1) Build a Dinghy Sling
By Tor Pinney
I bought a 9-foot inflatable dinghy to take cruising, intending to carry it in davits when island-hopping. Its plywood transom had a secure attachment point for a davit hoist line, but there was no provision for hoisting the forward end. I tried attaching lift lines to the port and starboard towing rings, but realized they would chafe the tubes over time and might stress the glued-on D-rings. So I designed a wraparound lifting strap, which works well.
The strap is made of heavy-duty 3½in nylon webbing covered with some chafe-resistant material my canvas shop had lying around. It passes around the entire front end of the dinghy, with a seamed joint at the sides to shift the angle so that it lays flat against the tubes. The ends overlap on top—amidships, level with the flotation tube tops a foot or so abaft the bow—and are strongly stitch-bonded together, making a sturdy joint through which I installed the eyebolt to which the davit hoist line clips. To prevent the sling from slipping forward, it is lashed to the dinghy’s port and starboard towing rings. The strap’s eyebolt is also tensioned with a line that runs aft through the transom’s midship attachment point and is brought up tight with a rolling hitch.
Although the lifting sling can be easily removed, I find it convenient to just leave it on when the dinghy is in the water. In fact, when the dink is tied behind the boat I habitually clip on the davit line as a second “safety painter.” As an added bonus, whenever rainwater collects in the dinghy below its transom drain, I can drain it in a minute by lifting the bow with the davit line.
Photos by Tor Pinney
2) Just Say "No" to Inflatable Dinghies
By Sebastian Smith
Why we chose a Dyer Dinghy over an outboard motor
Take one look at a typical dinghy dock and you’ll see inflatables with outboard motors have won the popularity debate. But we use a hard Dyer Dhow dinghy with oars and a sail and wouldn’t have it any other way.
I concede, there are disadvantages. Sometimes it is hard rowing against the wind, or you might not want to row at all, especially knowing that a powerful motor could get you there. As for launching, putting a hard dinghy over the side in a strong wind can get hairy.
But here are the pros: we carry no potentially dangerous gasoline. We don’t have to do annual outboard maintenance. We make no noise. We get exercise. Our dinghy doesn’t fall apart in the sun. Our dinghy doesn’t mind getting scratched on rocky beaches. And she sits very well overturned in front of the mast and provides a spray and rain cover for the open hatch below.
The Dyer is a good dinghy because it is light and rows well. We row with good long pine oars, which are amazingly useful, especially if you’re used to struggling with the little toy oars that come with most inflatables. Best of all, in the right conditions, we can put up the little sail and actually go as fast as a motorized dinghy, using just a fraction of the effort.
Photos by Sebastian Smith
3) Always Lock Your Dinghy Oars
By Tor Pinney
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