The Dinghy Dilemma

I have been meaning to write this post for months and now am finally doing it…. bad Richard.

Ask anyone about an important purchase they’ve made and they will probably try and convince you to make the same choice.  In the cruising world this is all too common, the first real cruiser I have met in a while just tried to convince me that heavy displacement cruising boats are better than medium or light ones.  That a ketch with 2 masts is better than a sloop which has one mast.  Most things are compromises, especially boats.  We want cheap, fast and comfortable but usually you only get to pick one or one and half of those three.  Also the definition of those three things will be different for every person.

Dinghies, being small boats, are not immune to this phenomenon either.  The dinghy is the equivalent of a car when you are living on a boat.  Nearly everything we use the car for today we will use the dinghy for, whether it is getting groceries, water or fuel or getting to social functions, away from other people (or each other) or just going for a cruise.

Where’s the dilemma then:

Dinghy’s fall into two broad categories based on what they are made of, either they soft inflatable with a reinforced floor or not, or hard made of wood, metal, foam or fibreglass.  In addition, dinghies can plane or not, sail or not and be rowed efficiently or not.  The ideal dinghy is:

–          light enough to move up and down a beach by hand

–          fast when we want to get somewhere quickly

–          able to be sailed or rowed efficiently if that is our fancy or the outboard breaks

–          stow in a small space when we are not using it

–          be robust enough to drag on rocks or coral without major damage

–          not be so valuable that theft is certain or catastrophic financially

–          Carry everyone and their stuff to the boat in one trip

–          Can be deployed quickly for getting kedging anchor out against the wind

–          High stability (not tippy) for entry and exit

This dinghy doesn’t exist.

The choices of dinghies boil down to one of four choices in the 10-12 foot range:

1)       Hard Sailing Dinghy ($2000)

  1. Pros: Can be rowed and sailed efficiently, robust for rocks/coral, can be deployed quickly
  2. Cons: Slow, less cargo capacity, depending on design can be heavy, large for stowage

2)      Hard Planing Dinghy ($2000 boat + $2000 motor)

  1. Pros: Fast, robust, expensive, fast deployment
  2. Cons: Heavy, less cargo capacity, rowing/sailing inefficient, large for stowage

3)      Soft Bottom Inflatable ($1500 boat + $1000 motor)

  1. Pros: Cheap, easy to stow, good capacity, light weight
  2. Cons: Slow, not-robust, slow deployment, rowing/sailing inefficient,

4)      Hard Bottom Inflatable – Reinforced bottom inflatable ($2000 boat + $2000 motor)

  1. Pros: Fast, good capacity
  2. Cons: not robust, heavy, expensive, rowing/sailing inefficient, slow deployment if not on davits, large for stowage, target for theft

Like the mother ship you must choose what is most important to you, speed, stability, cost and stow ability.

Likely our solution will be to get two dinghies, one hard and one soft.  One will plane and one will sail.  Underway one will be either stowed or on the foredeck and one on davits at the back.  .

It’s a dilemma which we haven’t solved yet.

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