Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Dinghy Wars

Here's a random dinghy on the docks. 

It must have been Valentine's Day because Vlad and I discussed the dinghy without resorting to fisticuffs. We don't fight very often and certainly not over something as seemingly insignificant as a mode of transportation, but the topic of the dinghy can get us both worked up and huffy. Ok, I'll admit, I do most of the huffing. So I got to thinking, "Why is this whole dinghy question so contentious?"

When you consider it, a dinghy on a 36-foot boat is a necessary evil - necessary because you have to have it to get to shore or get supplies or do any type of exploration and evil because there's nowhere to put the dang thing. You can hang it off the stern on davits, but those are expensive and can be problematic for ocean crossings because the dinghy can bang into the boat or get swamped. You can store it on deck, but then you have less space to maneuver. Plus, it obstructs your view and you have to haul it up and down every time you want to use it. The third option is an inflatable dinghy that you can roll up and store while underway, which is appealing to me except for the fact that the dinghy's floor can get ripped out by coral and they are difficult to row.

And when there are no good answers, you get a contentious question along with some amusingly pointless fights. So far, here are our three choices in the dinghy department, keeping in mind that we've already decided to stow it on deck.

1). We keep the dinghy that we have. It's a rigid, plastic dinghy that rows well and planes easily with a small motor. We got it for a steal of a deal, which is fantastic for our tiny budget. However, I'm not sure how it reacts in bigger seas or if we can easily get back into it if, say, we find ourselves staring into the eyes of a bull shark. Additionally, we'd have to stow it on deck beneath the boom, making it impossible to see much of anything and difficult to move around it.

2.) We purchase a rigid inflatable boat (RIB), a dinghy that has a fiberglass bottom and inflatable tubes, from West Marine. They have several options, and some even roll up part way, which is great for storage. I believe they handle waves better than our rigid dinghy due to the inflatable tubes, and I can get in them easily if running from said bull shark. Unfortunately, a RIB would cost us an extra $1,200 after the sale of our other dinghy. They don't row as well, and due to their nature as inflatables they can develop holes through either puncture or sun damage.

3). We buy a  Porta-Bote. These dinghies look like origami. You unfold them on deck, and, voila, a perfect 10-foot dinghy that planes easily, takes up very little space, is light weight and won't get a hole in it. From what I've read, they last a long time and are a nice ride. Unfortunately, there's also the cost factor (also, around $1,200), and I think you have to use a ladder to get into it from the water.

Has anyone else encountered this dinghy dilemma? If so, what solutions did you come up with? I'm really ready to declare an end to the dinghy wars.


  1. We ordered the 10' porta-bote. It is to be delivered tomorrow so you can bet we'll be delivering some feedback on it soon. As a side note, if you request a quote from their sales people you'll likely do better than the 1200 dollar price. Once the water warms up enough to jump in we'll also tell you if you can get in without a ladder or not.


    1. Thanks for the tip, Tate! I think we're going to check out a used porta-bote this afternoon, and I can't wait to see what you guys think about it.

  2. All I can think of is that scene in Tommy Boy where Chris Farley yells "QUIT PLAYING WITH YOUR DINGHY!"

  3. If you are still having the war, it means the solution has yet to be found. How about thinking outside the usual box? How about making your own folding boat? I did a basic search on 'make a folding dinghy' and came up with lots of possibilities. http://www.woodenwidget.com/ You could build one for much less than 1200$. Mike built our dinghy, Puddler, and we love it.

  4. We have a hard dinghy (8' Sabot-style Davidson) - We love it. (Then again we row.) We have adapted it to take a "walker bay" inflatable ring for when we go snorkeling etc, to ease getting in and out of it... It fits between the cabin and the windlass at the bow (without the inflatable ring).

  5. Hey, check out the new issue of Good Old Boat. There is an article in it about building your own folding dinghy.

  6. Thanks for all the suggestions, guys! I think we've figured it out, but it took some visits to West Marine, the boaters' resale shop and a life raft store before we finally came to a decision. Once we actually get the new dinghy, I'll post what we got and why. Unless, of course, we change our mind again!