31 October 2006 | New River, FL
We just had dinner with Cindy, Fred and Mike from Kelp Fiction II at a nice place on the water about a mile up the river. The Kelp Fiction II team depart for the BVI tomorrow and we wanted to grab dinner to celebrate their last night in the US. I though this would be an opportune time to test out our Walker Bay dinghy, Little Star, with its newly fitted outboard.
All five of us piled into our 4 adult max dink and fired up the 8 hp Yamaha two stroke (2 hp over the suggested max). Things were fine until we got to the train bridge which is too low for even a dinghy to pass. Normally the operator raises the bridge right away but we had to circle for a bit this time, which was curious until we saw the commuter train fly by. It was at this point that Cindy inquired as to the ever increasing water level in the bottom of the dink. Hmmm; rigid hull, check; drain plug installed, check. How could this boat possibly be taking on water, I thought? Then I noticed that even at a beamy 10' and with the Hypalon kit, the little Walker Bay was seriously down on its lines. So down that the waterline had risen above the slot top for the dagger board. I had forgotten that the sail kit required you to cut the top of the dagger board well open. Well, at least this made it interesting. I had a bailer and a sponge onboard so all was well. We had a great dinner and will sorely miss the company of Kelp Fiction II as we scramble through our last few projects at the ship yard.
In retrospect, we continue to love, love, love, our Walker Bay. That said, it is not up to the task of ferrying the full complement of crew and guests viable on Swingin on a Star. With 5 adults on board we felt secure but certainly needed the Hypalon flotation and couldn't dream of planeing. Keeping the speed down was important to directional stability. If you didn't have the sail kit installed I'd say, with calm seas, that 5 is fine on the WB, but don't get squirrelly or folks are going to get wet. The 8 hp also seems like a good fit excepting that with only one on board the stern gets pretty low in the water. As soon as you get one person on the bow seat, she trims out nicely. The seats are great because there's room for two on the stern seat, two on the midships seat and one on the bow seat. The seats and the false floor work nicely at keeping your rump dry (a rare thing in a RIB). The Walker Bay rows great but we replaced the sequoia tree trunks they provide as oars with some lighter, easier to stow, break in half aluminum units. The best thing about the WB though is the sail kit. We bought the simple kit and are really in love with the whole, "being able to sail around the anchorage" thing.
For the two of us, this is the perfect dinghy. It is light and easy to lift and it has a wheel in the heal of the keel allowing you to lift the bow, and roll it up the beach. When we have friends on the boat it is great as a little sail boat, complementing the inflatable kayak and other water toys. However, when we have to take everyone to shore for exploration we will likely be making multiple trips. All boats are compromises and we happily make the necessary concessions for Little Star.
We gave Little Star all of the respects a large boat gets with a proper naming ceremony. Roqs dog bed fit perfectly in the stern well on the maiden voyage.