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. 

walkerbay8.jpg (17785 bytes)The 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, Grabner  and SeaEagle. Read the reviews or the discussion on sailboatowners.com

Finally, here is an excellent review on hard shell dingy choices from Cruising World.