#384 - Atom's tenders
KAYAKS AND DINGHIES (Excerpt from Practical Boat Improvement Projects) By
James Baldwin, #384, ATOM
For cruising sailors, the yachts tender is one of the most essential and constantly used pieces of equipment. As with many other important items onboard, the choice of which type of tender to carry is a compromise based on our individual requirements and preferences, and the limitations of our pocketbooks. On small yachts the lack of storage space on deck and below adds another restriction. Yet on my Triton I have found what for me is a near ideal situation. I carry two tenders: a lightweight plywood/fiberglass pram dinghy that I built myself, and a fiberglass kayak.
Many sailors choose an inflatable dinghy because they are buoyant and lightweight with a large carrying capacity, are stowable, and can be easily purchased at a marine store. On the negative side, they are expensive, vulnerable to damage from chafe and vandals, and row so badly that like it or not, you are almost forced to use an outboard motor. Inflatables are a preferred target for thieves and are not easily replaced in the remote areas I like to cruise. Another point against the inflatable is that their soft sides make setting and retrieving second anchors difficult. Not thinking it wise to sail anywhere outside of a protected harbor while towing a dinghy, I prefer simply tossing my pram on the deck instead of assembling and disassembling an inflatable. The inflatables added advantage of allowing you to keep the decks clear by deflating it and stowing it below is unavailable to me because all of my lockers are quite full as it is.
The Pram Dinghy
Over the years I have built several small dinghies for myself and others, using stitch and glue plywood covered with fiberglass. Due to the limited storage space on my deck, and because of my preference for a lightweight dinghy that I can pick up by myself, my present dinghy is just 1.93 meters (6 feet) long. This dinghy is as strong as I could build it while at the same time using light, inexpensive materials. My other requirements were that it be easy to build and repair, row fairly well, be capable of taking an outboard motor and have positive buoyancy. A larger dinghy with a more tapered stern would certainly row better, but it would not stow easily and would be too heavy to lift on board without a tackle.
I built the pram from panels of 6mm (1/4-inch) marine plywood that I cut out from paper patterns and stitched together. The joints were then glued and reinforced with strips of fiberglass cloth. The interior was sealed with epoxy resin and the exterior covered with a single layer of epoxy saturated fiberglass cloth. The design was my own and Ive held on to the paper patterns so that if I ever need to replace it or build another similar one, it will be a simple matter of cutting out the patterns and stitching a new one together.
Its other features include buoyancy chambers under each seat, chafe plates at bow and stern for hauling in anchors, a T-shaped center seat for shifting the rowers position, and a set of detachable wheels for pulling it up the beach. In the past I experimented with various sailing rigs on my dinghies with limited success. I found they did not perform well on a boat this small, and I didnt often use them. For going longer distances I find it easier to use my kayak instead.
The dinghys oars can be pinned in the oarlocks so that my non-rowing friends can immediately row the dinghy without having to learn how to control the angle of the blades. Of course in rough wind and wave conditions it is more efficient to have the oars unpinned so they can be feathered between strokes. On a longer dinghy I would recommend installing two sets of oar sockets for different rowing positions.
For the past thirteen years of cruising I have carried an open, tropic waters- type kayak onboard. The kayak has often served as a second dinghy when one of the crew went off with the main tender. It was particularly useful in places where we had to anchor so far from shore that we would otherwise have needed to use a motor on the dinghy.
With both a rigid dinghy and a kayak, there are thankfully few times when I need to bother with an outboard motor. Another benefit of a kayak is that it adds a new dimension to the cruising experience. With a kayak you can unobtrusively explore the shallow, reefy parts of the coast and rivers that would otherwise be inaccessible.
There are two main types of kayak; the type you sit inside of and the type you sit on top of. The standard, enclosed seat-type kayak that you slip inside, seems to me to be the least practical type to use on a cruising boat in the tropics. They can be difficult to get into and out of when any sea is running, and they can fill up with water from waves. If you wear a plastic spray skirt to keep the water out, they become unbearably hot under a tropic sun. Besides that, youre movements are so restricted that you have little chance of getting into and out of the kayak from the water. With the enclosed kayak it would be extremely difficult to paddle out to a reef area for a bit of free-diving. Considering these limitations, I am not surprised that more kayaks are not commonly seen on cruising boats.
I prefer to use the Hawaiian-style kayak that you sit on top of in a sunken molded seat. If a wave washes over you, the water runs out the open footwell drains similar to a yachts self-draining cockpit. If you roll over its a simple matter to climb back in and youre ready to go without needing to pump any water out. You may get wet more often in this type kayak, but its advantages far outweigh any disadvantages. My kayak, which was built by Ocean Kayaks of Hawaii, has a large sealed hatch forward where I carry groceries, water cans or camping equipment, and it all stays secure and dry even in a rollover.
I have enjoyed many long kayak trips exploring the coastlines and rivers of Asia and Africa, and now here in South America. In one year I have logged as much as 1,200 nautical miles paddling along the coasts of China and the Philippines. Its a perfect way to keep fit while discovering new horizons.
Of course, carrying a 16-foot kayak on the deck of a 28-foot Triton requires giving up one side deck from the bow nearly back to the cockpit. But relatively little of my time is actually spent on passages, and as soon as the anchor is down I launch the kayak and keep it ready to go tied bow and stern alongside the yacht between fenders. Only once in two circumnavigations has the kayak been damaged during a passage by waves coming on deck. That happened during an extreme storm off the South African cape, but it was easily repaired with a fiberglass patch.
Adding a kayak to my cruising gear has been a revelation second only to when I added a cockpit dodger over the companionway hatch after sailing 20,000 miles without one. Like the dodger, my kayak has definitely earned its place onboard, and I could hardly imagine cruising without it.
To discourage theft, your dinghy or kayak should be locked at all times to something solid with a cable and stainless steel padlock. When going ashore, I use a 3-meter (10-foot) flexible stainless steel cable to lock my dinghy and oars to any available dock, post or tree. At night I use the same cable to lock the dinghy to one of my lifeline stanchion bases. Some people prefer to use a chain, but chains are so heavy they are rarely made long enough and they can damage your topsides.
In many areas of the world, inflatables and their attached outboards present an irresistible target for thieves. In these places it may be better to hoist the dinghy on deck at night or at least hoist it clear of the water and lean it against the hull and lock it. This will also prevent the bottom from fouling so quickly.