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Old 21-01-2019, 21:18   #1
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History of dinghys and a deep think on why we like RIBs

I've had dinghys on the brain and have been trying to understand the reason so many people like RIBs.


I started with the history. During the age of sail, tenders of various sizes were used, all chiefly propelled by oars. "Two Years Before the Mast" mentions a quarter-boat, a long-boat, a gig, a launch, a jolly-boat, and a pinnace. There is little detail about the sizes or construction of these, but at one point there's mention that the crew of one of the boats was made up of a coxswain, a bowman, and four men. In adSpdition the boat would carry cargo or passengers. A later passage mentions six men in the jolly-boat. Another mentions a gig being crewed by a captain and four men. Another mentions the quarter-boat having a crew of four and carrying a passenger.


Other sources give the sizes of the Whitehall Rowboat as being 14 to 22 feet in length at the pinnacle of its development, prior to the adoption of the internal combustion engine; the related Whitehall Gig is slightly longer, up to 25 feet.


Joshua Slocum's Spray had a tender on deck positioned athwartships between the fore and aft cabins. As the Spray was 14 feet abeam and the tender all but reaching rail to rail it must have been about 12 feet long.


More modern yachts with a single raised cabin extending from the foredeck to the cockpit, and a cabin roof cluttered with rigging, dorades, and hatches, don't have space for a 12 foot tender. I gather from my reading that in the 1960s and 1970s, before the heyday of hypalon and PVC, that 8 and 10' hard dinghys were the norm, for cruising yachts.


Which isn't big enough. And that's the central problem of dinghy selection, that a large enough dinghy is just out of the question. Growing up, my family had aluminum fishing boats -- a 12' one with a 3hp outboard, a 14' one with a 5.5hp outboard, and a 16' one with an 18hp outboard. There were clear differences in seakeeping ability from one craft to the next were obvious enough to me as a child. We came home in whitecaps more than once in the 16', after being caught out in increasing winds, and while we got wet and were bounced around, it wasn't nearly the fright it would have been in either of the smaller boats.


We rowed all of them, at times, so as not to scare the fish. They had oarlocks, and we always had a good pair of oars on board as a hedge against the motor failing. The 12' and 14' were easy enough to row, despite being planing hulls intended for motorized use; the 16' was more difficult.


I think the central problem of hard dinghys is that they are all too small. I would think that, questions of storage aside, the perfect hard dinghy would be around 14' for rowing or 16' for motoring.



RIBs, I surmise, and other inflatables, were adopted by the cruising community as a means of solving the size problem, because they can carry more weight and tolerate higher seas for their length than hard dinks -- and they can be deflated for storage. So we started out, if I understand the history correctly, with 8' donut dinghys in the 1970s and have more or less moved to a 10' RIB as being tender most people choose if they have room for it, with a few people having slightly larger RIBs.


I haven't been in a RIB, but I would guess that the practical capacity and seakeeping ability of a 10' RIB is more or less the same as a 14' boat made entirely of aluminum or fiberglass or wood. The 14' boat made of, say, fiberglass, will be more durable, and require half the horsepower, and can be rowed or perhaps sailed. It will weigh about the same as the RIB.


RIBs are well-suited to volume production. They can be manufactured in low-wage countries and easily packed onto a pallet and shipped, and go through a distribution chain very much like that of a lawn mower or table saw. They are used for all kinds of reasons other than as tenders for cruising ships, and because of their short life there is a robust replacement market. That's convenient, because it means there is a ready supply of them, more or less worldwide. Need a new dink? One phone call to the dealer is all it takes.


I'm seeing nesting dinghys as a better answer. They solve the size problem in a different way -- not by packing more seakeeping ability into every foot, but by packing twice as many feet of boat onto the foredeck or cabin top. They are a niche product that has not attracted the interest of higher volume makers and distributors. A careful review of the designs of the most successful nesting dinghys shows convergence -- the Spindrift, Chameleon, and PT-11 are remarkably similar in their dimensions and lines. The differences are in ease of construction, in how reserve flotation is provided, in the rig, in the sophistication of the rudder and centerboard or lee boards, in how the halves are connected, and in fine details.


Like a one-piece hard dink, a nesting tender has clear advantages over a RIB. These become especially clear if comparisons are made based on storage space required: an 11' nesting dinghy fits in roughly the same space as a deflated 8' rib. The nesting dinghy has greater durability, half the horsepower requirement, and a hull shaped to allow effective rowing or sailing.


The problem, as I see it, is that there's no market. You can get plans or a kit, or have a builder construct one for you, bespoke, at a bespoke price and on a bespoke schedule.
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Old 21-01-2019, 22:31   #2
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Re: History of dinghys and a deep think on why we like RIBs

I think you summed it up very well.
Two things you didnít mention that make inflatables more desirable as a dinghy is that they are basically bumper boats, wonít damage the topsides of the big boat. The other thing is they are very stable making them easy to board from the larger boat.

The desire for speed drove the change from donut boats to RIBs. Back in the late sixties and seventies, the 9í Avon Redcrest with a Seagull on the bracket was probably the Cruisers choice. Then came inflatables with real transoms that could carry more horsepower and go a little faster. Then came the RIBs that went even faster but retained the bumper boat and stability that makes inflatables desirable.
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Old 21-01-2019, 22:36   #3
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Re: History of dinghys and a deep think on why we like RIBs

I think you have the makings of a book here, I'd buy it. Just bought Tides by Jonathan White and though the subject seems simple enough, the subject is fascinating, below I'll link a review. So I think a book on dinghies, origins, history, various culture uses and forms, types and recommendations would be well received.

Tides review:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/20...ew-power-ocean
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Old 21-01-2019, 22:37   #4
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Re: History of dinghys and a deep think on why we like RIBs

What about the weight savings of RIBs? Not just for sailing performance while underway, but also when beaching the dinghy? Just much easier all around. And +1 to the comment above about soft side (not just about protecting the deck but also hurt much less when you slip and bang your shin).
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Old 21-01-2019, 22:43   #5
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Re: History of dinghys and a deep think on why we like RIBs

You seem to ignore SIBs "soft inflatable boats"?

A rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) or rigid-inflatable boat (RIB) is a lightweight but high-performance and high-capacity boat constructed with a solid, shaped hull and flexible tubes at the gunwale
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Old 21-01-2019, 22:46   #6
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Re: History of dinghys and a deep think on why we like RIBs

Jammer, the problem with your analysis is stated in the early part of your treatise: "I haven't been in a RIB, but I would guess...". Guessing is a poor start to giving recommendations!

When you have actually used various types of tenders as an active cruiser, you soon will understand why they are so popular. A hint: it's because they fulfill so many of the needs of the cruising sailor. They offer speed, great carrying capacity, forgiving sea manners, forgiving stability, the ability to be towed with no risk of swamping, good manners when coming alongside and a host of other attributes. Hypalon tubed ones will give 5-10 years of service, after which the tubes can be replaced for around 1/2 the cost of a new dink. Not cheap, but not so horribly dear either. Even PVC tubes can last pretty well, especially if fitted with chaps. Our current version is 4+ years old and going strong, with no signs of failure as yet.

Nesting hard dinks do have good qualities, but IMO are not as useful as a 10-11 foot aluminium hulled RIB. They have their advocates in the fleet, and their practicality is undeniable, but superiority has yet to be demonstrated to me.

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Old 21-01-2019, 22:53   #7
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Re: History of dinghys and a deep think on why we like RIBs

Well... hard dinghies are great for rowing and you can scrape them over barnacled rocks with impunity, but if you want to haul them on deck there probably will be banging, and hopefully not on your body parts. And then there is the banging against the hull unless you generously apply fenders and tie it off to the outboard end of an outrigger... but I MIGHT suffer it all perhaps for a nice little nesting dory
Seems most folks with RIBs don't deflate them much... maybe they don't want the hassle of pumping them up. So you have the best of both worlds in some sense with a RIB: the hard hull to drag over the rocks (and sturdier support for more horsepower) and the security of plenty of flotation and ability to bump into everyone's boats without provoking (too much) harsh language.
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Old 22-01-2019, 01:41   #8
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Re: History of dinghys and a deep think on why we like RIBs

I think the advantage of RIBs is better planing than soft floor inflatables and more stable for boarding from a boat compared to most non-inflatables.

But the downside is they take up as much space as non-inflatables (the tubes are permanently attached so it really doesn't get much smaller when deflated) and don't plane as well as a dedicated planing non-inflatable. Plus they age out when the rubber gets old. A good fiberglass or aluminium boat can last decades with no care and a lot of abuse.

I don't think there is any significant rough water ability increase with a RIB over a non-inflatable.

If you have the space, I would lean towards a non-inflatable. Nesting dingy's are on option. Port-a-boat is another.

If you are willing to put up with the downsides of inflatables, tunnel hull inflatables are a nice option. They will out perform RIBs in both calm and rough water but can be broken down like non-RIB inflatables for storage in a small space. The downside is they are more weight sensitive. 2 people and a bit of gear, they are great. 4-6 adults...getting on plane can be difficult. They do row decent as they effectively have two narrow keels.
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Old 22-01-2019, 02:23   #9
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Re: History of dinghys and a deep think on why we like RIBs

I have come to similar conclusions, for slightly different reasons in part. I’m building an 11’ Nesting spindrift as a main dinghy, which will live in chocks in front of the mast where there is a space for it. I have sold my main inflatable (it was getting on) and bought a new cheap small inflatable with inflating keel and floor. It is very light, stores very small, and inflates/deflates quickly with the electric pump. It’s intended as a secondary or kids’ dinghy. The nesting one will be for taking more people, loads, rows better and can be sailed for a bit of fun. Both can be driven by an electric outboard meaning the petrol and heavy outboard are for the chop.
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Old 22-01-2019, 03:04   #10
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Re: History of dinghys and a deep think on why we like RIBs

Aside from the other features mentioned, a typical 14 Ft Aluminum Hulled boat weighs more, requires larger engine, and carries less payload than a typical 10 Ft RIB.

ie:

Lund WC-14 Aluminum
14' 6" LOA x 69" beam width
25 max HP
Standard Boat Weight 285/295 lbs
4 person capacity - 830 Lb payload.

Zodiac Cadet 310 RIB
10'2" LOA x 68" beam width
20 max HP
Boat Weight 191/201 Lbs
5 Person capacity - 1058 Lb payload.
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Old 22-01-2019, 03:50   #11
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Re: History of dinghys and a deep think on why we like RIBs

[QUOTE=HopCar;2807914]
Two things you didnít mention that make inflatables more desirable as a dinghy is that they are basically bumper boats, wonít damage the topsides of the big boat. The other thing is they are very stable making them easy to board from the larger boat.

.[/5QUOTE]

They're also excellent dive/snorkel platforms, stable enough that you can drag yourself out of the water into one.
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Old 22-01-2019, 03:56   #12
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Re: History of dinghys and a deep think on why we like RIBs

Quote:
Originally Posted by GordMay View Post
Zodiac Cadet 310 RIB
10'2" LOA x 68" beam width
20 max HP
Boat Weight 191/201 Lbs
5 Person capacity - 1058 Lb payload.
Not trying to incite a riot or be a pest, but the new Zodiac Cadet 310 RIB is lighter and will handle a 25hp motor.
In PVC = 170 Lbs
In Hypalon = 179 Lbs

Still not a featherweight, but less weight is an improvement.
Just saw old data.....
Fair Winds to y'all.
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Old 22-01-2019, 04:57   #13
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Re: History of dinghys and a deep think on why we like RIBs

Quote:
Originally Posted by GordMay View Post
Aside from the other features mentioned, a typical 14 Ft Aluminum Hulled boat weighs more, requires larger engine, and carries less payload than a typical 10 Ft RIB.

ie:

Lund WC-14 Aluminum
14' 6" LOA x 69" beam width
25 max HP
Standard Boat Weight 285/295 lbs
4 person capacity - 830 Lb payload.

Zodiac Cadet 310 RIB
10'2" LOA x 68" beam width
20 max HP
Boat Weight 191/201 Lbs
5 Person capacity - 1058 Lb payload.

While the maximum may be higher, a 14 foot aluminum boat in no way needs a 25 HP engine. They'll plane with 5.5 with a light load, and 9.9s are probably more common than any other size on them.
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Old 22-01-2019, 05:17   #14
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Re: History of dinghys and a deep think on why we like RIBs

Nesting dinghies have a lot of advantages, but one thing not mentioned is the need to assemble/disassemble them. Some people seem to find this easy to do in the water, others not so much. In any case, you've got additional work to do.


The "bumper boat" aspect, as well as the great advantage when it comes to snorkeling and diving, weigh very heavily in favor of RIBs for me.


In the end it is always going to be a matter of trade-offs, and that makes it a matter of personal preference. Which trade-offs have more value for you? So any attempt to declare one as "better" than another is always just going to be a personal opinion. Educate yourself on the pros and cons of the different kinds, and pick the one that suits you the best.
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Old 22-01-2019, 05:22   #15
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Re: History of dinghys and a deep think on why we like RIBs

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Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
Jammer, the problem with your analysis is stated in the early part of your treatise: "I haven't been in a RIB, but I would guess...". Guessing is a poor start to giving recommendations!

Yep, that's why I post and look for comments like yours.


I live in a curious place. As I've noted in other threads, anchorages, mooring fields, and dinghy docks are simply not part of the culture here. Most of the 35-45' sailboats I see don't have dinghys (or motors for them) visible at all unless they've come up from the Gulf. I believe that the ready availability of reasonably priced transient slips and free daytime courtesy dockage has much to do with this.


Some of the houseboats do have dinghys but as often as not it's a 14 foot aluminum fishing boat, which they tow rather than put in davits or on deck. If they have a RIB, it's usually a really big one with a center console.



So please indulge me and continue to point out my foolishness
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