Love Thy Dinghy

At Christmas, we bought another boat for the growing family boat collection. It is a Nautilus Dinghy and we got it from our friends Aaron & Juliet who own Oddies Marine in the Sounds. We named her Nauti Puff, as she is just a smaller version of Puff our slightly larger inflatable dinghy!

Puff was too big to tow around behind Wildy, and we wanted something that my little 2hp motor could push around, and the kids could row and muck about in. We sold my old deflatable dinghy when we got back from our trip last year. She did the job, but just would not have looked very cool since Wildy had her new boat wrap put on!

So we bought Nauti Puff and became instant members of the newly formed Nautilus Dinghy Owners Appreciation Society!

Nauti Puff

Yes our friends like these dinghies too!

So what is it that makes a good dinghy? Well ours has an inflatable keel and inflatable floor – just like our paddle boards. So it is light, but still has a rigid floor and the keel makes it easier to steer.

Aaron kindly installed some dolly wheels, which fold up and down so you can easily wheel it up the beach or boat ramp if you are on your own. It has decent oars and is not too bad to row, although all inflatable dinghies are horrible to row in any kind of wind. The 2hp motor pushes it along fine too. The kids had a great time cruising around in it, and I feel much happier with them doing this after I had a Propeller Guard installed last year after seeing a photo of someone who had been chopped up by a dinghy propeller.

We added our own small anchor and chain, and we put a flexible plastic lifeline cover over the top of an old wire halyard to use as a lockable painter.

As a dinghy goes, we wanted something that all five of us could squeeze in to if necessary, but small enough to lash on the bow if we wanted. Big enough to enable us to cart fuel, groceries, water etc to and from the boat, but small enough to be pushed along by the 2hp motor. Big enough for the kids to hoon around in, but small enough for me to be able to manage on my own, and when deflated we wanted to be able to stow it somewhere down below for our passage back to Lyttelton.

It is hard to get the right size dinghy! When we go cruising, this is effectively our car. So in an ideal world, you want something light and fast like sports car, but with the space of a small truck…

Once you have decided on a size, then there are a few things you can do to look after it.

  • Sunscreen can plasticise the fabric and make it go sticky
  • Sun covers are a good investment and prolong your investment, if not covered, then try to keep it out of the sun and away from heat.
  • Put your contact details on the dinghy – so if it does go missing and someone kind finds her, they can easily get in touch.
  • Other people recommend not calling your dinghy the same name as the boat, as then people will know when you are ashore and your boat is unattended. But then other countries require your boat name to be on the dinghy…?
  • Hypalon fabric is supposedly the best for the tropics.
  • Small scuffs can be polished out with Jiff.
  • Add a long painter, a small anchor, chain & warp, some decent oars and a bailer.
  • Put a padlock on your outboard motor.
  • We made a lockable painter by covering an old halyard with some plastic lifeline tube and adding two swaged ends on either side. Add a padlock, and it makes it far harder to steal.
  • Take care when coming up to rocky shorelines or piles with sharp mussels or shellfish on there as they can puncture the pontoons.
  • Have a nice long floating and stretchy painter – so you can tie the dinghy up to trees that are far up the beach.
  • Carry a repair kit!
  • Always wear the engine kill lanyard
  • Consider how you are going to carry it on board? Davits, on deck, deflated in lazarette?
  • Some countries require your dinghy to be registered.
  • Check your insurance cover – do they require you to have the outboard padlocked on, identification details attached etc? Take a photo of your dinghy and outboard, their serial numbers and keep it with your insurance documents.
  • Check your VHF battery and fuel levels before going on a long journey.
  • Practice getting in your dinghy from the sea. If it is too hard come up with a ladder or some other way of making it easier to get in.

In your dinghy you should also carry:

  • Life jackets
  • Oars
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Sound signalling device
  • Torch
  • Bailer
  • Handheld VHF
  • Painter (Bow line – and sometimes a stern line can come in handy as well)
  • Long cable or chain and padlock for areas where security is an issue
  • Roll of duct tape for emergency repairs
  • Sunscreen
  • Bottle of water
  • Anchor & warp
  • Dolly wheels
  • A knife (handy if you wrap the painter around the propeller!)

Consider what might happen if you are caught in a strong wind and your motor stops. Have a back up plan – ie some form of communication. And stow everything carefully so it won’t all fall out if you tip over.  Dry bags that you can clip on to the handles are a good place to start.

Here is a great You Tube clip on how to haul a dinghy out using the boom.

We have also added a lanyard to the seat, which is likely to pull out if the dinghy flips over. I have seen friends try to row their dinghy without a seat and it is very entertaining to watch…

Dinghy flip

I also recently read an article about some people who managed to flip their dinghy when a big gust of wind came through. They lost all their forms of communication when the dinghy flipped and everything fell out. They couldn’t right the dinghy and ended up being washed ashore on a surf beach, their motor was drowned, and I can’t remember if they had any oars or they had lost them, but either way they nearly ended up having to stay the night on the beach. It was a sobering thought, especially when you consider how quickly inflatable dinghies blow off course when you can’t get your motor started! We will aim to clip our dry bags on to the handles of the boat, take a handheld VHF when off exploring.

Do you have any other good dinghy tips or suggestions to add?


5 thoughts on “Love Thy Dinghy

  1. We recently bought a Walker Bay dinghy; it’s plastic fantastic job, but has an inflatable RIB around the gunnels which gives it more stability and is also kind to the mother ship. Having just come back from two months’ cruising, we put it to the test and are very happy with our choice.

    We wouldn’t go for a complete inflatable dinghy because of the number of spots we get into that have oysters and rocky bottoms. We’d for ever be patching it up! The wheels are a must as the sand is often too soft to drag it up without – make that BIG wheels! Less chances of them sinking in the sand and you coming to a stop during your run up the beach.

    We too have a 2hp outboard, and it’s just fine for ferrying 2 or 3 people and our provisions. When we are on a passage, the engine is on a bracket on the side of our cat. The weight of a bigger outboard would just be too much to manage to move it on or off the dinghy. So the size of the engine is another important consideration. We are not getting any younger and lifting/moving a dead weight when dinghy and mother ship are moving in erratic ways is not good for our backs! It might lack a bit of oomph but so be it!


  2. We have a 9 metre hypalon dinghy that we had made in Auckland back in 2002 by Lancer with an aluminium bottom (it’s very heavy, but durable). David thinks I’m a little nuts but I have an emotional attachment to the thing and refuse to ever get another one so it’s been to the panel beaters, had it’s seams replaced (I was forever running it aground on oysters when I took the dog to shore), been re-welded in 4 places, and been repainted twice (they sell a hypalon paint that makes the pontoons look brand new). My advice, for folks who cruise in rocky destinations, adding a KeelShield will help protect your hull when going to shore and if you have a dog, chaps would help protect the pontoons from scratches.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds like it was a great investment! I can see the benefits of having a hard bottom. We just have the stowage problem on our current smaller boat. I have heard of keelshield too. Great tips thanks heaps! 🙂


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