There are a lot of opinions out there about this topic. After my first year of owning a boat and experimenting with several different sizes and usages of our tinder, I have decided to upgrade our dinghy. I would say this has been the most significant upgrade we have made in terms of cost and utility since we purchased Tusitala. Before we dive into that I'd like to run through some thoughts about dinghy size and function.
One common opinion I have seen expressed is to get a small dinghy. A dinghy you can row, beach, and lift easily. This is certainly a valid approach, we have had some positive experiences with a small dinghy. On our first charter, we used a very small 4 man inflatable rib powered by oars. You can read about it here. Aside from being light enough to drag onto the rocky beach, it was small enough to swim through small surf. Looking back I think paddleboard would have made a more capable landing craft for that adventure.
I came across this great blog post from Leopard about choosing the right size dinghy. Our first concern was to select a dinghy that was under the weight limit of our davit system, about 440lbs. With that consideration, I was shopping for a 13 foot AB inflatable with a 30hp engine. I got a quote for this setup from Trade Wind Inflatables out of Santa Ana, CA. The price came to about 14,600$ YIKES. And to make things worse the lead time to order was 4 months, so If I placed the order in December I wouldn't see the boat until April.
As a rule, I prefer to buy used over new for just about everything. Boats in particular lose a ton of value as soon as they hit the water for the first time. I only began looking at new boats after 6 months of looking had yielded very little results. My requirements of a 13-foot boat with a 30hp outboard left me with few options on the used market. Facebook marketplace and Craigs List are my go-to for searching for used gear.
I was looking for a very specific dinghy:
- 13 Feet
- 30 HP Evinrude ETEC
- Under 440lbs
- No center console