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Thoughts on dinghies?

Jul 16, 2018
91
Hunter 40 Boston
Dinghy - from dingi the Hindi word for "small boat"
I know I'm going to need one sooner or later, but man, the options are vast and varied.
Inflatable versus rigid hull? Or maybe a rigid hull with inflatable sides? Or maybe an inflatable with rigid floor boards that you can remove to collapse the whole thing down and stuff it in your trunk? Can I get by with a smaller tender, or do I need at least 8' of dinghy if I ever want to take a passenger to shore without worrying about stability? Do I need a gas motor, or are the electrical ones swanky these days? Do I store it on board over the forward hatch or do I need a davit (aka a dinghy dangler)? Does the fact that I'm in the ocean mean one type is better than the other? What about UV radiation, will it destroy an inflatable dinghy or mutate it into a monster? Does brand matter, and if so, how much? I see prices ranging from "just take the damn thing" to "will trade for two kidneys," are they really that far apart in quality?

In my head, I get an 8' inflatable with a rigid hull and stash it on my deck when not in use with a cover over it to prevent sunburn and I spend less than $1000 to do so. But I'd love some community wisdom transfer if you'd be so kind.

Also, if you made it this far without a single double-entendre, you are a better person than I.
 
Jan 12, 2016
212
Hunter 410 Ladysmith, BC
I've had a solid tender, an inflatable with a wood slat floor, and an aluminum RIB.

The solid tender rowed the nicest, but otherwise was my least favourite dingy. If I ever was to consider a solid tender again I'd likely go with a porta-bote style to make storage less of an issue.

The pure inflatable/slat floor worked well with our old boat, (32' Bayfield) as we used a small 2 hp two stroke that weighed nothing with it. The big weakness was that you had to be super careful when beaching it, and it was a wetter floor than a double hulled aluminum RIB.

The aluminum RIB is our favourite so far. It holds a 10 hp two stroke allowing us to plane with 2 people on board. The double hull area at the floor ensures your feet stay dry. While always needing to be careful when beaching, it is far less risky to do so than with an pure inflatable. The only downside is they cost more, and don't row as nicely as a pure solid tender will.
 
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Nov 26, 2008
1,879
Endeavour 42 Cruisin
Most important question...short range or long range? For runs from a mooring to dock or other runs of, say quarter mile, just about anything will do. BUT; if you want or need to run long distances then you want a dink that has the ability to plane off. I've run 5 or more miles one way in the Bahamas all the time and planing is the only way to make that work. Air floors just don't work that well for that, a solid floor is important. I have a 10' with a 15 hp 2 stroke which is pretty standard for cruising boats. And consider the weight of everything/everyone in that calc.

With a 40' boat, a 10' RIB with 10hp 4 stroke or 15 hp 2 stroke on davits would be the setup for long range cruising. Have the option for putting the engine on the rail of going very far and putting the dink on deck if going well offshore. I've been in sloppy 10' seas and had no issue carrying the dink on the davits with engine on the rail.
 
Jun 4, 2004
871
Hunter 410 Punta Gorda
Most important question...short range or long range? For runs from a mooring to dock or other runs of, say quarter mile, just about anything will do. BUT; if you want or need to run long distances then you want a dink that has the ability to plane off. I've run 5 or more miles one way in the Bahamas all the time and planing is the only way to make that work. Air floors just don't work that well for that, a solid floor is important. I have a 10' with a 15 hp 2 stroke which is pretty standard for cruising boats. And consider the weight of everything/everyone in that calc.

With a 40' boat, a 10' RIB with 10hp 4 stroke or 15 hp 2 stroke on davits would be the setup for long range cruising. Have the option for putting the engine on the rail of going very far and putting the dink on deck if going well offshore. I've been in sloppy 10' seas and had no issue carrying the dink on the davits with engine on the rail.
I agree with this analysis. You need to decide how you will use your dingy. Another example is we have folding bikes we bring to shore in our dingy. 10' dingy will work for that, not so much an 8'. etc.
 
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Dave Groshong

SBO Staff
Staff member
Jan 25, 2007
1,484
Catalina 22 Seattle
Inflatables are the most versatile, but I found my little 8ft pram with lots of rocker was tough as nails, landing on rock beaches and such, really only good for rowing though.
 
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Jul 27, 2011
3,359
Bavaria 38E Alamitos Bay
It all depends on how you will use it, how often, and who will be with you, if anyone at all. Like VIG, I presently have a hard shell of 8 1/2 ft, 8 1/2 ft Achilles hypalon inflatable w/air floor, and OceanAir PVC 9 1/2 ft inflatable RIB aluminum. I have also owned a 10 1/2 ft NordAtlantic inflatable w/ wooden floor installed in panels, a 10 1/2 ft Achilles hypalon inflatable w/ air floor, and a 6 1/2 ft Zodiac Cadet w/ slat floor, no keel. These have been powered variously by 4 hp Evinrude 2-stroke, 8 hp Johnson Seahorse 2-stroke, 5 hp Tohatsu 4-stroke, and Honda 8 hp 4-stroke. Me alone or w/ Admiral, the Cadet & 4-hp is all you need to go from anchor or mooring to beach or dinghy dock, not distant. Stowed below deflated. More comfort, more cargo/passengers, & more distance—the bigger and heavier.
 
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Jun 14, 2010
910
Quorning Dragonfly 1200 home
If you decide on a RIB, look at the geometry of the tubes, as tube diameter alone is not an indication of dry ride: Some models place the hull deeper in the water than others. Shallow hulls place the tubes deeper in the water and cause the tubes to drag more when beaching. Deeper hulls are better, imho.
 
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Sep 26, 2008
205
Hunter 340 Wickford, RI
I've been where you are right now and it's confusing and a mess. A few years back there was a post on this which lead to a site called www.my-inflatable-boat.com.
Lots of information there as to who is actually making dinghies. Most are from Korea and China, so my suggestion is to watch the "tariff situation" happening right now. Some companies will be offering sales before the new boats get here with the new tariffs added.
Just more for you to think about.
If I can offer you any advice from my recent experience, it is to to go with Hypalon over any PVC.
I've had sticky brown goo, (ruining clothes) believe me that doesn't go over very well, seams let go, parts fall off all from UV Rays damage. And one boat inparticular was during the first year. All from PVC boats.
The Hypalon folds, rolls and stores easier . The fabric and I believe there are even new versions of this available now, is just better and less worrisome.
You will pay more, but over time and stress it's worth it in my opinion. I have an Achilles 9'6", any smaller, and I did try the 8', and you'll regret it. Just no room for coolers, bags, legs, feet and knees. It will be like trying to put 5 pounds of stuff in a 2 pound bag.
Hope this helps you out.
 
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Jul 27, 2011
3,359
Bavaria 38E Alamitos Bay
I purchased my 8 1/2 ft Achilles Hypalon, inflatable air floor, in 2000. It’s been serviced (authorized dealer) once for leak repairs, and once recently (2017) where all of the valves were replaced. I’ve used it a lot. It’s the most versatile of the several I mention above in Post #6. The 9 1/2 ft OceanAir PVC aluminum RIB, made in China but imported from Canada, is the newest, the most fun, and the most comfortable; but also the heaviest and most awkward to deploy and recover from the yacht as I do not have stern davits. (It rides strapped on the foredeck.) However, it’s only slightly more trouble than the two 10 1/2 ft fully deflatable models I mention in Post #6. I use a triple-sheave (6x purchase) block & fall suspended from the spin halyard to deploy and recover.

When I bought the OceanAir in 2018 I ordered a custom-made cover of Sunbrella to protect the PCV from sun damage. I also apply protectorant to the tubes for periods when the cover is off, as when in use, etc. I do this b/c it cannot be deflated and stowed away in a bag. There is a multi-year warranty on the seams and one on the “fabric” against slow leaching out of air. Talking to the dealer and reading the manufacturer’s literature I discovered that there have been advances, so claimed, in PVC construction to slow down the deterioration. A PVC dink is about 3/5 the cost of one made of Hypalon. They are easier to repair for leaks if any develop b/c the glue sticks better.

The Hypalon of today is not the Hypalon of 2000; it’s not as good. The PVC of today is likewise not the PVC of 2000; it’s better. So, if you take care of your PVC dink it may serve you well for several years. And BTW, dink resale value is relatively low (i.e., relative to some other used boating equipment) regardless of what it is made of, in my observation. Too many folks willing to essentially give ‘em away once they have gotten their use out of them, just to make room for something new! As I’ve noted in previous threads on the topic, a small dink serving as a tender for a small yacht should be viewed as an “expendable”piece of equipment, b/c that is what it is.
 
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Jan 20, 2005
765
Nauticat 321 pilothouse 32 Erie PA
for exploring and plain old fun, check out the chesapeake light craft eastport pram hard dinghy. 8' long, also comes in a 'nestable version. tow it, store it upside down on foredeck, or hang it on davits. row or sail it. 2 person/ 1 big dog payload. ours had the sail attachment so kids could sail around harbors and the like. clc has a
'boat bazaar' where you can find them used if you're not inclined to build one like we did.
 
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Dec 25, 2000
3,900
Hunter Passage 42 Shelter Bay, WA
The PO included a 1997 eight foot Quicksilver that wore out in 2015 after delivering good service. Purchased a used Avon of the same size in 2015 for $300. Carried both on our stern transom year around for ready use. Seldom use the five horse OB. Row most always to shore to gather oysters, clams, beer, etc. Very happy with our arrangement.
 
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Sep 11, 2015
109
Hunter 31 Marina del Rey
Short range vs. long range is the relevant decision, also do you mostly dock at marinas, moorings or at anchor? All boats have tenders and it is up to the owner to make the trade-off between storage and performance. In my case, I am on a small boat, mostly sail, little anchoring. I have a PVC inflatable (the ones you can get on Amazon for $40-50), an electric motor and a small battery. Storage is minimal, just put it into a locker. Set-up time is 15-20 min, inflating, setting up the motor mount, etc. Speed is a little over 2 knots, range is plentiful. It is excellent for getting from a mooring to the shore or to the other boats. Kids love it and I feel safe letting them run with it. If there is chop or wind, it is not ideal and progress is slow to none. I thought I would replace it often but it held pretty well for the last four years.

Many boaters around here use the dinghy as a mini boat. They anchor at Catalina for a week and use the dinghy to go to shore, for water activities, etc. In my case, I would rather do that with the boat. For example, if diving, I would get the boat running, go to the dock, load the air, go a couple of miles to the diving spot, then come back. It is great to have the boat with you all the time with all the amenities. Most people would get in the dinghy, get the air, go diving carrying all the gear and food, then come back three hours later. So, you have to decide what kind of a boater you are. On a small boat you need to think about what you do with the boat and what you do with the dinghy. On a larger boat you have more space for a proper dinghy but it still looks super messy anywhere on deck. Plus you need to carry gasoline.
 
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Jun 8, 2004
154
Hunter 49 Lake Erie
hmmmm

I have had 3 now... one used piece of cr-p followed by a 12 footer with an inflatable floor when all the kids still lived at home. It was a great dingy big enough for all of us but rolled up into a bag when not needed ( i used to keep it in the back of my truck when it was not needed for my weekend plans) so plenty of room and out of the way storage, It was a little bit of a pain to blow up when needed until I bought a 12 volt pump at a boat show (in Chicago I think).. It didn't plain out very well but it got the job done and meant my needs for about 15 years. Over the last two years I have asked every one I have seen about their hard bottom dingys (as my current boat has davits) as it was time for me to do something new. After many conversations I ended up with a 10ft Highfield with a double bottom (stuff stays dry it's amazing) so far I love it .. no regrets. my old outboard is a little small but I can lift so I'm not going any bigger
 
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Aug 22, 2017
1,561
Hunter 26.5, 212, 170 West Palm Beach
If you think it is likely that it will get stolen, then get a cheap $600 hard dingy from west marine.

If you want good performance, then get something with a hard V bottom & a high HP rating (like 10hp or more).

If you go inflatable, Hypalon (now Panel Orca or some name like that) is the better material, but PVC (aka vinyl) does not get beat up as quickly up north as it does in the southern climates.

The slat-bottom roll-up inflatables store easily & are cheap, but they perform terribly. There is no chance of planing at all & steerage is terrible as well.

Single hull ribs perform OK, but they are not self bailing & they generally do not give you a compartment in which to store your life jackets, air pump, etc.

A 10' shallow-V hard bottom rib with 200 pounds inside it will just plane. If you add groceries & a water jug, you will need at least 6hp. After 6hp, the weight of the outboard jumps up a bit. If you are going to be removing the engine often, this is something to think about. Most motors below 4hp do not have a reverse gear & weigh much less.

Aluminum bottom ribs are noisy.

PVC is less durable, harder to repair & cheaper than Hypalon.

A hard dinghy will likely damage your main boat during gentle bumps, unless you use plenty of fenders. Ribs don't have this problem so much.

My favorite dockside dink is a 9' double hull, Deep-V, Hypalon Rib with a 8 hp motor. Of course, this is not the least costly option available.
 
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Jul 16, 2018
91
Hunter 40 Boston
Well that's a lot of info!
At the moment, I'm a marina-dweller. I'd like to sail to the harbor islands and drag a dinghy up onto the rocky beach from time to time, but I'd also be using it to get guests to the pier with the restaurant without getting their nice clothing wet. So range will be short, stability is key, and I'm not overly concerned about theft (seriously the marina had a loose dingy for a month and nobody even claimed it).

Right now it sounds like I'd want a double-hull RIB. but it also appears those average about $3,500 to $4,000 (not including the outboard motor) and I gather 8' is the minimum I'd want to consider for stability purposes. I'd prefer an electric OB just so I'm not keeping gasoline on my sailboat. I see those range from... $120 to $4,999.99... Ok, that takes a bit more research.

In any case, I'm getting closer to an answer. I can rule out the flat bottoms as it seems they can't handle the chop, and a rigid would handle Boston's rocky beaches without getting all bummed out and deflating. The double hull would be nice, but if I keep it on deck rather than tow it, it should stay dry. I don't have davits (yet) but could maybe put 'em on some day.

So how hard is it to get a dinghy on deck without a davit? Do you winch it up? Or is it just a little elbow grease and the right angle?
 
Jun 14, 2010
910
Quorning Dragonfly 1200 home
snip
The double hull would be nice, but if I keep it on deck rather than tow it, it should stay dry. I don't have davits (yet) but could maybe put 'em on some day.

So how hard is it to get a dinghy on deck without a davit? Do you winch it up? Or is it just a little elbow grease and the right angle?
The double wall dinghy is very heavy, and a bear to handle without davits. I recommend a single floor "lightweight" RIB. That flat floor in a V-hull adds about 100# vs. a single-floor hard dinghy with a V-hull inside and out. If you don't have davits you will want a very light motor (e.g. Electric/Torqeedo, or Honda/Suzuki 2.x HP) that weighs about 30# and you can handle with one hand. The next size up engine is about 60# and the average person is going to need a motor hoist and harness to mount/demount safely.
Most people who hoist a dinghy without davits use the spinnaker halyard. You can rig a 3-point harness and lift it horizontally, or simply attach your halyard to the bow eye and lift it vertically (after de-mounting the engine). I find the vertical lift to be easier to handle, as it lets me "walk" the dinghy on the aft ends of its tubes and reposition/flip it as needed. Lifting vertically also drains the dinghy at the same time it's lifted.
 
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Nov 8, 2010
10,586
Beneteau First 36.7 & 260 Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
The more you know about what you actually need and want, the fewer questions you’ll have. Right now you have so many questions that you’re never going to get a good answer. Spend some time sailing, and figure out what your actual needs are. Things will be a lot clearer then.
 
Aug 22, 2017
1,561
Hunter 26.5, 212, 170 West Palm Beach
If you are pulling it up on a rocky shore, you want a hard boat. The harder the boat is, the heavier it is, so there is a trade off.

Electric motors are OK for short hops. For longer hauls, it becomes impractical to carry enough batteries. The new lithium batteries weigh less & perform well, but are expensive. Trolling motors are cheap, but they do work. The salt water rated ones are a little more expensive, but not crazy. You don't need an I-pilot or other high tech motor with "electric anchor" features to push a dink. The Torqueedo electric motors are nice, but a little pricey. The cheapest rig would be a 30# trolling motor and a group 27 battery for around $100 each. That $200 investment should get you about 3 knots for about half an hour on a small dink. If you put it on a $600 hard dink, then you are into it for less than $1k including charging hardware.

It may be possible to have two tenders, one hard boat for the rock beaches & a small roll up inflatable for traveling long distances. Each would be about $600 & you could share a single small motor between them. The little roll up boats are usually like 50#. I can take one out of the bag & have it rigged in 6 minutes, if I use a battery powered leaf blower to do most of the inflating. A 3-4 hp motor can be had for around $1k. This option is roughly $2.5k total. You might get around 5 knots.

A single boat compromise might be something like the West Marine RIB-310 with the folding transom. https://www.westmarine.com/buy/west-marine--rib-310-compact-folding-transom-rigid-inflatable-boat--14460885?recordNum=7 It breaks down fairly small, but not as small as a roll up. It is good for 10hp. It has a hard bottom. It drives pretty well. They go for about $2k. A suitable motor will set you back about another $2k if you want to be able to plane. You would need to be careful pulling up on the rock beach. This option is roughly $4k & will probably do around 10-15 knots with a modest load.
 
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Aug 22, 2017
1,561
Hunter 26.5, 212, 170 West Palm Beach
I just did a little test run with a GPS & some bags of ice. That folding transom 310 will plane with a 3.5 hp 4-stroke motor & do about 10-11 knots with 225 pounds in the boat (including the driver). It will not plane with 240 pounds in it. Off plane it struggles to do 6 knots. The 3.5hp motors can be had for less than $1k & weigh a lot less than the 4-6hp motors, but they lack a reverse gear. They spin 360 degrees to allow you to go backwards. The 4-6 hp motors weight less than the 8-10 hp motors & have forward, neutral, reverse.. Pretty much all the 10hp motors can be had in electric start. Many of the smaller motors can't be had with electric start. If you are going to be handling the motor a lot & hoisting it onto the mother ship on occasion, then weight is a significant consideration.
 
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