Our trip through the Caribbean would not be possible without having a suitable dinghy. For cruisers, a dinghy takes the place of the family car. We use it to run Patton to shore for his restroom breaks as well as taking it to the local dinghy dock to pick up groceries and other supplies. For our boat we purchased an AB 11′ DLX center console RIB (rigid inflatable boat) powered by a Yamaha 4 stroke 25 hp outboard. We installed a VHF radio as well as a digital depth sounder so that we can send the dinghy ahead of the Pilots’ Discretion to check out potential anchorages to ensure that they are suitable for the big boat before taking her in. As you can see from the photo, the tender will really scoot. Flat out it will do about 25 mph which is plenty for our purposes. We carry the dinghy on a SeaLift (www.sealiftusa.com) hydraulic boat lift that holds the tender just aft of our swim platform. The system works really well, keeping the dinghy out of the way when we are underway yet making it very easy for one person to either launch or recover the tender.
Our 11′ AB center console tender has been like the family pickup truck during our cruise and it has served us well. The only drawback we have noted with the dinghy itself is that it has been somewhat under powered when we travel in it with all hands aboard. That characteristic is only growing more pronounced as the boys are doing what young boys do and that is growing like weeds. We decided to splurge and trade in our trusty Yamaha 25hp outboard for a new 40hp model.
In addition to the new motor we put on a new, larger set of smart tab trim tabs to better handle the increased power. The good folks at International Inflatables in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia did the work for us and we are happy to report that our trusty pickup truck dinghy now has more in common with a Mustang GT than it does with an F150 pickup. The new motor brings the dinghy out of the water and onto a plane instantly with a full load on board. That may seem like a small difference but when we have several miles to cover to get to a town or shopping center for provisioning the difference between cruising at displacement speed (6-10 mph) and our new planing speed (25-30 mph) is huge!
When we are in marinas that require us to Med moor (that is when we tie the Pilots’ Discretion with the stern to the dock) we have had to leave the dinghy in the water so that we have a clear path to shore from the big boat. As a result, while we were in Grenada this past summer, the dinghy had so much marine growth attached to its hull that we literally had to chisel it off. To combat this we elected to paint the dinghy hull with an anti-marine growth bottom paint. Hopefully we can now spend less time with a snorkel mask and chisel in hand.