Cowboys and their horses; voyagers and their dinghies — these are natural companions. A voyager must have a sturdy vessel to cross the seas, but once safely at anchor in some romantic port, without a dinghy, that foreign shore will still be just a dream.
To guard against dinghy losses to wind and waves, a well thought out mooring system must be fitted. A properly moored dinghy will not only be able to handle the forces of nature, it will be less attractive to the light-fingered stranger.
A dinghy painter should be secured to a pad eye on the stem, as low down as possible above the waterline, to make for smooth towing. It is best to splice, with a thimble in the eye, the painter to the pad eye. A bowline with a round turn on the pad eye will suffice for shorter periods of time. The painter should be long enough to use as a short towline. It should be the right length to allow the dinghy to tow while riding on the forward slope of the second stern wave, plus enough line to reach a sturdy cleat and be made fast. Select a stretchable, UV-ray resistant, floating line of sufficient diameter to make handling and knot tying comfortable. For most voyagers and dinghies, this means a 3/8-inch line.
Inflatables and RIBs are usually fitted with D-rings on the bow section of each tube. A yoke should be fitted between these two points, ideally with eye splices containing plastic thimbles.
How to finish off the working end of the painter is a matter of personal preference. Some voyagers prefer to splice a good-sized eye in the end, to make it easy to slip it over a piling or mooring cleat. Others will just tape and whip the end. A wall and crown knot and tapered back splice will leave a slight bulge in the end of the line that is easy to trap with hand or foot.
A stern painter can be rigged, though often the bow painter will be long enough to double back and serve as a stern painter when one is needed.
An anchoring system is a must for every dinghy used by a serious voyager, on weekends or on blue water. Ideally, it will include a stout canvas bag fitted with a grommeted hole in the bottom and a sturdy drawstring at the rim. The bag should be straight-sided to allow the anchor rode to pay out smoothly. The bag should be of sufficient size to hold the chain and line rode randomly flaked down inside it, the anchor, a coiled trip line, and a strop to hold the anchor and chain in launching position.
There are a variety of anchors sold for dinghies and other small boats. The “squid” type anchor is one to strongly consider. It consists of four foldable flukes that when spread out will provide good holding in most types of bottoms, yet when folded will be less likely to damage the brightwork and gel-coated surfaces of dinghy and mother ship.
Fit the anchor with about five feet of 1/8-inch chain to give some weight to the system and provide chafe protection. The line part of the anchor rode can be spliced directly to the chain or secured to it with a thimbled eye splice and shackle.
Be sure to “mouse” the shackles with rigging wire. Make the anchor rode 30 to 50 feet in length. The traditional five to seven to one scope is not needed, as the anchor will always have the trip line attached to it when anchoring off the beach. If the dinghy needs to be anchored alone or in deep water, then an additional section of line can be affixed to the bitter end of the anchor rode with bowlines to give as much scope as desired.
The best anchor rode is stretchable, sinkable, and resistant to chafe. UV resistance is not important. Run the bitter end through the grommet so it can be tied to a secure fitting in the dinghy. Tie a bulky knot a foot or so up the line to keep the bitter end from being lost inside the bag.
Make the trip line at least 100 feet long and of a chafe resistant, sinking type. In most cases, a 1/8-inch to 3/16-inch line will be sufficient to pull in the anchor and retrieve the dinghy. Tie a toggle pin onto the trip line at a point about two lengths from the end. The pin, of wood or plastic, must float and be smooth with rounded ends — both features needed to avoid snagging. The tie line must be smaller than the trip line. A strop, or endless loop of line, can be made up to be secured at a point on the dinghy, then toggled to hold the anchor and chain safely over the side where the rough metal surfaces cannot mar the dinghy. An eye in the end of the painter can serve the same purpose as a strop, if desired.
In ideal situations, when going ashore, the dinghy can be just pulled up on the beach, clear of the high tide and secured from theft or damage, as at a yacht club, a hotel or at a new friend’s house. Oars, life jackets, and other gear can be stowed with a caretaker.
Folding wheels, or a portable dolly, will make it possible for short-handed crews to bring their heavy, outboard-powered tender clear of danger.
Where high tides will cover the beach, or the shore is rocky and rough, or there is a risk of curious passersby, especially children, causing damage to the dinghy — pushing it off to anchor in deep water is the practical alternative.
A few minutes of preparation and the following steps are necessary to carry out the maneuver successfully.
• Bend the trip line onto the crown of the anchor.
• Rig the strop or an eye in the end of the painter.
• Hang the anchor and coiled anchor chain in a bight of the strop or painter eye and hold them in place with the toggle pin attached to the trip line.
• Pay out sufficient anchor rode to hold the dinghy in all stages of the tide. Make the length of rode fast to a secure point, then flake it down ready to freely run.
• Flake down the trip line clear of obstructions and free to run. If it is partially covering the anchor rode no harm will be done as it will be gone when the anchor rode is deployed by the weight of the anchor and chain falling to the bottom.
• With the bitter end of the trip line securely in hand (an eye placed over a wrist is a good way to ensure the trip line will be kept safely on the shore) push the dinghy out from the shore to glide to the point that the trip line is stretched out. Then a sharp tug on the trip line will pull the toggle pin free and the anchor will drop.
Make the bitter end fast to a handy place. In the case of a wide open beach — make the trip line fast to a chunk of wood, piece of palm frond, or a rock that can be buried in the sand above the high tide line. Be sure to locate the buried trip line by bearings on landmarks.
To retrieve the dinghy, the bitter end of the trip line is freed and the anchor is hauled to shore with the dinghy following along. Sometimes, especially on rocky shores, the anchor will snag. If this happens, lift the trip line high in the air with an oar or long piece of drift wood. With a higher angle of pull, the anchor will usually come free. In the very rare cases when it does not — a swim or a call for help from another boat is the only solution to bring the dinghy to shore.
Where there is an amply sized dinghy float available to anchored voyaging vessels, only the dinghy painter need be put to use. If the float is crowded or insecure, the dinghy can be kept away from the float with painter and trip line or by anchoring in the same way as anchoring off a beach. The choice of what method will work best can only be decided after determining the possible directions of wind and current, the rise and fall of the tides, and the layout of pier and shoreline.
Rig the anchor for mooring off a float just as for anchoring off a beach. Then the dinghy can be pushed out away from the other small boats into a traffic-free spot of water. The bitter end of the trip line can be secured to the dinghy float or carried onto the pier or shore to provide maximum security and convenience.
Dinghies, camels and horses can all live about the same length of time if given care and attention. So, with a little luck and considerable watchfulness, the faithful tender will give voyagers service and pleasure for years and years in many a port of call.
Knick and Lyn Pyles live in Los Morros de Coliumo, Chile, when they are not aboard their boat Muriel.