Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: South Coast Ontario
Thanked 92 Times in 82 Posts
Rep Power: 9
I balked at the cost of an inflatable two years ago, and built my onw dinghy. It was a fun project, and I get compliments on her, but she is tender. So tender, that she is virtually unboardable from our dock, as the gunwale of the dinghy is almost 2' lower than the dock, and because she is light, she is impossible to load from the swim ladder. But, she tows like a dream. I originally used an Eska 3 hp OB for propulsion but quickly abandoned this approach- the starting pull was longer than the beam of the boat coupleed with a lack of neutral, made for some hair raising departures. So, I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone, and ditch the Eska and use a trolling motor for propulsion- My thinking was the battery would add some needed ballast and better weight distribution, with no starting drama. It sort a worked, but created a new problem- the battery took up much needed legroom, making here a solo-only boat with cramped cargo space. It was also just a tad long to hang from the davits on our boat- "Chirp" is 7'6" LOA, and our transom is only 6'9" wide.
So, I decided to buy an inflatable. Found a Rubber Duck that fit our needs, and was much cheaper than others I had seen. We decided to keep it simple, with a roll-up slatted floor, making it easier to stow. It takes less than 10 minutes to unroll her and fill her with the supplied footpump, but we haven't stowed "Quack" that often. She cruises around the marina just fine under electric power, but, with her short length, light weight and lack of keel, she can get a little squirrely in windy/ choppy conditions. The cargo capacity is superior to our hard dinghy, and the inflatable is MUCH easier to board, and leave. It tows well, tracks well with a bridle, but appears to drag a little more than our hard dinghy does. It definitely does NOT row as well as a hard dinghy.
Deflating/inflating and stowing is easy from a dock, but it can be a pain in the neck with a narrowish boat like an HR28, especially when you are using a gas outboard. You have to remove the outboard, stow the outboard, drag the inflatable onboard, curse as you realize it is bigger than the cockpit, deflate, squish it down to get all of the air out and make it as small as the bag it originally came in, pack it into a lazarette which is always 2" too narrow... just tow it, or stow it on the foredeck. Also, the bigger the boat, the more weight . For open water use, as a mooring taxi, you would likely want a boat much larger than the 6.5' model we bought- one of the reasons we chose the model we did was that it came in at about the same weight as our hard dinghy- 48 lbs. or thereabout. add three feet to the length, and a hard floor for example, and you double the weight- that can be difficult to wrestle on board.