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Dinghy Racing

Posted by on August 1, 2011

We’re told that a dinghy is one of the most important pieces of equipment a cruiser brings along. Previously I’ve written about some of the things that I want from a dinghy and how we have tried to figure out exactly what we’ll need in the future.

When we purchased Joint Venture, a dinghy and outboard were included. The dinghy was a West Marine 9′ PVC high pressure air floor that fully rolls up into a small, easy to carry package. (The dinghy would actually fit into one of our lazarettes.)   The outboard was a 5hp two stroke Mercury.  Originally we thought this dinghy was nice, it was easy to store and lightweight, but the dinghy wouldn’t go fast with two people, so we never used it, and we put it into storage.

An additional problem with PVC dinghies is the fact that they don’t last long in bright sunlight, therefore they aren’t recommended for long term use in the Caribbean. Over the winter we found a used Apex 9′ dinghy made out of “Hypalon” on Craigslist.  This dinghy still rolls up but has a folding aluminum floor that hopefully would help it move faster than the PVC dinghy with our 5hp Merc. I inflated the Apex a few weeks ago to see if it would hold air long term, and it did!

So, over the last week I dug our outboard out of the storage facility and blew off the dust.  After a few tweaks to the engine and some new gas, it is running great! (This was actually shocking, I even bought a carburetor rebuild kit and didn’t need to use it, I’ll save the kit for later.) 

But we have another problem, the new Apex just isn’t big enough or fast enough for what we think we need.  The Apex was a step in the right direction, it’s scary fast with just me in it, but with two people the top speed is only 6mph. That’s not going to work if I’m trying to bring ice back to the sailboat on a hot day! The Apex would be the perfect dinghy for a short ride to a restaurant on the Bay, but we don’t think it’s going to work for us.

Here’s what we want from our dinghy:

  • Small, lightweight and easy to manage
  • Suitable for scuba diving (two persons, two tanks, etc.)
  • Enter areas where the sailboat can’t go due to depth
  • Grocery runs, and runs to shore for up to four people
  • Ability to explore an island from a single anchorage
  • And…. Affordable $$$

The biggest problem with our list above is that a bigger dinghy that will move fast and work for scuba diving is not lightweight or affordable.  So we need to strike a balance, and that’s where we are now.

Our friends say that a cruiser’s dinghy is their car.  Right now we need to figure out if we need an SUV or a hatchback.

One member of the crew hates the noise of the engine and prefers that I row the dinghy:

Nermal hated the engine noise


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