Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dinghy Envy

When we were first looking for a boat, we wrote about the difficulty we were having selecting a dinghy.  Fortunately, Sea Gem came with an older inflatable dinghy, which we figured we could use for a couple of years while we decided on what kind of dinghy we really wanted.  Well, those two years are up, and it is time to move on.

Sea Gem's Current Tender 
The inflatable dinghy is appealing since it can be deflated, folded up, and stored in a very small space on deck. It is also extremely stable and can carry a lot of people and cargo.  After using it for a couple of years, however, we have found that it really does not meet our needs.

Because the floor is inflatable, the dinghy flexes over waves rather than cuts through them, and because it has so much wetted surface (surface in contact with the water), it needs a lot of power (heavy outboard engines) to move even slowly, and any efforts to row or paddle it are inevitably graceless and futile.  So, big outboard engines are the only means of propulsion, and we have come to detest big outboard engines.  We don't like having to carry around an extra type of fuel (Sea Gem's engines run on diesel fuel and outboards use gas), they are a hassle to lower into the dinghy, and they require more maintenance than they are worth.  We'd love to row the dinghy or use a small electric outboard, but neither method works with the inflatable, which is just too power hungry.

Our Current Dinghy's Outboard Engines
Many people use rigid-bottomed inflatables (RIBs), which provide the efficiency of a regular boat with the stability and load-carrying of an inflatable.  With envy, we watched many RIBs zipping around the keys this past weekend at a speed we can only dream of, but to reach those speeds, RIBs still require large outboards, they can't be rowed efficiently, and because the bottom is rigid, they can't be folded up and stored in a compact space.  Although we have the space on Sea Gem to store an inflated RIB, we'd rather have something that we can keep out of the way when not in use.

One feature we saw on many of the RIBs that we will definitely be adding to our next dinghy is a folding bimini top.  Because our dinghy offers no shade, we bake in the sun while going from place to place, a problem that is exacerbated by the fact that our dinghy is slow.  Watching people in RIBs zip around in the shade with smiling faces was enough for us to quickly conclude that it is time for a new dinghy.  But if not a RIB, then what?  More to come.  

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