When it comes to sailing and cruising, most boaters put in a lot of time and effort finding just the right vessel that will fit the needs of their family and friends. The dreaming, planning and anticipation of finding the perfect boat is arguably the most exciting part of the process. However, when it comes to finding the perfect dinghy, well………….that tends to fall under the “stuff you have to have” category. It’s very important, very practical and fairly boring.
Most dinghies (and most boats in general) are a complicated series of trade-offs. Unfortunately, there isn’t a “perfect” dinghy for all situations. The best bet is to actually make a list of all the things you want to accomplish in your dinghy in order of importance. What will its primary function be? Do you need to get to dock or to shore to stock up on provisions? Or will you be using it more for exploring? Are you headed out for a day of snorkeling, or an evening of drinks on the beach?
You’re also going to need to consider the average amount of weight you’ll be transporting. Are you mostly going to be hauling people, or gear? Will you be juggling kids and dogs, groceries, or spearfishing equipment?
When it comes to dinghies, it generally pays off to get the biggest one you can comfortably handle. Weight is going to be an issue, not only how much you can handle, but how much your boat can handle. Where are you going to stow the dinghy when it’s not in use? How are you going to get it, and its motor into and out of your boat?
If your boat is small, storage is likely going to be an issue. You’ll need something that will take up little space when you’re not using it. A roll up inflatable could be a good fit—small, light, and stable. What you’ll be sacrificing is speed, interior space and keeping dry in windy and high wave conditions.
You can also consider a sportsboat—an inflatable with the addition of a rigid, removable floor. With the floor assembly in place, the bottom takes on a slight V shape which will help it ride better than a flat bottomed roll up inflatable. Don’t forget to take into account the extra weight of the flooring.
A solution to the problem of extra weight, without sacrificing maneuvering capability is the high pressure inflatable floor boat. Instead of using a rigid material for the flooring, this boat uses a high pressure inflatable material for the floor. This is another great boat you can simply roll up and store, but with more stability than a regular flat bottomed roll up.
A rigid inflatable boat with a fiberglass hull gives great performance (you can get a moderate or deep V hull), and affords durability. Although you can deflate the tubes that make up the topsides, you’re going to have to have enough room to store that fiberglass hull, which will not disassemble. That hull is also going to be heavy.
A lighter, aluminum hulled RIB is rugged and practical without the extra weight, but you will also feel lighter in your wallet, as aluminum is a more costly choice.
Folding RIBs are yet another option. This type of dinghy has a hinged folding transom which allows for smaller storage space. The fiberglass hull is in a shallow V shape, so it travels well through the water. The folding RIB can fit under a boom, or on the foredeck much easier than a regular RIB, and can also fit in an SUV space that is sufficiently long, or on a roof rack.
The tried, but true hard dinghy is still a great option for people who enjoy the exercise of a little rowing, and a lot of peace and quiet. They’re heavy and take up a fair amount of room, but, they save you money and they save you from headaches. You don’t have to worry about punctures. You don’t have to worry about dragging them ashore, and you don’t have to worry about them getting stolen. A dinghy thief is going to go after the expensive RIB before he ever even looks at your old fashioned gear.
There’s a lot to consider before you put your money into a dinghy, but if you take the time to make the right choice for your particular situation, you’ll be glad you did.