It’s a story you never like to hear: the inflatable’s oars had recently been stolen, so there were none aboard. When the outboard motor died outside a St. Thomas harbor they simply drifted away downwind, with no food or water. A couple of days later they were spotted and rescued off Culebra, sunburned, dehydrated and lucky to be alive. Of course, if only they had locked the dinghy’s oars in the first place, the entire misadventure could have been avoided.
It’s no secret that inflatable dinghies row indifferently at best, and their oars tend to get short shrift because they are rarely used. If they are aboard at all, you’ll often see them, cheaply made and undersized, perched atop the side tubes or lying haphazardly on the dinghy’s sole. Mostly, they’re just in the way, and yet when you need them—when the engine suddenly stops working—you really need them. That’s why it is prudent to invest in a pair of quality dinghy oars.
However, good-looking oars might tempt an admiring passerby. To keep honest sailors honest, drill a hole in each oar blade; it will not noticeably affect their performance. Make up a cable with a thimbled eye at each end, run it through the paddle holes, and padlock it to the transom. Always keep the key handy, perhaps hidden in the dinghy, and the lock greased so you can deploy the oars quickly if necessary. Treat your dinghy’s oars with a little respect, and protect them. They just might save you someday.
Photo by Tor Pinney