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Old 09-10-2005, 10:02   #1
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dinghy question

There never seems to be an end to questions that pop up concerning sailboats and cruising! Sometimes they may appear (at first glance) to be a small matter until given further thought. Such is the case of deciding how I will be getting ashore (safely) to resupply when on the hook.

Doing a search on the Internet provided some good information. The first question to ask ones self is: should I buy an inflatable or a hard bodied dinghy? I hate going against the grain of opinion but the inflatables are more popular than a hard shell...why is that I wondered... the only reason I was able to determine was speed. Some may say they are more compact and more easily stored but such is not the case with a hard floor type and I have to question the stability of the soft floored ones.

So I'm looking at a 8' nutshell pram.

Pros: longevity
rows easily
requires a very small motor
can take a chop ( Can it????)

Cons: slow-slow-slow (Should I really care?----I'll be retired!)

What do others use as a dinghy and why do you use it? Any thoughts about the nutshell pram or other dinghy types?

I forgot to mention, in my case, the dinghy will only need to carry one person and some supplies.

I hope this question is suitable to this forum. I value the opinions of people on this board and since it does have to do with cruising,,,I'd thought I would ask.


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Old 09-10-2005, 10:14   #2
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IMHO most cruiser simply wish for the most stable dinghy they can find which does not need to be towed on a passage.
The HP floor inflatables appear to be the best all round dinghies which fit this criteria and that may why we all see so many.
Personally - if we were to fit Davits we probably change from a 6HP with HP floor over to a rigid GRP bottom. This would give us fast speeds, beter ride, and greater fuel economy ..........................

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Old 09-10-2005, 10:54   #3
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Scott k,

It really depends on your cruising grounds. Here on Lake Ontario a little Walker Bay or whatever hard dink will usually do because all you really use it for is to row over to your friend's boat for happy hour. You seldom use it to lug water, fuel, groceries, beer etc.

If you start cruising down south you'll want the biggest, most stable dink you can get for your size of boat. Most cruisers now have 10' -11' RIB's with a 15 hp outboard. I have seen cruisers in little hard dinks with 2 hp motors but they are the exception (and usually European). They're also getting flotation collars around them now. Your dink is your workhorse (all that lugging, occasionally towing yourself or others in , helping when you run aground) and your vehicle for fun, going fishing, exploring islands and reefs etc.. Sometimes you spend all day in the dink, going through creeks to the ocean side of islands, going to a small restaurant ten miles from the anchorage, or running up creeks in Georgia looking for shrimp boats to buy fresh shrimp. As you can see this would be difficult in a nutshell. It's more than just speed, try loading a couple of jerry jugs, your spouse, maybe your dog and a whole pile of groceries and running 5 miles back to the boat while trying to keep the groceries or newly laundered clothes dry.

As I said it depends on where you cruise. If you're on you own and are usually in smooth waters, close to civilization, you'll be fine in the nutshell.
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Old 09-10-2005, 11:12   #4
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really depends on use. we just bought an old dyer on the cheap to fix up instead of inflatable. dyer will hold less weight and would not be as stable in rough water. can't handle more than 2 h.p. but for local coastal use with 2 people and better to row, easy to drag, easy in davits, it will work well for us. if we buy a bigger boat to cruise longer distances and need to depend on dink in more situations, such as setting 2nd anchor or running in from mooring, we will buy inflatable.
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Old 09-10-2005, 11:19   #5
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Building Your Own?

Dear Scott k,

Have you ever thought about building your own dinghy?

I am posting a weblink that has numerous models and designs. Mostly hard shell typed dinghies. All you have to do is browse around. If you see what you like. Then go for it. If not, well freedom of choice!!


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Old 09-10-2005, 12:00   #6
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Rick I

Hadn't really thought about the exploring aspect with a dink---good point.

Mainly I was concerned with weight and ease of operation and since I will be single -handed, I would rather lift a 2 HP motor out of the dink than a 15 hp one. But I can see where being able to travel 5,10 or more miles with ease could be a large assest.


Is that to say that RIB's tow better than hard dinks? Also I've read where a dink should not be on davits in a large following sea but rather securely lashed on deck or stowed below. So, ok ...most of the time there's no high winds or large swells or large following sea but when things do turn bad.........??? I can see the conveinience of davits but does it work well for someone who is without crew and must do everything himself? I can envision a scenerio where a squal suddenly pops up and here I am by myself trying to reduce sail, watching the helm and wrestling with a 70-80 LB dink.

Not having any sailing experience, maybe I'm way over- cautious and out of touch with reality....but that's why I ask questions.... so that I may learn.

I greatly appreciate your comments!

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Old 09-10-2005, 13:13   #7
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If you have to carry your outboard, then the Tohatsu 3.5 is the best option - twice as much power as the 2hp and a neutral gear for practically the same weight as the 2 hp.

If you have to anchor a distance from the shore, or if using it in an exposed area, then a rib with a larger engine or at least a inflatable keel and high pressure inflatable floor system is essential plus a somewhat larger engine to allow planing speeds, you will then need to install a davit to lift the engine back onboard.

I have a Zodiac 2.6m Fast Roller (high pressure floor and inflatable keel) which is also a nice dinghy to row!
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Old 09-10-2005, 14:25   #8
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Re: Building Your Own?

Have you ever thought about building your own dinghy?


CaptianK [/B]

Yes, it did cross my mind and building your own dink looks like fun. I was looking at another web site: , boatplans-online and they have a great forum were you can get excellent help from fellow builders and from the company that sells the plans. Unfortunately, I have very little time and no where to build it. It would be very economical though....less than $400 to build a 8' pram.

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Old 09-10-2005, 15:42   #9
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From bitter experience...

From bitter experience I can tell you that an 8' pram is not stable (particularly with inexperienced crew, family or guests) and will not handle a swell next to the yacht.
The dinghy referred to in my post on"Ex wife in and out of dinghy" at
was a 7'3" pram by a well respected designer.
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Old 09-10-2005, 16:26   #10
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Since it is very important for me to have a stable platform, I will re-think the issue over. I was (until I started this thread) convinced I wanted a hardshell dink. After reading your advice and experiences, I think I'll be looking for an inflatible.

Thanks all!

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Old 09-10-2005, 16:26   #11
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Dinghy, the final answer.

I recently purchased a Bombard Max 3.
For me these are the critical issues.
When underway, sailing or motoring, can you pull the dinghy on board by yourself.
Can you pump up the dinghy on the fordeck.
Can you take the air out and put it back in bag on the foredeck.
It does not matter so much which one is faster with an 8hp motor or which one rows the best. You have got to be able to get it on board and stow it out of the way when the weather gets nasty.
Rubber duckies do not bash the hull as much as a solid boat. R Ds are easier to get in and out of. R Ds are easier to take home in the car. R Ds are easier to sit in and scrub the bottom of the mother ship.
I sold my Zodiac with the wood floor that towed better and motored better. It was a better power boat, but I could not bring it on board without a great deal of effort, and I could not assemble it on the foredeck. In nasty weather I could not get it on board at all.
It was a better fishing boat. Dinghys are a compromise just like the mother ship.
Make a list of the important factors, and please do not leave out getting it on board when the weather is nasty.
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Old 09-10-2005, 17:02   #12
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Hey Scott,

Like everyone has said, when it comes to boats everything is a compromise. Inflatableís are hard to row and don't sail well, but carry a larger load, can be stowed below decks and can utilize a larger outboard. Rigid dinks row very well (usually) sail very well (usually) and you don't have to worry about them going flat.

If you are interested in building one, look at Binghams Trinka plans are available, do a Google search to find them. If you're interested in just buying one, check out the Fatty Knees, they are highly recommended by some, but I have no personal experience with them.

As for me, I generally carry both. I have kids with me and they like to play, sail and row the dink and it gives them more of a sense of independence. The inflatable will hold the whole crew and is faster to get to shore.

As for davits I would never use them, particularly at sea. If stern mounted you are very much at risk if you catch a following sea. I've always used a whisker pole to worry my dink off the deck and into the water, this works well for me. If I'm making a short trip I tow the dink, but never off shore. That's just me however.


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Old 09-10-2005, 17:56   #13

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2nd that...

I 2nd what TJ says about davits offshore. We learned the hard way one day in modest 8-10ft seas following. The dinghy took a couple of hard hits and I had to adjust my sailing techniques to keep it higher up out of the waves.

We are using a 10' Achilles rubber tender with aluminum floor. It has a 9.9hp engine, which is not much heavier than my Tohatsu 5hp. It can carry a huge amount of stuff with ease, can plane with 4 people, and folds up into the size of a large suitcase.

After looking at RIBs (and how tough they are to stow on a sailboat), as well as soft bottom tenders, I thought this was a nice compromise. It has a lot of rigidity when running, but can stow nicely if you have to. Also, the aluminum floor keeps you from accidentally puncturing it when you are using it as a workhorse.

I don't have a single complaint about this particular tender. In fact... it's one of my favorite aspects of our boat. After owning 2 hard shell tenders, this one is such a treat.

The hard shell tenders also are quite annoying in a rolly anchorage, or the right conditions if you have it tied up astern. It whacks into your stern, chipping it, and making marks everywhere. Even if you let out a lot of line, it ends up finding its way back to your stern and smacking against it half the time.
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Old 09-10-2005, 18:05   #14
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As others have said, it depends on your use. Probably best to have both kinds on board. For one thing, with only one dinghy, the person without the dinghy is stuck. Two dinghies mean you can come and go as you please without worrying about stranding your partner. In different conditions and locations each type comes into their own.

A dinghy with less than 5hp will get you anywhere you want to go, within reason. Even a 2hp dinghy will get you most places the RIB jerks go only a minute or two later.

Rigid dinghys can be sailed throughout the anchorage and are easily rowed. They don't disturb the neighbors when being rowed or sailed. They will also get you long distances without the hassle of an engine or expending much energy if you have sails. They don't hold as much for their stored volume but will hold plenty to restock a boat and carry a 2 person crew. They can be expensive especially when someone steals them but that is also a problem with an inflatable. You can buy inflatable training wheels for your rigid dinghy that make them a poor man's rib. Check out Gig Harbor Boatworks options list for an example. Boat can still be sailed and/or rowed without much additional drag. They are virtually untippable with the tubes. I'm thinking about using one of these as a liferaft. I don't want to have to rely on the CG finding me as I drift helplessly around the ocean in a life raft.

Inflatable dinghies are more stable but also more prone to wear. When cruising, you have to be religious about washing out any sand that comes aboard. The sand rubs against the tubes where they meet the floor and cause pinhole leaks in short order. Inflatables are permanent rub strakes so don't have noise or rub problems when tied along side. You can store even a 6 passenger inflatable in arelatively small area. Contrary to popular opinion, inflatables can be rowed even in heavy wind conditions, without floor boards, btdt for a year and a half. You have to be careful with inflatables in direct sunlight cause they can explode if over inflated when cold.

One problem with inflatables is not the boats themselves but the Yahoo's that drive them. I get really pissed when the assholes at the anchorage insist on cruising all over the place at 15-20 mph in their Ribs. They disturb the tranquility of the anchorage, are dangerous to swimmers, swamp other dinghies and can produce a wake that may cause me to spill drinks or dump food on the deck. These are usually the same jerks who insist on going through anchorages at max wake speed in their power boats but not always.

Anyway, I'd go with whatever kind works for you and probably both. Just be sure any dinghy can be rowed or propelled without a motor. The motor WILL quit on you, it's just a matter of when.

One last thing against a motor. When cruising, you may have to land on a beach with surf running. We witnessed more than one oatboard get totally dunked and put out of commission when an inopportune wave swamped their inflatable dinghy. The largish motors weighing down the stern made for great entertainment watching people try and launch or land the dinghies. Hey, when your cruising you have to find your entertainment where you can.

Peter O.
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Old 10-10-2005, 08:30   #15
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Davits and coastal cruising

When I first started cruising I had a 11' Achilles with a wood floor and a 8hp Nissan. I towed that thing to the Bahamas and back twice, no problems whatsoever. The Nissan was fairly light and I'd pass it up to my wife and we'd mount it on the back rail. On the third trip southbound the weather was NE20 decreasing. Beautiful for the stretch from NY to Cape May. Unfortunately a depression developed off Hatteras and the NE just increased and increased. My wife woke me up at midnight or so saying that the boat had slowed right down. The dinghy had flipped. Try as I might I could not fix this situation. I hauled it right up to the transom and tried to puncture it but couldn't reach. Nearly lost my fingers when when the painter came crashing down on the transom. One second the dink would be way above us, the next it would be way below, hanging on the painter. Afraid that the jerking on the 1/2 inch painter would tear a cleat out leaving a hole in the port quarter I finally cut the painter and set the dink adrift. I always joke that it ended up in Greenland. This was an expensive lesson about towing dinks!

I then bought a 9' Calypso (now called Apex, after Cousteau sued them). It would fit upside down on the foredeck without restricting access to the anchor locker. Had that for five years but it was a bit small and the Nissan was acting up so I got a 10'3" Brig RIB and a 15hp Yamaha. Of course I now needed davits too. I got a set from Ocean Marine (a plug for them, finest davits I've seen and very good support in the installation process). I carried the dink with motor mounted (about three hundred pounds) for a few years without incident. The longest trips being two or three days. The secret seems to be to ratchet the dink in tight so that there is absolutely no movement either up and down or sideways.

On the new boat I have an arch and hang a 10'6" AB RIB off it with a 15hp Yamaha. This seems ideal for coastal cruising. Again you have to rachet the dink in tight. Having davits or an arch is ideal in anchorages where you have to watch your dink. We haul it up every night then. Last year there were a few dink thefts in Miami. The guys that were doing it would scuba up to a boat, cut the painter, tow the boat to the "mother ship" and take off. One cruiser saw a dink "drifting" upwind and got curious and the guys on the mother ship threatened him with a gun.

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