Saturday, April 6, 2013


We refer to our dinghy as "the car". When it's out of the water on the
davits, we say it's in the garage.

When the dinghy is tied to "Beach House" or a dock, or pulled up on a
beach, we say it's parked.

Not strict nautical language, of course, but we aren't trying to convince
anyone that we're seafarers. We just live on our boat and occasionally
do day-sails to other islands.

Our old dinghy was a Brig F300, semi-rigid inflatable, powered by a
Mercury 15 horse power, two stroke outboard motor.
Our good friend, Rosey,came up with the name "Cabana Buoy",
because every Beach House needs a cabana boy

We know boats are generally referred to as "she" but "Cabana Buoy"
was such a work horse we always thought of him as a "he".
Sexist that may be - live with it.

"Cabana Buoy" saw a lot of service getting us from the anchorage
to shore or to neighbouring boats for visits. Our trusty Brig also
saw service as a tug, a rescue boat and a pickup truck to get our
laundry to and from shore, and to transport our groceries
and beverages.
During 11 years of service, five of them in the salty, UV rich 
environment of the Eastern Caribbean, "Cabana Buoy" deteriorated
severely. The UV resistant material is only UV resistant for so long
before it turns to dust, exposingthe fabric layer.
It's like rust to a car or skin damage to humans.

We patched the inflatable tubes so many times that we were putting
patches on patches, so we began to call him just that - "Patches".
Chasing leaks became a daily occurrence and we had to carry the
air pump with us to top off the tubes before heading back to "Beach House".

It was plainly time to bite the bullet, go kick some tires and do some
comparison shopping for a new car.

We knew we'd stick with a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) as the marine industry calls them. These dinghies have fiberglass or aluminium hulls bonded to inflatable tubes. The rigid bottom survives parking on the beach and minor encounters with reefs plus the inflatable tubes bump off docks and other dinghies tied alongside.

So ... what make?
                                   New or Used?
             What size?
                                         What colour?
We were facing the same questions dirt dwellers have when they shop for new wheels. Only one thing was certain. It would be a convertible - topless and open to the elements. Bigger dinghies with any kind of "roof" are out of our price range.

Most dinghies are gray though there's a scattering of yellow, black and red ones around. Bigger and more expensive dinghies may be orange for visibility at sea.

We had narrowed the field to an AB (spoken as the letters A-B) or a Carib, with an AB our preference. They have high bows and good-sized inflatable tubes, both things making for a drier ride. Dry? Yes. These little dinghies splash up a fair bit of water as they move through the water, and, depending on the wind and the waves, the riders in front can get quite wet. There's an adage for cruising couples - "In front of every dry man there's a wet woman."

And then one day the captain borrowed our friend, Miss Kitty's, dinghy, an eleven foot Walker Bay. He liked the way it handled and the ride seemed pretty dry.

A bigger dinghy would be even drier, but the bigger the dinghy,the heavier it is and therefore the more trouble they are to lift out of the water or to pull up on the beach. They also need bigger engines, so like many things in life, a compromise was necessary.

We researched the Walker Bay line and found they had a new lightweight model.
It's 10 feet overall which works well for our davits, and it's lighter than old "Patches" but has 20 inches more inside length because of the shape. It was also 15-20% cheaper than the AB and that made the decision easy.

This new lightweight model is a Walker Bay Odyssey 310 SLR and if you're so inclined, you can see the details at

No decision needed about colour. To paraphrase Henry Ford's black-car-only-comment, "You can have any colour Walker Bay dinghy you want, as long as it's gray."

And new rather than used seemed right for us. As with used cars, a used dinghy could mean we'd be inheriting old problems. We know what we're getting buying new and we're also getting a factory warranty.

We'll probably make covers to shield the tubes from the sun and try to
delay the inevitable UV deterioration for a bit.
These covers are called as chaps - guess it's because they're
reminiscent of the cowboy wear of the same name.

Unlike selling a car, we kept the old engine we had used on the Brig. Imagine asking your Chevy dealer to put your old Ford engine in your new car!
The reliable old Mercury is now bolted on the stern and pushes the Walker Bay along nicely.

With the 15 hp motor so we can get around reasonably quickly, and travel further from “Beach House” with ease. Speed allows the dinghy to sit up and plane, making for a drier ride.

We sold "Patches" to a Grenadian vegetable dealer for the princely sum of one hand of bananas.

Hmm. Sounds like a good name for a new car - "Bananas"


1 comment:

  1. Congratulations. I remember the joyful day we abandoned our wretched leaker, Achilles, at Island Water World in St. Martin, and drove off in a new Flexboat. The old soggy showed up a couple days later parked beside one of the hovelcraft in the lagoon. We left our unreliable Suzuki motor with Greg Outboard in Antigua. We thought about deep-sixing it, but that was just a sentimental urge. Keep up the good work. It's bloody cold in Nova Scotia....
    Susan and Randy