Rolled up for stowing
I’ve been debating for some time about equipping my Seawych 19 sloop with an inflatable boat. My conclusion* was to buy an inflatable canoe for one person, but the more I thought about it, the less I liked the idea. My original reasoning had been based on the fact that a canoe could be inflated on the cabin top without being restricted by the mast and the shrouds, because she would be narrow enough to fit between them. I also thought that I would be able to easily lift the canoe and launch her over the guardrails. Subsequently, I’ve realised the limitations of a single seat canoe. Obviously there wouldn’t be room for a second person and there would be little space for other things. Furthermore, getting in and out of a canoe when she is tied alongside the yacht would require a degree of agility which I may not have. As I am getting older, I do not have the reflexes I used to when I was younger, which also means that I may not have the skill to remain upright while paddling her when the water is choppy.
This reasoning has led me to believe that a small rubber dinghy would be a better and safer alternative. She would be far more stable than a canoe. Getting in and out of her would be easier, and there would be room for a passenger and a small amount of gear. The dinghy that seemed the best value for money was the WavEco 1.85, made in China. I searched the Internet and found a brand-new one for just under £200.00, with no charge for delivery. I ordered her on the evening of Monday, 26th April and she arrived in a cardboard box early on the morning of Friday, 30th April. Now that was pretty good going! I did not have to lift a finger, except to key in a few personal details into my computer. Online shopping is certainly easier and more convenient than having to physically visit places to purchase things.
My initial reaction when unpacking the dinghy was very positive. I noticed she was made from good quality materials and everything about her looked reassuringly strong. She can be packed away in a valise while the floorboards remain in her. Inflating her takes only minutes, and her foot pump has a separate reverse valve which enables me to suck air out of her two chambers to reduce her bulk before she’s packed. I am not yet fully convinced she’ll row well, because the oars look rather short, and I think my knees may come in the way of the shafts, but until I try her on the water I shall not know. The blurb on the Internet shows provision for an outboard bracket, but I cannot work out how it could be fitted securely to her stern. My dinghy did not come with a bracket; however, if I can acquire one, I have a suitable small outboard motor.
One reassuring factor of having an inflatable dinghy aboard while coastal cruising is that she could be used as a means of survival, should the unthinkable happen, i.e., the yacht’s hull is compromised and she eventually sinks – that’s assuming there would be time for inflating the dinghy before the yacht disappears below the waves. My next door neighbour made a remark that my WavEco dinghy was better than a life jacket! I had to agree with him.
I feel the easiest way of inflating her will be to haul her up the mast by a halyard until her stern just touches the foredeck, and in that position she will be free of obstructions as the pump does its work. When she is ready for launching, the halyard can be used to control her descent into the water. She could be retrieved and deflated by reversing the procedure. This system does work, because I have tried it on a friend’s yacht. An alternative place for her when she is being inflated would be across the foredeck guardrails. She might even fit on the foredeck, though I doubt it.
Trial and error will decide where best she should be stowed when not in use. Maybe when she’s rolled up she’ll fit under the Genoa on the foredeck? Most likely I’ll have to keep her inside the boat in the forecastle. My Seawych 19 could do with more weight foreword to bring her bow down for better windward performance; therefore the dinghy could be helpful in this respect.
Link to the Supplier of the WavEco 1.85m Dinghy
*My previous article about a possible tender for my Seawych 19