DODGERS and DINGHIES REVISITED:
One thing I should point out about my hard dodger
, is that while describing it adnauseum on CF, I was only referring to it in concept
. I REALLY wanted mine to accentuate the lines of the boat, so opted for a cored top and front that were both french curves with VERY rounded corners and edges. This sexy shape along with the little details tripled the time required to build it!
It took over 1,000 hours to build, so I have never suggested that anyone else build one this way. It was the right thing "for me" then, because it mattered so much and I was a much younger man. It was actually just a filler project
for years, which give me a project
to shift to while some epoxy
on the hull
cured. Also... I had no idea it would be so much work, until I was committed.
A similarly light weight and well ventilated version could be built with simple arcs vs french curves, with ribs under thin ply vs foam core
, and small radii vs 6" ones. This change alone might be a small fraction of the work. It could also be flat but triple faceted on the front if you like, with the center being a clear drop down hatch
for ventilation. OR... The top might extend 4" beyond the sides and top, to avoid those time consuming radii. There are so many easier ways to get the utility of a hard dodger
in a more reasonable length of time.
I like Ross's solution a lot. It may apply more to his cooler climate, but seems to serve his purpose very well. "Goodonya mate"...
There is no one "best type"...
IF you like to row and your cruising destinations are going to mostly be in very remote
areas where you beach it on rocks and rubble regularly, and/or theft by native kids
is an issue and there is often nothing to lock it to, you might want an expendable/easily repairable homemade hard dinghy. I built a Danny Green "Two Bits" once, in just a couple of weeks!
If you build yours, I would suggest that you WEST the inside and glass the outside lightly, EXCEPT the rub rail and bottom. These areas need to be several layers thick. You would also want it light weight and well built, but cosmetically appearing rough as a cob. Paint
it REALLY sloppy with a barn brush in garish colors, and name it "Bud Tugly" or the like. You need holes in the oars too, for a long locking cable to run through.
The thing about such a dinghy, is that it super light, motors with a 2hp, and rows well... but is also very TIPPY! This makes it hard to board, and REALLY a poor choice if you spend a lot of time free diving
from it as we do.
We started out wanting a hard dinghy, and set out to solve ALL of their issues, except being cheep/expendable, and quick to build.
Some dear boatbuilder
friends had access to a Boston Whaler 9'er mold
. It was an obsolete size, so we had permission from BW to pop off a couple for ourselves. Don & Tamar made theirs first, and we built ours years later with their occasional suggestions.
It was all foam core
so about half the weight of the factory version. We had a full flotation sub floor to make it self bailing, and a bow deck in which we could hide our fuel tank
and life jackets, radio
, flares, and such. This bow deck along with the boat's stability made it easy to board from the front when swimming or diving
, and also from dinghy docks. The tough bottom was coated thick with a copper loaded gellcoat, it rowed well, and with a 9hp it motored like a rocket, easily planeing with two of us and several jugs of water
. It also just fit (upside down), in the space on deck between the cabin
side and lifelines
It was the cat's meow. Thing is, it took about 1,500 hours to build! (another several year filler job) Our first Caribbean
and Bahama cruises were with this dink, and we loved it until we came off plane and it got REALLY wet.
Later, Mariam hurt her back, and since we had to store this puppy upside down on deck, we had a deal breaker. She could no longer help me turn it over to launch or stow for sea, so we sold it for $1,000.
The best hard "motoring" dinghy option imo, is probably a relatively stable/dry "Livingston" catamaran
dinghy. My friends with the other homemade Whaler also sold theirs, and they opted for a Livingston.
WE switched to a single
floor 9'6" AB "light" RIB
. It has been 14 years now so it's covered with patches and rough as a cob, but still perfectly serviceable. We hope to get about 5 more, so a 20 year service
life is reasonable IF you learn how to repair them. Any part can be easily removed with a heat gun... None of my patches have ever failed, and it doesn't leak at all.
This 1' wider boat is far more forgiving to hull
bumps, VASTLY more stable than any hard dinghy... and really easy to board from the mothership, a dock
, OR the water
. It holds twice the payload too, at a similar speed, while being SUPER dry both on OR off plane. For our type of cruising I would never switch back to hard dinghies!
The caveats are that the initial investment is VERY high and they don't row worth a damn! So RIBs are only for folks with an OB motor in mind. We go as far as 10 miles from Delphys on snorkeling/diving or site seeing expeditions, and even 6' seas are not a problem. We would just come off plane and it would get us home more slowly, but still relatively dry at all times.
The seat and bow step we made of honeycomb core... We have canvass covers for the gas tank, anchor
, life jackets, and pouches for flares and such. KEEPING ALL THIS STUFF COVERED AND OUT OF SIGHT is how you protect it and prevent theft. So far so good for us.
For leaving the boat onshore in high theft areas... We have an un-breakable ob motor lock (unless the transom is cut out), and carry a long locking cable. Back at Delphys in these areas, we hoist it along side every night.
Like I said... The decision gets complex, but for OUR type of cruising it is hard to beat a RIB
. 99% of the cruisers out there seem to agree. Again, the uglier the better, so you might make some butt ugly dinghy chaps for it and/or keep it muddy.
Also... Never name your dink after the mother ship or you are advertising which boat out there is vacant, and re-paint the ob's cowling to some weird ugly color. It is a slight deterrent to theft of the motor.