Frank's Blog - Yes, Finally
Dinghy Thoughts, Part 2 - 31 January, 2016
When you are out cruising, you see a lot of dinghies and most of them have been modified by the owners. Dinghys almost
never come with the accessories they need, much less the ones that you want. This is another one of those "dinghy is not a
car" issues. Can you imagine buying a new car from a dealership, then having to take it home and put after-market lights and
seats in it?
I suppose that dinghy manufacturers would tell us that they put the least amount of gear in the boat because some people
don't want seats or lights. That may be true, but things like lights - which make the boat legal to operate at night - would
seem like a no-brainer. The problem is that, especially with inflatable boats, there is no easy way to put a Coast Guard
compliant light on the bow, so the manufacturers duck the problem and leave it to the owners.
One of the modifications we made to our boat was the addition of a semi-permanent seat and a set of grab bars. We bought
them from a company called Ding-EZ (www.ding-ez.com). We saw them originally at a boat show in Annapolis, took a year to
decide that they were "worth it" and then took another year to install them. All of this happened before we were cruising. The
only difficult part about installing them was creating the feet that the structure sits on, because you have to make these
yourself, using two part epoxy.
The grab bars have been a life-saver - literally - for Suzanne. With them, she can easily enter and leave the dinghy, either
on the dock or getting on and off the boat. Without them, she would be severely limited in her ability to use the dinghy, which
would mean that she would be restricted to the boat while at anchor or mooring on days when her pain levels were elevated.
Her quality of life has been dramatically increased by these bars.
Interestingly, we are the only people we have ever seen with them. Many people ask about them and I referred a lot of
people to the website. On the other hand, it doesn't appear that the website has been updated recently, so maybe the
company went out of business. If so, it would be too bad. There is a definite need for this sort of "after-market" modification
in the dinghy world.
The other modification that we see a lot of on boats is the addition of something called dinghy chaps. These are heavy duty
cloth covers for the tubes of an inflatable dinghy. They serve, to my mind, three purposes. First, they protect the dinghy
tubes. The tubes on a rib are usually very strong and damage resistant. However, they do suffer from exposure to the sun,
particularly in the southern climates. You can use a sort of dinghy sunscreen on the tubes to extend their lives, but everyone
knows that the best sunscreen is a shirt.
Dinghy chaps not only protect from sun damage, they can protect the sides of the tubes from punctures from oyster shells
and barnacles. I have had to patch my dinghy twice because I made an approach to a barnacle covered dingy post too fast
and got stabbed. You would think I'd have learned my lesson the first time - but sometimes I am too slow about being too
fast. Dinghy chaps would have improved the situation.
The second reason for having dinghy chaps is they can make your dinghy more identifiable. When you are in a popular
cruising destination, then can be dozens of dinghies tied up to the dinghy docks. Since there are a limited number of dinghy
manufacturers and outboard motor manufacturers, it becomes very important to make your dinghy identifiable. There are
very few things more embarrassing than working a dinghy into the dinghy dock and preparing to get into it, only to discover it
is not yours.
The third reason for dinghy chaps is that they can be used to add storage bags and other modifications to your dinghy more
easily. I have seen dinghy chaps that have drink holders, running lights and even perches for pets built into them. We don't
have chaps on our dinghy yet. Suzanne started to make them last year, but the project got away from us. Maybe this year,
chaps will be the big project.
Of course, as soon as she done, we'll get a new dinghy. I know there is a barnacle covered post out there with my name on it!