Originally Posted by MartinR
Depends on the dinghy. In my opinion in warm waters the dinghy is a viable option. In cold waters not so.
Once upon a time there were the Tinker Tramp and Traveller, which were convertible to a life raft. Tests showed they were less likely to capsize
than real rafts. Raft design has moved on since then, though.
I was actually in charge of video-ing the tests, which pitted a Tinker against a modern Switlik liferaft
. It was conducted in a gale in the 'Potato Patch" area, outside of San Francisco
Bay and was sponsored by West Marine
and Tinker. Chuck Hawley, who participates on this forum, was one of the testers.
The Tinker was improperly set-up, so inflation, normally quick, was a chore. But, after set-up was completed, several interesting things were demonstrated:
The Switlik capsized easily and frequently, despite all of its balast pockets. Entering it, whilst inverted, was challenging and righting it was even more so. Exhausting, in fact.
The Tinker's liferaft
rig utilizes an inflated cover, sort of like an air mattress over a covered wagon. The idea is to attach it, uninflated, before serious offshore
work. This had not been done, which caused problems, but when it finally was installed and then inflated, the rounded cover, in conjunction with the drogue
, PREVENTED capsize! With much effort, the testers were able to invert it by maybe 130 degrees, but simply shifting weight, without ever getting out of the Tinker, righted it. In fact, this process drained it of water. It was much less daunting that the Switlik. At the end of the test, still in rough weather, the two testers raised the mast
, and sailed back under the Golden Gate Bridge, where they met the mother ship and the rest of the observers (we had a party of 10-12 onboard) at the marina. It's worth noting that conditions were sufficiently rough for all but two persons to have become sea-sick, and all were boaters, quite a few from the industry.
The next day, I bought a Tinker and sold
life-raft. The Tinker was already well used and eventually died, after much excellent service
as my boat's tender
. Fortunately, I bought another, which I still have. It's not a bad sailor as it has a centerboard
The Tinker was truly great at its multipurposes. It's a great shame they have gone out of fashion and are no longer built. The principle was so simple: You used it as a dinghy every day, so were intimately familiar with it; it did not require testing as the gas bottles could be filled by anyone with CO2, including a restaurant; the actual stories of people who had to use a Tinker as a liferaft would end with something like, " and then, five days later, I reached Portugal
, under sail", rather than "a ship appeared 30 days later". This was in the days before the modern 406 EPIRB's.
The Tinker was by no means cheap
. It was almost the most expensive inflatable
dinghy, of its size. But it was cheaper than a regular inflatable plus a liferaft, effective, took less space, and was way more practical. It planed with a 4 Hp engine
Sad that they are no longer an option. But don't think, for a minute, that they were not as safe as a liferaft. As Tinker would say, they were lifeboats, not liferafts. Ships can have lifeboats. Only space and weight challenged aircraft needed rafts. In fact, WWII planes were what inflatable liferafts were originally built for. And, the Tinker was fun to sail. In the UK, there used to be one design fleets!