ROLL-UP INFLATABLE DINGHIES: Better Than RIBs

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Dinghy stowed on deck

ATTENTION EARTH PEOPLE! As I write this I am approaching Bermuda, blasting along but 70 miles out on what seems a perpetual close reach, due for a landing sometime in the wee hours tomorrow, of which more later. What I really want to spout off about right now are inflatable tenders. I was thinking about this as we were preparing to leave Puerto Rico, while regarding our neighbors on a 45-foot Bristol next door, who were about to depart for Annapolis. They had just stowed their RIB tender for the passage, and it took up all of their foredeck. I mean ALL of it! On Lunacy, meanwhile… well, you see that photo up there?

No, that is not a spare sail. That’s is Lunacy‘s 9-foot inflatable tender, with a hard floor no less, rolled up and stuffed into the mainsail’s empty bag.

Reading on deck

See here. There’s plenty of room for people to power-lounge and even handle sails on Lunacy‘s foredeck while underway. The stowed dinghy doesn’t get in the way at all, and can even be used (as demonstrated by my stalwart mate Chas. “May I Cast Off Now?” Lassen) as a convenient backrest.

I realize, of course, that RIBs have all sorts of performance advantages, but ultimately I don’t think their enormous popularity, at least as far as cruising sailors go, is quite rational. Their two humungous disadvantages–they are very heavy and take up a lot of space when stowed–outweigh their advantages by a long shot, IMHO, if you’re cruising on any sort of small to mid-size sailboat.

Dinghy in a bag

The sail bag idea came to me over the winter. When I bought our new Apex inflatable last fall, the salesman swore to me that, unlike all other inflatables on the market, his could be easily stowed away in the fabric valise it was delivered in. But of course he was lying through his teeth. I realized as soon as I unpacked it that I’d need a hydraulic press to squish it down small enough to get it back in again. I was loathe to leave the new dinghy uncovered on deck, getting baked by the hot tropic sun while we were away from the boat, and was very pleased to find it fit inside the mainsail bag just perfectly.

Dinghy on beach

In all other respects, by the by, I am totally digging the new dink. With the special long oars I made, it rows quite well. Also, because it’s so much lighter than its predecessor, it planes much more easily with the outboard on.

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7 Responses
  1. Richard D Elder

    A few years ago I met to discuss a delivery from Puget Sound to San Fransisco. The boat was a Hallberg Rassy 46, an exact sister ship to John Neal’s boat. The owner had “spent two years” preparing the boat for the big voyage to Mexico, intending to join the laughing hordes for the fall migration from San Diego. Now “owner on board” is a red flag that I’ve since made grounds for immediate rejection of any offshore delivery, but I was more open minded (foolish) back then. On the foredeck was a large RIB mounted upright, with no weather cover. All it needed was a couple of rubber duckies and some bubble bath to be a 2,000# bow depressor. Run, not walk, away from any such lubberly arrangement.

  2. Charlie

    @jim: I wouldn’t recommend using any inflatable tender, RIB or roll-up, as an emergency escape pod unless equipped with CO2 cartridges for instant inflation. Tinker used to market inflatables built this way. Don’t know if they’re still around.

    @Richard: You are a wise man!

  3. jim

    thanks Charlie. Love the blog. After being hove to in 65 knots while approaching Bermuda a couple of years ago the escape pod has taken on a more personal importance.

  4. Agreed on the advantages of thr rollup
    We had one but changed to a RIB because we could not drag it over rocks, particularly coral.
    We collapse it for long passages. It stows fairly well on deck
    We have since added wheels to our transom, which work well, and may make a rollup more practical

    How do u deal with rough beaches with your rollup with a motor on it, particularly if alone?
    Would the rollup transom support wheels?

  5. Charlie

    @Neil: Good to see you here, mate! Re my experience on roll-up inflatables and rough beaches: I’ve dragged them over rough spots in a few different places and have never punctured one. They’re tougher than you think. In a few places I’ve gone ashore without the engine to make it easier to get the dinghy up the beach. I’ve never been unable to get ashore for fear of hurting my dinghy. charlie

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