Re: Hard vs Soft
It is not a clear decision and depends on the type of cruising you are doing and what the mother ship is like. We have vane steering and hence no davits (ugly things anyway). We don't have room on the aft deck for a RIB and on the foredeck we have a removable inner stay so for offshore passages when we might want to have the staysail available we have no where to put a RIB even if we wanted to deal with the weight. We have used Walker Bay air floor dinghy with a 6 hp on it and it has met our needs - except that it is a piece of crap in terms of build quality, which does not negate the basic idea.
When we get home I am thinking of building a large (11') nestable dinghy so that I can motor, row or sail. I have no need to plane, I am a retired sailor and in no particular hurry.
Heading back to Lake Ontario for this summer. Relatively few stops along the way from Grenada. Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Martin (must have something to do with the French food), then Bermuda, New England and up the Hudson/Erie Canal. We were going to go via Newfoundland and Labrador but June remembered that one of the kids is getting married this summer - details, details!