Even as we signed the papers to buy S/V Mariposa we joked that we now need to get 2 extra boats to go on her: A dinghy and a life raft.
However, in all seriousness, we do have some real decisions to make:
Do we need a dinghy?
This is determined by our intended cruising plans and how much we will be spending in marinas and on quays. As total novices to boat ownership and cruising, having only chartered on our own before, we can only guess.
However, we can use our camping style with our caravan and then CampyVan or our recent RV rental experience too: When we chartered yachts we mostly used marinas and absorbed the cost. On the other hand, on the road we tend to avoid formal campsites and find free or cheap picturesque locations… If we carry this style across to our sailing boat, we may be anchoring more often away from towns. So normally, you’d count on needing a dinghy.
Another factor in this equation is our cruising ground for the season: the Baltic Sea, which is scattered with islands, big and small, allowing for yachts to tie up bow to directly to the rocks on shore. This reduces the need for a dinghy!
…you see our first dilemma?
What dinghy would suite a 28 foot sailing boat with 5 passengers?
We are a crew of 5, plus provisions and dog to potentially ferry to the shore and back…needs a large dinghy
Our boat is a small sailing boat…needs a small dinghy
These two factors are already creating clashing criteria for a dinghy.
So lets look at options for a dinghy:
A rigid small boat, a tender or an inflatable dinghy is probably the cheapest option. An inflatable dinghy can be deflated and stowed for times when you are sure you don’t need it.
Considering the classic dinghy, on such a small sailing boat as Mariposa comes the question:
Where do you store an inflated dinghy or a rigid tender, while you are sailing?
1. Tow it behind the boat
This is probably the most common I’ve seen of Swedish boats so far. However, this does slow down a passage and, with kids especially, the aim is to be as efficient as possible on any stretch. There is also a higher risk of the dinghy coming untied on any passage.
2. Put it on the foredeck
Our foredeck is really small, just over 2 meters long and relatively narrow! A dinghy would need to be rather small to fit there.
3. On a davits on the back of the boat
Again, our boat is really too small for this and having something hanging across the back would look strange and create quite a bit of windage
4. Stand it upright on the bathing platform
This is a solution I’ve just recently seen and realised they actually manufacture special rings for the dinghy to stand in. These rings attach to the bathing platform. You slot the bottom section of the dinghy onto the bathing platform and then you raise the dinghy, like a draw-bridge towards the stern of the boat.
The dinghy will have a bit of windage, but less than hoisted across the stern. The bottom section of the dinghy may drag on each tack, but this will cause less drag than towing the full dinghy. Is this the solution?
I really like the idea of dinghy rings, which hold the base of the dighy in place on the bathing platform, if we decide to go for the Swedish hoist. Talking to the inventor, Johannes, he recommends hoisting the dinghy at 45 degrees for inshore sailing and for more open water or strong winds the dinghy to be hoisted right up against the backstay.
Ok, so we are really struggling with the space requirements of a tender or an inflatable dinghy, what about a foldable tender? These look amazing on paper, but besides the cost (they would be £2000 upwards) they each have compromises around their reliability or time and space it takes to assemble them.
I do love the idea of being able to strap something to the lifelines and unfold it as and when we need it and I’d love to put it to the test. However, the cost- when comparing it to an inflatable or even as a proportion of the cost of our boat originally- seems just too high to justify.
… watch this space about the decision process and the compromises we make in the next few weeks!
Then comes the second question:
Do we need a Liferaft?
During the coming summer we will be sailing c. 1000nm along the Swedish and Finnish coast, possibly heading further afield to Russia or Estonia. The longest offshore passage we have planned is 110nm between Sweden and Åland.
When I asked in groups, where there are sailors with lots of expereince and with views that I trust, the feedback has been varied:
Yes you need one, because you never know when something happens.
No, because you are so close to land and can choose your weather windows.
Local sailors in the sailing club we’re members of and at the boatyard almost all laugh at the idea of a liferaft in this part of the Baltic, saying that the chance of needing it is so little and if we do get into dire trouble the coastguards are dispatched very quickly.
… again a large expense we have to make a decision on.
Please comment below with any experiences you have on finding the right dinghy and life raft for a small sailing boat and where to store it.
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