On smaller cruising boats, the choice of dinghies is fraught with compromise. Some voyagers opt for small, rowable tenders that can be stowed upside-down on the cabin-top. Some are good rowers, but at the smaller end, they offer a leisurely pace and limited carrying capacity, and can putter along with tiny outboards if you don’t want all the fresh air and exercise.
Or you might choose an inflatable which can be rolled and stowed below. These flat-bottom inflatables row about as well as a wet sock, but with a small outboard they can move along. Though bouncy and wet in chop, they tend to be stable and can carry good-sized loads.
For a better handling inflatable that can get up on a plane with an outboard and really cover some ground, an inflatable keel and “air-floor” can still be stowed below or in a big locker with some grunting and determination. However, the high pressure floors are vulnerable to sharp things, and tricky to patch. Experienced adventurers can tell you that patching inflatables is a fact of life, so don’t discount this difficulty if your adventures will take you far.
Then there are RIBs. Their hard bottoms are shaped to go like heck with an outboard, and they row somewhat better than a flat bottom. They are fast, fun, pretty tough, and can carry big loads, but are also heavier, considerably harder to stow, and more expensive than most other choices.
The Portland Pudgy fits in the first category (a small, rigid, rowable dinghy), but with a twist. It’s a rotomolded plastic boat that’s virtually unsinkable owing to built-in flotation. The makers suggest that with it’s deployable covered top and sailing rig, it makes an advantageous alternative to a life raft. I’m most impressed with all the clever design touches, like sealed compartments that can carry survival gear and even the sailing rig. With a small outboard it appears to be able to get out of its own way, and with nice, high freeboard, it has an impressive carrying capacity and, I would guess, a reasonably dry ride. Other nice touches are a rolling wheel built into the keel to make it easier to move around, and molded-in holes suitable for mounting on a Weaver davit system (for power boaters who want to carry a dinghy conveniently on the swim step).
The exposure canopy and webbing boarding ladder that make the Pudgy into a lifeboat seem like nice features. Personally, I’m not sure I’d view this as a replacement for a high quality, self-inflating survival raft, but the idea of being able to sail instead of just drifting until rescued is certainly appealing.