to paddle quickly before he got angry.
It always seems like we take too many things, but eventually got everything loaded up and with Alex at the bow and Roman at the stern I rowed away and into the narrow waterway into the ‘navigation channel’.
I should say that we fished Bashakill many times before, but never on the boat. There are few access points which are fish-able, otherwise most of the lake is covered in heavy vegetation which leaves about 40′ wide almost clear channel snaking around 2,409 acres (according to DEC).
I rowed slowly enjoying the views and letting my brother throw his spinners and poppers. It was not long before he landed his first Pickerel. It was a nice fish well over the size limit and it made him happy, I was happy that the first trip was turning out good and I kept moving us forward to more fishing holes.
Alex caught 2 more pickerels and the bight started dying out. I setup a float for Roman gave him some worms and found a nice shaded spot to drop anchor. Fish did not seem to be into worms much except for sunnies. I was enjoying the boat and the nature. There were thousands of dragonflies of different species buzzing around. They were bumping into me, landing on my pole and float, sometimes on my head or shoulder. I think it was the mating season for them.
I managed to catch one dragonfly and it went on the hook instead of the worm. My theory is simple, there are no supermarkets in the water, so fish must eat what is available and this day dragonflies were on the menu. I was correct, as soon as my line hit the water I had a large yellow perch tasting the offering. Through out the day whatever dragonfly was not careful enough ended up on our hooks and produced a fish.
There were many other people on canoes of all kinds and small aluminum boats. Both under electric and muscle power. Some were fishing but many were just out for a joy ride. We could hear a large group of people approaching on kayaks as they were talking loudly to each other, it did not seem to bother the eagle, he must have been very much used to people by then. They waved hello asked how was fishing and if it was ‘that collapsible boat’ without waiting for any answer as they passed us. We could still hear them for a while after they made the turn.
Another couple riding each in their own kayak was passing by when the guy decided to stretch his feet and got up… I did sport kayaking back when I was in middle school and I would have to be very brave to attempt standing up in one with stability floats attached like we used for novice paddlers. Sure enough half way through getting up he was swimming around. The thing he said I remember the best was “#$(*& My NEW PHONE”. His girlfriend was more experienced kayaker and it appears that she got up before so he tried to follow suite with wet consequences.
I could see that he had his PFD on so I was not very concerned with water temperature over 70 F. I asked my passengers if they wanted to go and save the poor guy, they did not seem to be very enthusiastic. I screamed if they needed help and the girl assured me that they can manage as the guy was seemingly upset about drowning his new phone. My phone was safe in the dry bag along with my keys and wallet… and I have the unsinkable boat…
The girl towed her boyfriend and his kayak to the shallows where he tried unsuccessfully to mount. I told them that they had to go around the vegetation through a short waterway (which they could not see) to the shore. Again I asked if they needed help which was again declined by the girl. They thanked us and went in the direction I gave. We later saw them at the boat launch as we were leaving.
We fished all day with a few anchor stops for lunch and relaxation. We saw many beautiful fish some of which ended up in a fish soup later on. We saw the eagle and it was magnificent. But it was time to return and we had to paddle back.
Half way I decided to let Alex row and we did the ‘switch seats dance’, the boat is very stable but we were nevertheless careful not to scare Roman. Alex did splendid job at rowing the boat, I do not think either of us done this in more than 20 years. We had to remember how to give directions to steer the boat correctly, it was lots of fun and I think both me and my brother felt much younger as we remember our times as kids vacationing by the river Zbruch where we had large wooden row boats.
At this time with my hands free from fishing and rowing I had the chance to take a short video
Back through the narrow channel and out of water. We tried to lift the boat with our belongings out and it felt very heavy at the stern, sure we forgot to take the anchor out… Once next to the car it took us all about 5 minutes to break the Porta-bote down. I tied it to the roof rack fighting back Alex’s insistence to help, tied the duffel bag with seats and oars and home we went.
We talked about future trips and what could have been done different. We all agreed that we need to buy and keep on the boat a butterfly net like the kids use, which would as we though give us endless supply of best bait… Before jumping on the highway 17 we decided to take a detour and get something to eat.
I suggested my old favorite restaurant Danny’s which is at the first traffic light across from Stewart’s Shop. Everyone agreed and we all had good food and cold draft beer.
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After a little brake we headed back. Everyone was happy tired going home from the first great trip to Upstate New York with Porta-bote.