Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Dinghy and the Life Raft

It's finally happened. The guns have been holstered. The treaties have been signed. The dinghy wars have come to an end with no injuries and only slightly more tender feelings about tenders.

We wound up purchasing a new dinghy, a compact RIB from West Marine. It's light weight, rows decently, planes well, will be easy to get in and out of and is relatively easy to get on and off the boat without davits. Plus, the dinghy has a folding transom, making it easier to store on deck, and it's rigid bottom should protect us against most run-ins with sharp rocks or coral that would shred the average inflatable (even so, we've already been heckled by one of our dock friends who said he'd give us a patch kit as a going away present).

And it has its own handy carrying case!

We got a decent deal on the dink. The price was discounted about $200, and with the sale of our previous dinghy for $300, we wound up paying about $1,400 for the new beauty, our most expensive boat purchase by far but not bad by marine standards.

Why did we decide on this dinghy? Well, we researched and looked at each possibility, but what finally pushed us over the edge was the life raft issue. The life raft issue, you ask? The thing about life rafts is that they're expensive to purchase ($3,000 new) and, for some reason that I've yet to figure out, they're expensive to maintain (think $500 to $900 every year or two depending on the age of the raft just to inflate it and replace the flares, food and water). But on the other hand, when your boat is sinking you'd kind of like to have something to sit on that isn't sinking too.

We started looking at used life rafts, but nothing fit within our price range. Everything was either too expensive or too old, and we realized we couldn't afford the maintenance on our budget anyway. So we bought a RIB and an epirb. The epirb will tell people where we are, and the RIB will give us something to hang onto if all hell breaks loose. Our main plan is to never abandon the boat unless it is actually sinking and we can't fix it. Period.

Many people may not agree with our decision, but after looking at a range of new life rafts I feel pretty all right with it. No matter which one you're in, it's a horrendous and uncomfortable situation. Sure, a life raft would be more pleasant, relatively speaking. It's got a fancy tarp, more tubes and ballast pockets. But we can use a less fancy tarp, inner tubes, a bicycle pump and homemade ballast and still survive. Is it as nice a set up? Nope. But it'll do.

But that's enough of the worst case scenario. The new dinghy is both fun and functional and will, with any luck, serve us well.


  1. If we had the space we would so be going with a Portland Pudgy for the same reasons you mentioned. As it is, we are probably going with a PortaBote and a life raft. If we didn't have kids aboard, we'd probably skip the life raft. I hear you on the ridiculous expense of servicing a life raft. we are in the wrong business!

  2. We bought a brand new offshore life-raft for $1800 and it only has to be serviced every 5 years. It's a Revere Offshore Commander. The way I see it, if you have to abandon ship the weather will probably not be very nice and since we can't even stop our dinghy from flipping when making a simple beach landing I don't think I'd want to use it abandon ship. :-)

  3. Now that's more like it! A life raft like that is something that we'll definitely look into if we decide to cross, say, the Pacific. Until then, though, we'll have to make do with the dinghy.