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Old 06-02-2024, 13:15   #1
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alt.dinghy: A place to talk about choices beyond RIBs

It's been a while since we've covered this and it's come up in another thread.

Dinghy choice is situational; cruisers in traditional tropical cruising areas -- Florida, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific -- nearly all choose RIBs with larger outboards. Or so I'm told by reliable witnesses, at least, because those aren't my cruising grounds. Anyway RIBs and outboards are readily available for purchase in these areas, SCUBA diving from the dinghy is sometimes a goal, and longer distances are more often crossed in the dinghy for a variety of reasons specific to these areas.

But there's more to cruising and dinghy choices differ elsewhere. The PNW, Maine, the Chesapeake, and England have a history of traditional boatbuilding, and various non-inflatable dinghies made out of wood, fiberglass, or a combination are common. Great Loop cruisers benefit from the ready availability of transient slips and (in many cases) free dockage and may not carry a dinghy at all. On Rainy Lake (part of the U.S.-Canada border waters), houseboat cruising is common and the preferred dinghy is a 16' aluminum utility boat. I've never been to Australia but I understand that larger aluminum dinghies are popular there too, because they are crocodile resistant.

There are also a number of people who prefer a canoe, kayak, or SUP, possibly inflatable.

Anyway, welcome to alt.dinghy, and feel free to tell us about the (non-RIB) dinghy you've chosen, why you chose it, and how it has worked out for you.
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Old 06-02-2024, 13:47   #2
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Re: alt.dinghy: A place to talk about choices beyond RIBs

We started out with a Portabote, and it was ok for a while, especially anchoring on the ICW where there is little chop, but boy that thing was uncomfortable in the Bahamas, etc. where there is more wave action.

Things I liked about it: ran pretty fast on a 6HP outboard, lightweight, folded up and stowed against the stanchions on deck.

It doesn't have a high bow, so it tends to scoop the water up in any chop. Also not the most stable, though I was able snorkel over the side, we had to balance our weight to keep it from leaning.

I hate to say it but I'm a RIB convert now!
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Old 06-02-2024, 13:51   #3
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Re: alt.dinghy: A place to talk about choices beyond RIBs

Portabote has been my dinghy for going on two decades now. I chose it, after having a number of inflatables, due to a number of factors.

• I wanted a dinghy I could carry on deck, but my boat has limited foredeck space (cutter stay in the way), and no room for davits (even if I wanted them).

• I wanted a dinghy that rows well, motors well, and could managed a decent load.

• I wanted a dinghy that was tough.

The Portabote ticks all the boxes. I can store the Bote and the seats on deck. I can assemble/disassemble on deck in a few minutes. I can haul it up on deck manually (no lifting gear required). It rows well, and moves quickly with only a small outboard (3.5hp). And it's damn near indestructible.

Of course, there are negatives... but you didn't ask about those .
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Old 06-02-2024, 13:58   #4
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Re: alt.dinghy: A place to talk about choices beyond RIBs

We carry a late 60s build 12 foot Starcraft aluminum utility skiff. It works well as a dinghy, but it's not quite ideal.

For the upsides, it was cheap (under $500 plus some fenders, a fresh coat of paint, and a few other things). It's fairly easily driven, so performance is acceptable with a 6 HP outboard. It's also very durable, doesn't look expensive to others, and it looks better than a RIB hanging in the davits. Stability is good enough and I've never gotten more than a small amount of spray on me while running it. Unlike some RIBs, it has bench seats to sit on, no sitting sideways on the tubes.

For the downsides, weight capacity is a bit low (only about 500 lbs after accounting for the outboard, fuel, oars, anchor, etc.). The ride is also kidney-busting running upwind in a chop when lightly loaded unless you slow down to 5 kts or less. Once it's up on plane, it's just brutal slamming on every wave. Add a second person and the ride improves dramatically, as it doesn't plane quite as high in the water and has more weight forward, so the waves impact further forward on the hull. It has a fine enough bow for an acceptable ride, but that flattens out to a slight U shape for the bottom with minimal deadrise as you move aft. So the further back the waves hit, the harder the impacts.

See the picture below for the assembled setup:
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Old 06-02-2024, 14:01   #5
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Re: alt.dinghy: A place to talk about choices beyond RIBs

Our first dinghy was a banana-boot, a German product quite similar to the Portabote. Stows easily on deck, is durable, and rows quite decently. But the model we have is really a one-person dinghy. Very awkward with two on board. But that’s ok, in the Baltic you usually anchor with bow to land, and hence rarely need a dinghy.




Now, there are bigger banana-boot models available, and they can be adapted for use with an outboard or even a sailing rig. But we wanted something more capable as we’re about to head west.

And so, we’ve been building a Spindrift nesting dinghy for the past month. We’ve gone from a pile of plywood to something that looks very much like a boat (build log is in the B&B builders’ forum):



The current weather system should pass by Thursday, and so we’ll get to start the sea trials. And to finally see how the dinghy really fits on our foredeck.
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Old 06-02-2024, 14:05   #6
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Re: alt.dinghy: A place to talk about choices beyond RIBs

I love a good wooden rowing boat, but have yet to find one with good enough stability for getting in/out of the boat at the stern or the beach.

In practice for us the inflatable rib is hard to beat for running the surf and the longer distances encountered when out in the wild. We cruise with a 50 lb dog, which adds another level to the stability challenge.
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Old 06-02-2024, 14:30   #7
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Re: alt.dinghy: A place to talk about choices beyond RIBs

When my son was born in South Carolina a friend built us a 10-foot plywood over cypress framed skiff that is now over 30 years old. It has been to the Bahamas and back and up and down the East Coast, towed most of the way but sometimes on deck when offshore on our previous cat. Now doing mostly cruising in New England we tow it in any weather we care to be out in on the big boat. Current engine is a 4HP Yamaha 4-stroke, which pushes it right along with up to four people onboard. The beauty of a hard dink is it can be rowed as well, and ours rows nicely, particularly when you are by yourself. In my experience the average inflatable lasts 5 years or less, though some get up to 10 years with patches and care. A hard dink can last forever. I can plane it with the 4HP when alone and with two people using our previous 8HP 2-stroke, but we usually proceed at a dignified displacement speed. No, it is not good for diving off of, but that is not something we do. You don't worry about your hard dink at a dock or on the beach, and it is possible to lock her up pretty securely if we travel somewhere that is a problem. I've just left her upside down over many winters, and with a fresh coat of paint she is ready to go in the spring.
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Old 06-02-2024, 15:49   #8
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Re: alt.dinghy: A place to talk about choices beyond RIBs

I built myself a little plywood pram last year ... stows on the foredeck, rows nicely, gets me where I need to go.
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Old 06-02-2024, 16:25   #9
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Re: alt.dinghy: A place to talk about choices beyond RIBs

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kettlewell View Post
a friend built us a 10-foot plywood over cypress framed skiff that is now over 30 years old.
Love that boat. Plywood on cypress, beautiful.

The spindrift by B&B yachts is also a good boat. I built one 20 years ago.
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Old 06-02-2024, 16:54   #10
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Re: alt.dinghy: A place to talk about choices beyond RIBs

My first ever dink (dink #1) was a plywood pram, constructed out of a piece of 4x8" plywood.
This is me building it. Plans for it came with the plans for my Roberts 38.

Two people could fit in it, if they watched their balance and didn't make any sudden moves. At a later date I added a small sail rig to it.

It was pitiful small and not of much value, but it was my first dink. It lasted about a year.

Dink #2 was a 9' fiberglass job. It was tough to climb in and out from the water, but I managed. It too could be powered by sail. Lashing it on deck was a PITA. It too lasted about a year.

But I yearned for a RIB, which became dink # 3.

I had to dredge these pics out of the archives, so excuse the fuzziness.
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Old 06-02-2024, 17:56   #11
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Re: alt.dinghy: A place to talk about choices beyond RIBs

Have a Unicat. Original design is 2.4m I increased every dimension by 15%
Designer now is selling plans for a similar size. I use with a 6hp 4 stroke 20" shaft which doubles as occasional port side engine on my cat.

Extremely stable
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Old 06-02-2024, 19:08   #12
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Re: alt.dinghy: A place to talk about choices beyond RIBs

Like Mike Oreily above we use a Porta-Boat. Our use case is similar to his in that cruising ground and we both have 10'ers.

For our Caribbean boat we have a 12' model. It is funny how much I would like to contradict another user. We find it easy to get in and out compared to ribs. It never leaks air, is tough as nails, etc.

I believe using a PB as a cruising dink is going to disappear. New owners have taken the company and due to some rules they are limiting the PB to very small engines. The PB can carry a larger engine, we now have a 9.8hp 2 stroke on a 12' boat. We put a lot of miles on our dink. But engine weight rules, limit them to something like a 3hp 4 stroke. So they now sell the boat boat with a folding transom which pretty much regulates it lakes and enclosed waters.

I have over come this by building my own transom. Never say die.

They are not a great rowing dink but a lot better than a rib. That was real handy last month when my OB died and I had to row everywhere for a while.
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Old 06-02-2024, 19:21   #13
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Re: alt.dinghy: A place to talk about choices beyond RIBs

I just checked the Portabote website. Looks like they spec 56 lbs as max engine weight for the 10 and 12 foot models. That'll get you a 6hp 4 stroke, but nothing bigger.
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Old 06-02-2024, 20:58   #14
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Re: alt.dinghy: A place to talk about choices beyond RIBs

My 3.5hp will easily plane our 10' Portabote with one (fat) person in it, and gear. In calm conditions, it will plane with two. Even down in the water, the hull shape allows for efficient and quick travel. It's more than fast enough for me, and with a 6hp, it would fly.

I should say, I still have the older Portabote version. Hpeer has experience with their new, folding-transom model. Mine is the old solid transom. I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to replace the folding transom with a fixed version.

As for stability, they are very stable, but for those unaccustomed to canoes or kayaks, they may feel tippy. You can't stand on the gunwales like you can with an inflatable, and they do flex, but once you get used to it, they work great.
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Old 07-02-2024, 03:28   #15
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Re: alt.dinghy: A place to talk about choices beyond RIBs

My 12’ alpha came with a plackard that said something like 2-1/2 HP.

I think people freak about the wobbly bottom, does not feel right. You can not stand in the gunnel for sure. But too frequently you can’t stand well on a rib because the sides are soft AND you must stand on the wide rib to get out. Whereas the PB comes right up to the dock or side so it is a simple vertical movement.
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