When cruising… your choice of dinghy and engine is one that will greatly influence your cruising experience. Just imagine you are travelling on the Starship Enterprise… without a transporter. Your shuttlecraft will determine every planet you can visit and everything you can and can’t do off the ship.

When we started cruising we had a Zodiac ‘deflatable’ with a soft floor. The advantage was that we were able to deflate the entire dinghy and store it below-decks on crossings. The disadvantage was that everyone in the dinghy used to get RIDICULOUSLY wet every time we tried to go anywhere in the dinghy. The tiniest chop or wind would mean we arrived wet.

When it came time to choose our new dinghy we had some goals:

  • We hate having things on deck during crossings
  • We prefer to avoid having the dinghy suspended from the arch during crossings
  • We wanted a hard bottom dinghy but we wanted to store it below deck for crossings

Thankfully there was a solution. Achilles came up with it.

With the folding transom we have the hard floor we need… and are still able to store the dinghy in the forward cabin… which we can’t sleep in anyways during crossings.

The other issue with a dinghy is the engine. In order to get anywhere you need an engine that is powerful enough to plane the dinghy with your typical crew onboard. You also need an engine that is light enough to allow you to remove it easily. Another balancing act. We chose a Tohatsu 9.8 2-cycle engine. 2-cycle engines are not sold in North America any longer… but you will find them almost everywhere in most cruising grounds. The big advantage is that they are lighter than 4-stroke engines.

The last thing to mention is how you protect your shuttlecraft from the abuse it will get in inner space. Most cruising sailors cover theirs with ‘chaps’… a kind of dinghy condom. We are working on that:-).

Last note… we have some dinghy safety rules on Q (most of these are NOT optional in US waters… but are rarely observed elsewhere).

  • The dinghy is never left in the water overnight
  • The dinghy is never attached with only one line when it is in the water
  • We always use a stern light at night (more about this in another post)
  • We always keep life jackets on board
  • We always have an anchor on board (with at least 60′ of line)
  • Oars are hard to forget as they are attached
  • We carry a portable VHF and/or cellphone when going any distance
  • We carry an iPhone with navigation software if there is ANY chance we may need it
  • We lock the dinghy, engine and gas tank if leaving it anywhere unsupervised

Last rule. None of OUR away team EVER wears red. That never seemed to work out well for crew on Star Trek.


Posted by jameschantal

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