August 20, 2009

The inside skinny on dinghies

NOW THAT I’M SEARCHING for a new dinghy, I’ve been collecting some facts. The big choice is between an inflatable and a hard dinghy.

Here are some pros and cons for inflatables:

They’re compact when you deflate them.
They’re fast even with small outboard motors.
One of their best attributes is that it’s easy for swimmers to climb (or launch themselves) aboard.
For their size, they can carry heavy loads.
Because they are just big fenders, they won’t damage your topsides.

Barnacles on the rocks will puncture them.
A screwdriver in the back pocket of your jeans will puncture them. Don’t ask.
They are mostly pretty wet and bouncy under power.
It takes time to inflate or deflate them.
They’re fairly expensive.
They don’t stand up well to everyday hard work in tropical climates.
They are very attractive to thieves.

Here are the pros and cons for hard dinghies:

They’re better sea boats.
They’re much easier to row — and even sail, if you want.
They’re more durable.
They tow better behind your boat, with less drag.
They’re better able to withstand abrasion.

They’re less stable than inflatables.
They’re heavier and bulkier.
They need more stowage space on deck or on stern davits.

On a 27-foot boat like mine, there is simply no space on deck for a hard dinghy. I don’t have a roller furling jib, so I need the foredeck space. But all the same, I am biased toward a hard dinghy, even if it means towing it everywhere on coastal trips.

L. Francis Herreshoff listed his requirements for a hard dinghy as follows:
► It should row easily, light or loaded
► It should be light enough to be hoisted aboard easily
► It should be constructed strongly to it will not leak, and take some abuse
► It should tow steadily, always holding back on its painter and never yawing around.

I’m not sure it’s possible to find a dinghy like that, especially one that will always hold back and never yaw around. But I’ll keep looking. Miracles do happen, they tell me.

Today’s Thought
For she IS such a smart little craft,
Such a neat little sweet little craft —
Such a bright little,
Slight little, Light little,
Trim little, slim little craft!
— W.S. Gilbert, Ruddigore

You’ve heard of King Arthur’s Round Table, of course. But do you know who was the roundest knight? It was Sir Cumference. And how did he acquire his size? From too much pi, naturally.

No comments: