August 19, 2009

The dreaded dinghy decision

THE TIME HAS COME to start thinking about a new dinghy. Groan. I hate having to think about a new dinghy. It’s such an impossible task. There simply isn’t a perfect dinghy for a 27-foot sailboat, no matter how much you pay, no matter how cleverly you build.

I’ve had my old dinghy for about 14 years now. She has served three different boats and been towed in the open ocean for hundreds of miles. She is easy to row and tow and she is about as seaworthy as a dinghy can get. She has never shipped a drop of water. She has never needed an outboard motor, either. I can scull her with one oar over the stern and she’s almost perfect for setting out a second anchor when the weather turns iffy.

But ... she was very rough to begin with, a practice fiberglass shell for some boatbuilding school, probably. I don’t know her origins. She came with a 22-foot sloop I bought. She was obviously designed as a 10-foot outboard fishing skiff, but with a nice sheerline and high flared bows. She is as cranky as all hell and we have to be very careful how we get in and out. But her narrow beam contributes greatly to her seaworthiness. She is heavy, so we have dragged her over the rocks and barnacles for so many years that the wooden skeg is almost completely worn away and the thin fiberglass bottom is deeply scored.

Now she has developed a leak in the after buoyancy compartment and I have been driven nearly crazy trying to find the source. I have even epoxied the whole outer bottom surface of the buoyancy compartment, to no avail. And when her gunwale fenders started peeling off and screws started falling out of the oarlock fittings, I thought to hell with it, enough is enough. Did I mention I once T-boned her with my 25-footer when she was moored sideways across the head of our slip? The gunwales are still cracked.

So we’ll soon take her on one last trip in the islands and then put her out to pasture. Maybe a sandbox for some backyard kids somewhere. Maybe a flower planter in some landscaping project. There’s life in the old gal yet, but it won’t be as our dinghy any more.

Today’s Thought
Change doth unknit the tranquil strength of men.
—Matthew Arnold, A Question

“That short fortune-teller just escaped from prison.”
“Is that so?”
“Yeah, they’ve just issued an all-points bulletin for a small medium at large.”

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