Some of you have seen the steel pilothouse cutter I'm planning to use by 2009 for long-term cruising. I own a mid-90s Zodiac C310 Yachtline rigid inflatable with 16" PVC tubes. These tubes are filthy, gummy and surprisingly not currently leaking. The RIB part now has a new glassed in center strake. The possibility exists to completely replace the tubes with Hypalon pontoons and to size them upwards to 17 inches for better buoyancy and protection from the sea. The weight is about 50 kilos empty (112 lbs.)
I also own a mid-80s Honda BF100 four-stroke (9.9 HP) and a late-90s Mercury 9.9 HP two-stroke. The Honda needs a carb rebuild but was laid up for 12 years and looks much newer. The four-stroke weighs about 44 kilos (100 lbs.) and the two-stroke about 30 kilos (70 lbs.)
Given my desire to use a windvane and the fact that I have a transom hung rudder, I have decided against the use of davits. I had a pair until one snapped, and not only do I not wish to repeat that experience, I do not believe they are appropriate for bluewater cruising.
So, the tender will be lashed forward on deck. I plan on anchoring out a fair bit. I am considering the following options as a tender:
1) Retube the Zodiac for approximately $2,600 in Hypalon. Expensive, but the PVC will die in a week in the tropics. Yes, I've covered it.
Pluses: I know how to drive it and it carries 500 kilos of gear and would make a decent dive boat and is beachable. While no replacement for a proper liferaft, it's hard to sink. It rows adequately, and can be towed easily.
Minuses: It is 3.10 meters (10' 2") long, which is a lot of foredeck. It isn't easy to bridle on and off the boat, and I am not convinced that I really want to take a 9.9 HP of any description on and off it. Sure, I can use it as a 'fun boat' on quiet nights (it will do nearly 20 knots on the plane with full throttle), but I don't see that kind of activity being a big part of living aboard as we cruise.
2) Porta-bote: Porta-Bote Dinghy
Pluses: Very stowable, especially as I have overbuilt railings and a pilothouse roof to which I could lash this. Definitely the winner in terms of keeping clear of a working boat. Requires only the smallest of outboards (4 HP or less), is light (28 kg for the 10 foot model), can carry 300 kgs or so, can be sailed and rowed. Can be towed. Durable, and won't degrade in strong UV light. At $1,500-$1,800, comparatively cheap.
Minuses: Must be assembled, and I understand this takes a minimum of 15 minutes. I have questions about build quality, and hear that the plastic seats are too flimsy and must be replaced with wood. I don't hear enough of how they work in a seaway of any size (I've had an inflatable in four foot waves, and while I got good and wet, I got through and didn't feel in any danger.) I don't know if I'd want to take a loaded Porta-bote through a choppy harbour.
3) Walker Bay Rigid Inflatable Dinghy Model 275R or H:
Walker Bay® | products | Dinghy, inflatable boats, small boats, small sail boats, row boats, small fishing boats
Pluses: A hard dinghy and a good rower with an inflatable collar that greatly increases stability and allows it to be used as a dive/swim boat. Compact: two feet less than the Zodiac and Portabote, and at 40 kilos, easier to bridle into the water. Can be sailed with an optional kit. Takes the same 2 to 4 HP outboard as the Portabote. The whole sailing kit included model costs $300 less brand-new than just retubing the old Zodiac in Hypalon. An additional benefit is that it is like a harder-to-flip Opti that I would let an eight-year-old use as his "fun boat" in 10 knots or so. Not the case with a Zodiac or a Portabote with an outboard. Easy to tow, and easy to keep clean.
Minuses: Smaller, three people maximum, but the "deck footprint" is more modest. Cargo capacity is lowest: this is strictly a people-mover for two adults and a kid, or a grocery-getter for one adult.
So I am soliciting comments and observations. I don't mind rowing, but my kid would love something that could turn into a sailboat, I'm sure. I suspect I will downscale the outboard size, however: I just don't want to haul the thing on and off everytime I use the tender, but I can no longer be convinced that davits are sensible (and they cost too much).