Next to the engines and a strong sturdy seaworthy hull, the dinghy is one of the most important pieces of equipment on a cruiser. It is significant to the owners convenience, comfort and safety. If the boat is our home, the dinghy is our family car. It takes us to shopping, to recreation to entertainment and on Sunday rides in the country. It does NOT take us to work!!!!
Dinghy's or Tenders, or "Dinks", as they are sometimes called, come in various shapes and sizes. There are two common elements to dinghy's though. First, there is a pointy end (bow) and a flat end (stern), just like the big boat. Second, they are all convertibles with the top always down. After that they are different. For example Rickshaw's dink is bigger and Gypsies dink is, well, small. The size of Tide Hiker's dink is about average at 11 ft. They all hold about 4 passengers, but the bigger ones hold them with more comfort. Like cars, dinghy come with options (accessories) not included. For example, SEATS!. Yes, seats are an option. Without seats you must sit sidesaddle on the pontoon and get a wet bum. Gypsies don't have seats. You've seen pictures of them on our blog getting into their dinghy all decked out in their wet weather gear ala the space astronauts getting ready for an EVA.
Other options include a center console with all the steering and throttle and shifter controls. Without the console the driver sits on the pontoon and controls the motor with a "tiller". Another popular accessory is the Tilt and Trim. This allows the driver to raise the engine in shallower water so the prop does not hit the bottom and the cool water intake does not get clogged. Rickshaw has one of these. But, as you read in an earlier blog, it must be activated to avoid the great "sand-sucking" sound. More options include self balers, a myriad of electronics, Bimini tops (sun shades) and on and on.
Our dink is a simple Avon RIB. Avon is the name of the manufacturer and RIB means Rigid Inflatable Boat. It's rigid because it has a fiberglass hull. It is inflatable because it has tubes of air (pontoons) glued to the fiberglass bottom that make up the sides and front. And it is a boat because..well, you know--it floats. Our only luxury is a center console and seats. We like those.
Some dinghies are all inflatable. They have a soft bottom. They are lighter of course, have less support and a bouncier ride. Some of the soft bottom boats have hard floor boards that can be installed to give them more stability inside. Some dinghies are all fiberglass. They are much heavier. The RIB has become the most common, I believe, because it provides a combination of hard hull for a nice ride and soft sides for lighter weight. Although all are very nice and important to have and to maintain.
Dinks are carried on the big boat or towed behind the big boat. We carry ours in our garage--a cradle on the boat deck about 15 feet above the water. Dinks that are carried on a boat deck require a davit (small crane) to lift them out of the water and into the cradle and visa verse. The crane also comes in various sizes and must be selected to accommodate the weight and size of the dink. For example our davit is a simple one. It is of fixed length but turns 360 degrees to move the dinghy off the deck and over the water to raise or lower. September Song's davit is state of the art. It spins 360 degrees and also telescopes to accommodate many different size dinghies.
We know one boater who needed a new dinghy and bought a state of the art RIB with a new state of the art engine (heavy), only to find out that their current davit (still in great working order) could not support the added weight. Yep, a new davit was installed soon thereafter at significant expense. However, like September Song, they now have one of the best systems on a cruising boat and we have dinghy/davit envy.
There's more. The dink has to be propelled through the water. So, it's muscle power or mechanical power. If it's muscle-powered someone has to row the boat. A mechanically-powered boat has, of course, a motor. Like the davit, the motor has to be matched with the dinghy. Dinks are rated for the size motor they can handle. Additionally, some dinks use an outboard motor and some can accommodate a small inboard motor. Tide Hopper uses an outboard motor.
We also have outboard motor envy. We have a 10-year old 2-stroke engine that smokes and coughs and is loud. It being a 2-stroke type, we must mix oil and gas together and put that mixture in the tank. Almost all of our cruising companions have new state of the art 4-stroke engines--even the Gypsies! A 4-stroke engine is like a car engine and does not require an oil/gas mixture--just the gas. So, operators don't have to fuss with the mess and smell of mixing oil and gas. They are also quieter, but they are heavier.
Our dinghy and motor are both 10 years old. They came with the boat. You could say we have a used car. And, like a lot of other things on this boat the motor had to be significantly overhauled to make it run right. But since then, it has been doing just fine. Some purists--mostly sail boaters--will not own a motor and insist on rowing their dinghy. Not us since we tend to go on long Sunday rides in the country.
So, our used family car, while not state of the art is quite functional and has accommodated our transportation needs. If we did not just jinx it, we hope to avoid the significant expense of replacing it for a long time. If we did, we are going to look for an economic recovery act incentive to replace it. Happy motoring!!
Important: Names and events in this blog entry are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. Are you still awake?