We have a conundrum. We have two big tenders and only one little sailboat.  The tender, or dinghy if you will, is the workhorse on a cruising boat.  We’ll fish from her, shuttle provisions in her, and explore the coastlines and shallows in her, so we want her to be the perfect vessel, with all the characteristics to suit all the situations. Unfortunately, that vessel does not exist. Like everything else boat related, any tender will be a compromise, excelling at times, and struggling at others.

When we bought Selkie, we were informed that she came with a tender, a 10′ Avon raft with a 3 hp Mercury outboard.  However, the tender’s seen a few years in the Sonoran sun, so she probably has a few seasons left at best, and the outboard “needs a tuneup”.  Assuming the rubber’s right and we can get the outboard humming, this could be a great option.  Here’s a rundown of the pros and cons of the first option.

Pros

Cons

Wide beam makes a stable platform (fishing, handling waves) Wide beam makes it a mother bear to paddle
Lots of room for cargo (groceries, diesel, friends, anchors etc) It’s huge! Where will we store it on a 28′ boat?
In harsh conditions, a motor may be necessary to get on/off shore Motor runs on gas…gas is explosive, and costs money
Could explore a lot further a lot faster We now have to deal with a gas can
Could use motor to kedge off Outboards are noisy, stinky and prone to failure
Difficult to tow (we’d deflate and stow below while sailing)
Big tender means lots of windage

 

Our other option is an inflatable kayak.  We have a line on a Soar Lucky 12, one of the highest quality IK’s around. It weighs 52 lbs and has a 750 lb load capacity.  Here’s the breakdown.

Pros

Cons

Runs on fish tacos (i.e. muscle power) which are almost free May be limited in heavy wind and waves
Silent, which is more our style for exploration Less cargo space (means more trips)
Can be rolled up and stored in fairly small space (10″x15″x40″) Takes time to inflate (but so does Avon)
Less of a target for thieves
You can fit it with a motor mount

Anything would be an upgrade from our last dinghy!

    Someday I’ll build a nesting, 2 piece fiberglassed plywood rowing/sailing tender, but unti that day comes, we’ve got a decision to make:  10′ Avon with an outboard or an inflatable kayak. We’re leaning hard toward the kayak, if you couldn’t tell, try to talk us out of it if you can. Cast your vote in the poll below…

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