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Discussion Starter #1
I am starting to dip my toe into the market for a new dinghy and motor. This is being precipitated by the fact that our 20 year old 3 HP Johnson is dying and won’t cut it for our future needs. We need to be able to carry 2+ adults, 1 child, and payload. The current usage is Chesapeake cruising, but we plan to live aboard full time in the near future. Trying to keep the budget under $5k, and closer to $4k if possible.

I’m pretty much sold on a Yamaha 9.9 or 15 HP being the way to go and since our current dinghy is a bottom of the line West Marine PVC roll-up, bigger engine means bigger dinghy. It seems a lot of cruisers swear by the 15 and even 20+ HP outboards with +/- 10’ RIB but I do notice a lot of RIBs in that size range specify around 100 lb or 8-10 HP max motor size which is exceeded by those bigger motors by about 20-25 lbs. So first question is whether the motor “maximum” weight and HP ratings are strict limits or merely recommendations? I like that the 15 HP motors would offer the possibility of planning and that they have an electric start option.

For the dinghy itself I’m leaning toward a Defender brand model 300 RIB hypalon fabric with 992 lb payload capacity, 17” tubes, and 9’-10” length. We don’t have davits and they’re currently very, very low on the priority list. We’d either be storing it on the foredeck or towing. Luckily we do have a Garhauer motor lift crane. The Defender model is about half the price of the gold standard AB and Caribe brands of similar design, which could be a good or bad thing. It seems all the RIBs in the 10’ range are around 100 lbs. regardless of price or aluminum vs. fiberglass hull.

Despite the RIB being the overwhelming choice for cruisers, I still have an attraction toward roll-ups. There are hypalon aluminum floored roll-ups with inflatable keels at about the same price point as the Defender RIB. I do love that the roll-up can be deflated and stowed in a lazarette or aft berth. They run about 20-30 lbs. lighter than comparably sized RIBs with similar payload and motor capacities. I do understand that they lack durability for beaching.

Finally, I recently bought a new Aqua Signal all-around white LED clamp-on light for my current dinghy. First time out it was on all of 5 minutes before failing completely. Trying multiple rounds of fresh batteries did not revive it. Unfortunately, although it’s brand new, it is beyond its return period and I have a feeling getting warranty service will not be worth the hassle. I really do wish there were better options for dinghy running lights. There does seem to be one very attractive option, but at over $200, I could rig a small tractor battery and hard wire some cheap LED running lights on a pole mounted to the transom. That would also give me the ability to add a cheap fishfinder, which I’ve always thought would be good for scoping out anchorages.

I’ll be looking for deals at the boat show, but unfortunately I have a feeling nobody at the show will beat the big D (not affiliated in any way). My wife and I travel to CT by car to visit family a couple times a year so it would not be out of the question to pick up from them.

I’d appreciate any thoughts and feedback.
 

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I've got two adults, three kids, a dog, and all our crap. We've been well served by a Walker Bay 10' with the tubes, which make it much more stable and even more load-worthy. It works great with a Suzuki 2.5hp or the Honda 2.5 air-cooled outboards, both around 30lbs so easy to get on and off the rail when you want to put the dinghy on the deck or tow it. It also rows well and if you get a puncture, it still does very well thank you very much. With two adults and one child, I think you could get away with the 8' Walker, which is common as dirt on Craigslist.

I got my 10' with tube for $850 on CL, the Suzuki for $650 new, and another $150 for new oars from WB. That's $1650 for a great setup, FWIW.
 

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Brian, we have a Achilles 9' RIB lite with a 9.8 Tohatsu. I wish I had gone with a 10'. I cannot plane with two adults and two kids and stuff. I tried a high thrust prop, no go, next i will try a wing on the engine.

Point being, get at least a 10' and go for a RIB, aluminum or fiberglass. You will love a RIB. You have the foredeck space.

If you can get your hands on one of the Yamaha 2 strokes, 10 or 15 you will never want to trade it i am certain.

Now, if you want a used Tohatsu 9.8 and a 9' Achilles RIB we can talk :)
 

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I'm one of the few who prefers inflatable dinks over the RIB's. They are lighter and can be deflated and put below, should the weather get that bad. They also can be stored on deck with less trouble (in our case with the outboard on), because the rigid bottom can chafe the deck pretty badly. Ours has alloy floors which are flat, so we can carry lots of people and gear, or a couple of full 55 gallon drums of fuel or water, should the need arise.
I wouldn't get an inflatable of any type with a console, as they take up way too much room and add weight for no return. Any engine above 15 or so gets to be too heavy to handle comfortably unless you are young, healthy and strong. I agree about the Yamaha, there is no better engine on the market, today. I believe in having at least a 9hp and prefer a 15, if you are a serious cruiser. Not only is it enough hp to get from or to the boat at anchor quickly, it can be auxiliary power for the big boat, in an emergency. Cruising the Antilles, you'd be surprised how often you take a mile plus dinghy rides to customs, the market or to another bay to visit friends. And let me tell you what, no 3.5 hp outboard is going to cut it with the wife, when it's raining cats and dogs and your boat is a mile or so out there.
 
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Discussion Starter #7
I did see it and it seems that the main recommendations the OP got were to buy a Porta Bote or a hard dinghy. While I love the idea of the PB, I'd have to get the 12' (or maybe the 14') model to meet the passenger/payload capacity I'm looking for. Even being foldable and only 87 lbs, 12' still seems like it would be a lot of dinghy to contend with.

As for a hard dinghy, I previously tried one and hated almost every minute of it. It was hard to keep it from bashing the crap out of it and the mothership any time we needed to handle it or lift it up and down or tie it to a dinghy dock. Weight distribution was always an issue and it always felt very unstable, even when it wasn't. Only upside was it was a dream to row.

While I very much respect those who are happy with non-inflatable dinghy options and understand that inflatables are far from perfect, I want to stick with an inflatable. The only real questions are what size/brand to get, what bottom type, and what motor size?
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I'm one of the few who prefers inflatable dinks over the RIB's. They are lighter and can be deflated and put below, should the weather get that bad. They also can be stored on deck with less trouble (in our case with the outboard on), because the rigid bottom can chafe the deck pretty badly. Ours has alloy floors which are flat, so we can carry lots of people and gear, or a couple of full 55 gallon drums of fuel or water, should the need arise.
I guess where the dislike of the aluminum floor inflatables comes in is with people who claim the soft bottom will get torn up beaching the boat and on partially submerged rocks and coral heads, etc. Seems like being that hard on a dink would do worse damage to the motor shaft than to the boat itself. If someone is routinely ramming the boat into submerged objects it just sounds reckless and like poor seamanship. At least that's how I see it, but there are definitely times when you have little choice but to beach a dink to get ashore and it's not always possible to control what's on the beach.
 

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While I have a considerably smaller boat (30'), I think you might consider what I have - since my missing element is something you already have - a motor lift.

Defender also sells the full line of Mercury inflatables and you can get the same boat as mine (310, Hypalon, 2012 (New) for less than $1,900. Mercury 310, Air Floor 9' 6", White Hypalon, 2012.

I have a 2-stroke 15 HP which makes the boat perform very well up to the maximu load of 1,400#. It planes easily with 3 adults and, with only one person and groceries, pops up on the plane and flies at about half throttle.

I've owned lots of inflatables with wood and slatted floors and find that this air floor boat is the best solution. With the keel inflated you have a shallow V and the floor (inflated to 10-11 psi) is not only rigid as a board but "gives" a bit if you want to stay dry and sit on it while motoring in chop.

I've always owend Hypalon boats and wouldn't personally consider PVC. One other big advantage of this boat (feature similar to Avon's) is that there are three inflation chambers for the hull instead of the more typical two. I can deflate the bow and the floor and fold the box toward the stern to make a neat 5'x6' package on my foredeck.

There is nothing wrong with the RIB format, but I wouldn't want one unless I was storing on davits - and you still would want to remove and stow the outboard.

I'm making the Loop trip next fall and am debating about going to a small outboard or buying a lift for my existing 15. I'm leaning toward the latter although getting the boat aboard while the mast is down may present a bigger challenge than I want.

Murph'

S/V Amalia
1965 Cal 30
Muskegon, MI
 

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I did see it and it seems that the main recommendations the OP got were to buy a Porta Bote or a hard dinghy. While I love the idea of the PB, I'd have to get the 12' (or maybe the 14') model to meet the passenger/payload capacity I'm looking for. Even being foldable and only 87 lbs, 12' still seems like it would be a lot of dinghy to contend with.

As for a hard dinghy, I previously tried one and hated almost every minute of it. It was hard to keep it from bashing the crap out of it and the mothership any time we needed to handle it or lift it up and down or tie it to a dinghy dock. Weight distribution was always an issue and it always felt very unstable, even when it wasn't. Only upside was it was a dream to row.

While I very much respect those who are happy with non-inflatable dinghy options and understand that inflatables are far from perfect, I want to stick with an inflatable. The only real questions are what size/brand to get, what bottom type, and what motor size?
Check out the RIBs with a folding transom... I've tried pretty much every type of dinghy over the years, and I've found my Avon Lite to be far and away the best solution for me, where the ability to stow in a low profile on the foredeck is absolutely critical on a boat as small as mine...





Unfortunately, the Avon Lite is no longer being made. Not sure if Zodiac is making one, Achilles is the only one I'm aware of at the moment, but I've not researched this lately...
 

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The current usage is Chesapeake cruising, but we plan to live aboard full time in the near future. Trying to keep the budget under $5k, and closer to $4k if possible.
Have you considered a new dinghy and a small engine for now and a larger engine later? At least that would spread the costs out.

It seems a lot of cruisers swear by the 15 and even 20+ HP outboards with +/- 10’ RIB but I do notice a lot of RIBs in that size range specify around 100 lb or 8-10 HP max motor size which is exceeded by those bigger motors by about 20-25 lbs.
I looked at the 10' Caribes and ABs and they are rated at 20 to 25 hp.

We don’t have davits and they’re currently very, very low on the priority list. We’d either be storing it on the foredeck or towing.
We're pretty happy without davits. We lift the dinghy out of the water a few feet on the spinnaker halyard at night. I have some foam portable chocks that allow me to lift the dinghy onto the foredeck rightside up with the engine attached for short motors. On passage the engine goes on the pushpit and the dinghy upside down on the foredeck. It does not take that long to launch or recover, and not much different than using davits.

In my opinion the dinghy manufacturers have not caught up with the transition, at least in the US, from 2-stroke to heavier 4-stroke outboards. There just isn't enough floatation aft. This makes RIBs like my Caribe L9 a relatively poor choice. The light dinghies don't have enough weight forward to keep the bow down. It isn't bad enough for me to change, but if I was starting from scratch I'd get a Caribe C10X or the equivalent AB.

I have a Honda 9.9 with electric and pull starts, which has been great since I got the ethanol issue sorted out. It is heavy but with a 3:1 advantage on the engine lift it isn't a big deal to lift on and off the boat. Janet has asked for an upgrade to 5:1 so she can mount the outboard by herself.

Despite the RIB being the overwhelming choice for cruisers, I still have an attraction toward roll-ups.
You like what you like. In my own opinion a RIB has plenty of benefits that overwhelm storage ability, including enough directional stability to row halfway decently and much more robust for beach landings.

I wouldn't get an inflatable of any type with a console, as they take up way too much room and add weight for no return. Any engine above 15 or so gets to be too heavy to handle comfortably unless you are young, healthy and strong.
For sailing cruisers I definitely agree. For cruisers who have chosen trawlers and likely have a crane and permanent chocks there is a lot to be said for a small side console dink with a 25 hp engine.
 

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I have an Avon 340 (3.4 meters, about 11.2 feet) RIB with an Evinrude 15 HP 2 stroke and I am extemely happy with it. We can easily fit 4 people and a couple dogs. 6 people would be tight and bit overloaded but doable in calm water. The boat goes about 17-18 knots and does great for towing kids on a tube. The bow storage area is very useful and is a good step up for boarding the mothership. The only drawback is the boat is a fair amount of drag to tow. For us the huge conveinence of having the dinghy outweighs the higher drag. Our old 8 foot inflatable could be towed bow-up from the sternrail with little drag, but there is NFW we would go back to that.
As for the engine, I would NOT have it if I had to remove it more than once a year. A 75 pound engine is a PITA to move around. If I ever had to get a dinghy that wouldn't tow with the engine on I would find an old 3 hp 2 stroke on Craigslist I could pick up with 2 fingers.
 

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We have an AB 8-VL RIB and three different motors. It is too short to plane the family with our 9.8 two stroke Nissan/Tohatsu. I also have a Yamaha 2.5 HP 4 stroke & a Johnson two stroke 4 HP. 90% of the time the best motor for this RIB is the Yamaha 2.5HP. The 4 HP makes little to no difference in speed over the 2.5HP and only burns more fuel going the same speed.. I really dislike four strokes but the Yamaha 2.5HP has been pretty bullet proof but nowhere near two stroke bullet proof..

For myself and my daughter the 9.8 two stroke is a blast and it weighs only 59 pounds vs the four stroke 2.5HP at 37 pounds.. This is just a 22 pound difference for 7.5 more HP!

I also have the wings on the 9.8HP and have also tried different props but the hull is simply too short to plane my wife, myself and our 8 year old. If you want to plane with a 9.8 nothing beats waterline length. When we get a new RIB it will likely be at least 9' but more likely a 10' model.....

The Yamaha 9.9 & 15 are the same basic motor so the 9.9 is a tad heavy for a two stroke 10HP, but they are the gold standard of two strokes. I had a Yamaha 8 two stroke, great motor but not enough for the 8-VL,. I sold it for the Nissan/ Tohatsu because it is lighter than the Yamaha 9.9 two stroke. The 9.8 Nissan/Tohatsu two stroke starts on a quarter pull and has been a fun motor...
 

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The 2 stroke Johnson/Evinrude 15 is the same block and weight as the 9.9. You have 2 issues with a dinghy - HP and WEIGHT. My dinghy is rated for 25 HP, but there is no 4 stroke 25 that would make it under the engine weight limit.
As Maine Sail has posted above, you may find if you are not going on plane you can do fine with a 2-3 HP outboard. We had an older dinghy with a 6 HP and it went 15 knots with one person and 6 knots with 2 or more. It would have been fine with a 2.5 HP as long as it was a family dinghy.

EDIT: Anyone ever seen one of these: http://www.boatstogo.com/inflatable_boat_AM365.asp
Granted PVC is a limited life thing, but for the price you could buy 2.
 

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Reading these posts sure shows the variations of different expectations and needs. Vessel size,cruising style ,need to pack or go fast. Most (non sailing) skippers around here seem to favour a large consul rib and at least 30 honda 4stroke.on a crane. Thats at the far end of the spectrum and sure not my style or want. On the other end, there are some who just anchor and swim ashore. I had 2 dingys on board, a 9' rowing lapstrake on davits and a 12' glass skiff I could bring on to the side deck but usually towed .Last engine was a 20 Honda 4 stroke. As years went by it got heavier and heavier and the skiff got longer. Mistake to go past the 15 2 stroke but always appreciated the capacity and speed of skiff.(hauling prawn traps or charter guests ) But smaller would have been so easy. Compromise ? Comes down to the lower end of what you think you want, need, afford, and the upper end of safety. The factors like running surf, rocky or coral shore, are part of it. So is the users personal ability to swing his/her butt over the side in heavy wave action. That one tends to change over time,eh!
 

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Well in your position I would measure the foredeck and get the largest big tube RIB that will fit up to 11 ft.

9 ft is OK but the 8 ft ones lack directional I would buy a new Caribe or a an AB but if the budget won't stretch a gently used one S/H is better than a new one from an inferior manufacturer.

Find a good 15 hp 2 stroke Yamaha or Tohatsu N.B. The Tohatsu 18 hp is the same as the 15 but is cheaper, go figure, that is what I have. Either buy an engine crane or use the boom to lift it aboard. I lift mine using a block and tackle off my rear arch.

The decision about ali or glassfibre ribs is a tough one. I dislike the angled floor on single skin ali so have the heavier grp.
 

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If someone is routinely ramming the boat into submerged objects it just sounds reckless and like poor seamanship. At least that's how I see it, but there are definitely times when you have little choice but to beach a dink to get ashore and it's not always possible to control what's on the beach.
You'd be amazed at how tough those bottoms are. Even on coral, I've never punctured one. However, we do not like to drag her up on any beach, so we have a very long bow line and always use a stern anchor when going ashore at a beach to keep her off the sand or rocks.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Everyone's recommending 2 stroke engines but as far as I can tell they're no longer available in the US in the size range we're talking about. I'm pretty set against buying one used given all the issues we've had with our current used outboard. Just too many unknowns unless I can find an owner who was absolutely meticulous. So for better or worse we're talking about 4 strokes here.

I am willing to consider a used dinghy. Does anyone have any experience with Maritime Solutions / Inflatable Experts of Annapolis? They have several used AB and Caribe boats. They also have several Apex and Avon. I don't know much about those brands other than that they seem to be of the higher end of the price range when purchased new.
 
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