Deflating Conventional Wisdom
21 June 2012 | The Inflatable Dingy Question
Before we cast off our mooring line in Port San Luis back in 2008, our Achilles dingy and 5Hp outboard motor was stolen. It was an older wood floor inflatable with a 5Hp outboard motor and looking back maybe the thieves did us a favor in forcing us to upgrade to a ridged bottom inflatable with a 15Hp Yamaha because we sure have enjoyed the larger dingy and motor. But if we could go back in time would we buy the 15Hp 2-stroke outboard motor and a ridged inflatable dingy we have again? The answer is Yes and No. Yes, we would still buy the 15Hp 2-stroke Yamaha, even though I had to buy it from a dealer in Florida because 2-strokes are outlawed in California. However, "No" we would not buy the Walker Bay Genesis Ridged inflatable again.
First, about the motor, must you have a 15hp to have a good time cruising? Certainly not, in fact before our 3Hp was stolen off our rail one night, we often used it MORE than our 15hp outboard simply to save fuel and because it was easier to get on and off the dingy. But a cruiser's dingy is asked to do so much, having that extra power for the long dingy rides full of groceries or, as we have used, as an emergency tow boat seems to me to be worth the expense, added weight and hassle of the larger Hp motor.
Now, when it comes to the dingy, we not buy the Walker Bay Genesis again. The Walker Bay Genesis has probably been the most disappointing cruising gear purchase we have made. Our dingy is only 4 years old, but the number of parts and pieces on the dingy that have broken and failed is almost too large to mention. Our friends with other ridged inflatables 13yr old have had less problems and failures than our Walker Bay. Sure, ours was a 2007 model which was their first year of production and we see improvements in the new models, but there are far too many better brands of dingys out there and after the failures we have had with ours, I couldn't buy another Walker Bay inflatable. But the truth is we wouldn't buy another ridged Inflatable anyway! I know it's the "thing to do" according to conventional wisdom, but let me tell you the flaw of the inflatable dingy, it's an INFLATABLE, meaning they leak, they ALL leak. Some leak less than others, but don't leave on an extended cruise with just one foot pump, have a spare because if you actually use your dingy rather than stepping off your boat onto the marina dock slip, you can count on using your foot pump to keep your $2500 (or more) blow up boat full of air.
The whole concept of why an inflatable dingy is good for cruisers centers around the ability to fold them up and store them away while underway, but with so many cruisers installing dingy davits or storing them on deck why have a fold away dingy when you never fold it away? Even with our 36ft Pearson, we used the davits so why not forget about the inflatable and save time, money, headache, pumping, and patching and just buy an old reliable aluminum skiff? If we could go back in time, we would buy an aluminum skiff and that is exactly what we intend to buy the moment we get back to Port San Luis this summer and ditch the Ridged "deflatable".
Forget the $500-$1000 sunbrella dingy chaps to protect the dingy from the sun and scratches. Bail out on the dingy repair kits and deflate the idea that because everyone else is casting off cruising in their Rigid Deflatable that it's the smart choice. It certainly is the common choice that keeps the Dingy Repair guy in every major cruiser port employed, but sometimes the common choice isn't a result of what is best, but just what product has the best marketing. Maybe if we didn't have a life raft then the notion of an unsinkable Rigid Inflatable would have more of an appeal, but I'm done with them and will be selling ours on Craig's list along with some other junk that we had to have but now can't wait to get rid of.