Dingy choices for a small boat
Although you can beach my boat or back it up to some rocks and step ashore,
there are times when you need a dingy.
I looked at the three main options for a dingy; inflatable, traditional
hard-shell, and the hard-shell flat bottom. The inflatable is very stable but
costs as much as a new engine for my H260 and is hard to row; the hard-shell
flat bottom is easier to row, but is heavy and costs almost as much as the
inflatable. Another popular choice is the Porta-Bote,
an interesting folding boat that costs as much as an inflatable.
I have a Walker Bay 8 that is bullet
proof. Only 71 lbs, you can bang it, slam it, drop it all you want. This
is a cheaper version of the more expensive Boatex
dingy. This latter company from Ontario Canada may be out of business but you
may be able to find a used one.
Walker Bay is tippy but it is light, easy to row and tows well. With one person
aboard you can really cover a lot of ground easily. It's harder with two people
but very doable. Two nice features are the little wheel in the stern that makes
it easy to launch and recover and the flotation in the seats. The options for
the Walker Bay include a sailing kit and the inflatable ring (Variable
Inflatable Tube) - this latter feature eliminates the tippy part of the boat.
I noticed that some people had scratches on their hull from their dingy so I
screwed/glued some of that white dock bumper stuff all around the gunnels. Also,
the plastic oar locks suck and I replaced them with brass. I think if you want
to use an outboard a Walker Bay 10 is better.
On trips we've found that kayaks are a more practical alternative for travel
with a small sailboat. Hard kayaks track and paddle better and are more durable,
but they are not as easy to store and haul as the inflatable. We don't use them
at home much, but they were just the thing for our 4000 mile round trip to Key
West last spring and our recent trip to the North Channel. One caution; doubles
are called "divorce boats" for a reason. Unless you always want to go
to the same place at the same pace as your partner, stick with singles. A little
more money for two, but singles are are easier to handle and avoid conflicts.
Our West Marine inflatable kayak is the same as the Sterns
500. Very durable but not indestructible (don't leave it on a hot beach all
day or drag it over sharp rocks) it is light, and easy to inflate/deflate. It
fits in a small duffel bag and is light and easy to stow inflated on deck or in
the cabin. It takes a few tries before you get the hang of stuffing the kayak,
paddles and pump into the bag. Shop for discounts, ours cost $180
each. There are several other choices for inflatable kayaks such as the AdvancedElements,
and SeaEagle. Read the reviews or the
discussion on sailboatowners.com.
Finally, here is an excellent review on hard shell dingy choices from Cruising