Join Date: Nov 2009
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Re: Hard vs Soft
We've had everything from a plywood pram, fiberglas pram, fiberglas dinghy with stowable sailing gear, roll-up inflatable, and now a hard bottom inflatable. The plywood pram is long gone, but we still have the rest of the fleet.
Here's my take: the hard dinghies are easier to row, but are tippy and can be a problem at a crowded dinghy dock. I've seen then swamped, apparently by thoughtless inflatable folks who weren't careful. You can drag them over shells without concern except for cosmetics. The roll-up was convenient, but a lot of work to stow and reinflate. It was hard to row, especially against the wind and needed the 4 hp motor to deal with currents. We sliced it unexpectedly once and barely got it from the beach to the mother ship in time to remove the motor and dinghy from the water. We subsequently got retractable wheels that were great.
We eventually got a 10.5 ft hard bottom inflatable with a 10 hp engine with a total weight of about 300 lbs. (All of our other dinghies are in the 140 lb or less category.) We are resigned to towing it and dragging it up on the beach or anchoring just off the beach. We put up with the drag because this dinghy is noticeably drier, more stable and can more easily handle extra gear, like folding bikes. With the 10 hp motor it can be a tug for our 35 ft sailboat if needed. To avoid having to use bottom paint, we haul it up on a fixed dock via a small crane when we're in our home port.
If you intend to beach a dinghy where there is some wave action, the inflatables are clearly more suited than hard dinghies, especially when heading back out from the beach. An inflatable is a lot less likely to get swamped and capsize especially when boarding.
Walker Bay has a hard dinghy that can be equipped with an optional flotation ring that might represent a middle ground, but we passed it over as being too small for our needs.