Saturday, December 17, 2011

It's All About the Dinghy

 When I started looking for a new dinghy I was sure that I wanted a rigid inflatable. That is, a fiberglass hull with an inflatable collar. I also wanted the dinghy to be white. It didn't take long to find one, and I found it on eBay. Some outfit in New York had purchased the complete inventory of one year old Mercury dinghies from another supplier that was going out of business. We got a dinghy for about 1/2 the price of the current model year, but still new and shipped in the crate to Little John's shop. I found a one year old Mercury 15 H.P. four-stroke outboard at Bass Pro Shop, still new with a  3 year warranty. 15 H.P. is the maximum horse power for this model dinghy, and there is basically no weight difference over a  10 H.P. engine. With one person aboard, our dinghy runs a respectable 26 M.P.H., verified by GPS, thank you very much.

Here I am instructing our friend Karen about the finer points of our dinghy. Notice how Karen is ignoring me completely and texting for help on her smart phone.

 Backing up a little, after the dinghy was delivered to Little John's shop,
(Little John is a local stainless steel fabricator. He has custom made over 50 dinghy brackets and also fabricates and installs custom railings for all types of boats, most notably, Gibson Houseboats in the area that have stainless rails were usually made by "Little John" Bicknese.), I took Swing Set over to Woodland Marina. Woodland is one of the oldest and largest Marinas in our area, the Alton Pool of the Mississippi. Little John lives adjacent to Woodland Harbor and I was able to get a temporary slip right across the road from where Little John's shop is.
 We started on a Monday, and using aluminum conduit for a pattern, Little John custom bent the 1" and 1 -1/4" stainless stock into our dinghy brackets. The major tubes are double walled for strength and everything is through bolted.

 Here is the finished brackets. With the dinghy close at hand for measuring, we were able to get a better fit. The Weaver brackets on the swim platform were removed and replaced by custom made rollers. With a hook attached at the end of each bracket fastened to a harness on the dinghy, it's easy to winch up the dingy, which rolls up over the edge of the swim platform, into a position that's high enough above the water and is as close to the transom as possible.

 Here's Swing Set back at her home slip with the dinghy in place. The whole outfit weighs around 400 pounds, with 6 gallons of fuel on board. Some trailering straps keep the dinghy from "swinging" when underway. The drain plug is left open when the dinghy is stored so that rain water doesn't accumulate. The swim platform can still be used and there is room to also use the transom door as the bow of the dinghy is narrow at the end where the door is.

 Here you can see the Weaver stand off brackets attached to the dinghy. The stand off rods probably don't help stabilize the dinghy all that much, the two straps do that, but they were already on the boat, so we made use of them. This set up allows the dinghy to be up out of the way of the wake of Swing Set while underway. We use an Igloo cooler for the driver to sit on. This provides a dry place for life jackets, a throwable device, portable VHF radio, dinghy lock, and assorted other things essential for dinghy use.

 It took a total of three full days to complete the work on the dinghy brackets. Here is Rosie aboard Swing Set at the 2010 Blessing of the Fleet where we had a slip at My River Home, a well known Marina in Portage Des Souix where the blessing is held. You can see the custom made rollers in this view, on the swim platform. The dinghy can be deployed by one person very easily in less than a couple of minutes, and can be retrieved and hoisted up by one person in the same amount of time.
 In the interest of full disclosure, Swing Set was spared any direct blessings being performed on this day, preferring for us to allow providence alone chart the welfare of our vessel.

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