A dinghy boat is the best way to easily get out on the water. It’s a smaller, open vessel that can be used for multiple purposes, depending on the design.
There are sailing dinghies, fishing dinghies as well as dinghies used as tenders or life rafts.
The ‘essential’ Guide to the Dinghy Boat
You plan on exploring lakes, diving, paddling along rivers, or want to adventure in more exciting oceans and seas. Look no further. Here we unfold what is important to know about dinghies and look at only what is essential to own and operate them.
Why choose a Dinghy?
A dinghy is the best boat you will ever own and comes with unlimited fun. Dinghies are compact, shallow keel vessels that are easy to use for all types of water adventures. Dinghys are rugged and can be rowed, motored or sailed. They have a low center of gravity that makes them difficult to capsize.
What Type of Dinghy?
Dinghy sports and activities include rowing, sailing, exploring fresh and coastal water systems, fishing, snorkeling, watersports and diving.
- Hard classic non-sailing rigid dinghy for rowing
- Hard classic sailing dinghy
- Inflatable dinghies + inflatable kayaks
- Semi-rigid dinghy RIB + aluminum or polyester floor
First of all decide what you will enjoy most of all and what suits the water area nearest to you so you can access and use it often.
Points to consider when selecting a dinghy
First up, consider these 5 points before you decide on a model, length and brand.
Define your key objective and whether it will be for coastal or inland water use.
Inflatable or rigid, work out where to store, maintain and how to look after your dinghy.
Calculate your weight capacity for passengers and gear
Decide on a rigid or Inflatable dinghy, for rowing, sailing or motoring and create a shortlist and go view in person.
New or used, work within what you can afford
Inland or coastal waters
If you can’t decide on these points, then keep reading for more insight into the full range of dinghy options out there, making it easy to select the perfect small boat for your next water adventure.
Types of Sailing Dinghies
Get down to your local sailing club and go and explore what dinghies they may have for new members to learn. No matter what your age, sailing dinghies are brilliant to start learning the basics. We recommend you try it before you buy.
This way you can learn and get the feel of the dinghy on the water, and then decide if you want to invest in your own so you can hit the waters whenever you like.
This is an easy to handle entry level dinghy for children from age 8 to 15.
Laser Pico Dinghy
This is an easy to handle entry level dinghy with a 1-3 person capacity, and the laser brand holds value and is easy to resell.
This is a 29kg portable sailing dinghy that you assemble to use and it can easily fit into a vehicle.
This is a very lightweight sailing dinghy and weighs in at 66lbs giving a very spacious cockpit for its size.
RS200 is one of the world’s most popular modern 2 person sailing dinghies.
Can accommodate 6 people aboard so the whole family can enjoy sailing together.
This boat is great for sailors with disabilities or older persons who want to sail solo.
A less expensive option to get a dinghy on the water.
Most popular sailing dinghy ever produced.
A more expensive option to absolutely fly over the water with the foils.
Inflatable dinghies need to be assembled before use and have a slatted or inflatable hull and are collapsible for easy stowage in a vehicle or boat lockers or lazarettes. Inflatables actually have greater buoyancy than a RIB and therefore a higher carrying capacity.
They are suitable for fair weather excursions and can tolerate some moderately high winds. The more recent inflatable designs are just brilliant and they can be in the shape of a kayak, small twin hull or small dinghy that you can row with oars. They can be fun for a single person, friends or the whole family.
Inflatable dinghies with rigid floors are more stable in more varied weather conditions and therefore better for traveling greater distances when fishing or exploring. They function with a 5-10 horsepower outboard motor attached to the transom.
It is a good idea to double secure your outboard onto the transom as a safety precaution to avoid the motor falling into the water by accident.
Inflatable Dinghies Passenger Capacity Guide
Inflatable dinghies have a passenger capacity of 3 – 9 persons. The passenger number should be reduced if you are planning to load additional watersport gear, as the capacity is limited by actual weight. Here is a basic guide.
As they are inflatable, more care and time is required to maintain and set them up before and de-rig them after use. If you are prepared to look after them then getting one is definitely worthwhile as they are very affordable and are easy to transport and store and give you and a few friends freedom to go explore and play on the water.
Inflatable Dinghy Designs
They are affordable, ultra-light, and are easy to manage, assemble, transport and store.
Dinghy Outboard Selection for Inflatables
Always consider your dinghy’s primary purpose and objective when selecting the perfect outboard. Be cautious as a skipper to use and add too much power on a lightweight inflatable dinghy as this makes it easy to flip and this is the last thing you want to happen with passengers aboard, so consider your options carefully.
The outboard motor is fitted to the transom and when the motor is fitted it should swing upwards so you can ground the vessel without knocking the propeller as this will damage it.
Also if you are single handed skipper, consider the actual weight of the engine, should you or crew need to lift the outboard to attach it to the transom to operate.
Rule of thumb for motor horsepower is for every 3.2ft of hull length, add 10 horsepower in capacity if you want to calculate this yourself.
Rigid Inflatable Dinghy RIB
[RIB] Rigid Inflatable dinghies are unparalleled in safety and performance and offer a more stable ride in all types of weather conditions and therefore are much more popular for use in the ocean. Rigid inflatable boats do not collapse, have a solid fiberglass or aluminum keel and can be longer in length in design.
This is the Zodiac range to give you an idea of what layout you get with a range of different RIB designs.
If you are using the vessel for deep sea scuba diving then a RIB is definitely the best designed vessel for this function. You would need to consider stowage space for gear and a good anchor. RIBs can have both outboard or inboard motors, that are either petrol or diesel, and there are also jet electric models available.
Since RIBS have a solid hull and do not collapse like inflatables, they require a dinghy davit for stowage or a motor trailer to remove them out of the water.
RIB Dinghy Hulls | Length | Capacity
Rigid inflatable boats (RIB) have a solid V shape hull floor that is solid and is manufactured using fiberglass or aluminum.
Hull length on these vessels range anywhere between 6 – 32 ft in length and they are designed to have a shallow keel so you can land directly onto a beach or shoreline.
RIBs are built to be rugged and the soft sides allow the vessel to be more water friendly when docking than rigid hull motor boats.
The max capacity of a RIB ranges from 7 – 15 passengers plus skipper. Solid fiberglass hulls are less expensive than aluminum, however aluminum hulls are built to last and are more environmentally friendly.
The passenger number should be reduced if you are planning to load additional watersport gear, as the capacity is limited by actual weight and overloading these vessels can make it difficult to navigate and operate, especially in turbulent waters.
Super & Mega Motor Yacht RIB Tenders
RIB average cruising speed is 35 miles per hour. High performance models can do up to 80 miles per hour and beyond. Traditional 4-stroke engines are the traditional option for water sports and rough surface conditions.
12 – 24 ft
MetresThermo-welded tube construction that does not require pressure relief valves.
28ft Fiberglass Hull
Seating option for up to 14 passengers, perfect for water transporters.
21 – 35 ft Fiberglass Hulls
Comfortable sundeck with large lockers underneath and has a head.
15ft – 32ft
Seating up to 20 passengers.
Super and mega yachts above 79 ft have very cool customized luxury RIB tenders that can average 60 knots. Most of these vessels have a stern garage, lift or crane for stowage of the RIB tender while they are underway for long passages overnight.
Dinghy stowage for a motor boat or yacht
Fixed Mounts or brackets
Fixed mounts can be attached to a deck or onto a swim platform to keep the dinghy out of the water and secure while you are underway, so explore options that work for your lifestyle.
There are lots of clever design options on porta brackets out there that make your life much easier as skipper or crew so spend a bit of time to find a solid option that will last.
Davits have 2 hinged cradle arms that are mounted onto the stern of your vessel to suspend the dinghy in the air out of the water for stowage.
They are very practical, save you space and are sensible from a security point of view. There is a full range to select from, so visit a marine store near you to go and inspect your best options, and you can also have them custom made.
Ideal dinghy length for motor or sailing yachts for cruising is between 10 – 15 ft. Hull lengths above 15ft in length become difficult to maneuver and require much larger space for stowage and are more suited for super and mega yachts.
It is important to note that if you are using davits as a stowage system, that you must get a cover for the dinghy as it is exposed to lots of sun if stored this way for long periods of time. If you do not get a cover then you can half the life expectancy of the dinghy if you leave it in full sun while cruising.
Stowing a Dinghy Above-Deck while cruising
Popular cruising options are to manually fasten the dinghy or RIB upside-down on the bow, stern, or side of the vessel while underway sailing or motoring.
If you are a single handed skipper consider using the mast and boom as an improvised dinghy davit to hoist the dinghy out of the water if you find the weight too great to lift by hand. Another inexpensive and clever idea is to fit additional handles onto the dinghy. If you are storing the dinghy upside down on the coachroof, it makes life easier moving it around.
The dinghy should be securely fastened and should not block access to important areas of the vessel while sailing or motoring, (so ensure you comply with maritime safety rules while underway).
Inflatable Dinghies – what is the best material?
PVC, Neoprene CSM mix or Hypalon?
Most inflatable or rigid dinghies are manufactured using one of the following materials.
Boat PVC is Polyvinyl chloride and the surface has a glossy finish, and it comes in a whole spectrum of colors. Quick PVC test – is to wipe a small surface area with liquid Acetone, if it feels sticky it is PVC. PVC can be welded or glued together and is subject to deteriorate in prolonged exposure to UV rays. To protect your dinghy get a sun cover if you leave it out for long periods of time.
Boat hypalon is chlorosulfonated polyethylene synthetic rubber (CSM). Quick Hypalon test – is to wipe a small surface area with liquid Acetone and if the surface does not become sticky and leaves oxidation it is Hypalon. Hypalon has a dark gray or black synthetic rubber coating with overlapping glued layers on the joints giving it a longer lifespan than PVC.
Inflatable and rigid dinghies large flexible tubes are constructed out of both PVC and Hypalon (with added UV and water resistance coatings). The flexible tubes are in panel sections and contain pressurized gas that keeps them buoyant and lightweight.
The dinghy seams are double-taped and glued on both sides, so inspect these carefully before you buy a used model. Always know the year the boat was manufactured to know the lifespan before buying a used dinghy.
Pre-Excursion Dinghy Checklist
- Always pre-check the weather and wind conditions prior to any excursion on the water
- Always know the tide table in your head, so you know what the ocean is doing at all times, incoming or outgoing tide, and what is the tidal range if you are in an ocean estuary or channel.
- Get the Dinghy ready at least 30 minutes before loading passengers aboard, and follow these easy steps to ensure safety is first at all times.
- Plan your upcoming voyage, does it feature high swells, rocky shores, and cold water, then it is good as a qualified skipper to prepare for all events.
- Take 10 -25 min to check inflation levels in the separate tube compartments (as you should top up air every 10 days or so). If one compartment is more deflated, then take time to look for leaks, by pouring water over the area and looking for bubbles.
- Check the floor has no damage or cracks, and make sure it is not taking water inside the boat.
- Ensure there are no lines that can get into the engine propeller if they are dropped into the water. The painter should be trimmed so it does not reach the propeller if dropped into the water, as this can cause major issues if you are stranded out in the ocean without comms.
- Make sure the transom is firmly attached and not loose in any way before you mount the outboard, as more often than you think, the outboard and transom can detach for whatever reason and fall into the water.
- Open fuel lines, check oil and spark plugs.
- Make sure the fuel cap is attached with a small line so if it falls it does not drop into water.
- Check fuel tank levels and have extra fuel aboard for an emergency.
- Start the motor, make sure water is coming out to cool the motor.
- Test both forward and reverse gears on the engine before guests board.
- Clip the outboard kill switch to your wrist and test that it works.
- Check that you have a working and full battery communications radio, with all correct channels programmed, and that all the vessel lights and electrics are in working order.
- Check for first aid kits, manual hand pump, paddles, lifejackets, additional lines, fresh drinking water for passengers, dinghy repair kit and flags.
- Strap any equipment and gear down safely before you start to motor.
- If you have passengers boarding, ensure you give a proper safety briefing and point out where all the safety gear is on the vessel. Children should be included in the briefing and be secured properly before departure.
- Towing is optional only during good weather windows over short distances as rough waters and wind can flip dinghies during towing. During towing you should not exceed 8 knots in speed. Line length for towing should be 8 or 10 times a dinghy length, and the line should have floats attached. So for a 10ft dinghy you would need 300ft of line and would have to set a bridle. It is good to know this before your engines fail for whatever reason.
Tips for Dinghy Theft Prevention
To completely enjoy your unlimited fun and freedom on the water here are a few theft prevention tips to keep your dinghy safe.
- Select marina’s with full-time security night patrols and good lighting across the docks.
- Remove all personal gear like fishing equipment, fuel containers and lifejackets, do not leave them in the dinghy..
- Never leave your key in the ignition or stashed somewhere easy to find on the dinghy.
- Secure the dinghy at night or when you go shopping with a rust proof lock and chain so it can’t be easily moved and makes a noise if tampered with.
- If you have a trailer then consider installing a trailer hitch lock system and a lock & chain around the tires and wheels.
- Rather place the dinghy onboard when your boat is moored on the water and you are in unfamiliar surroundings.
- If you decide to leave it in the water overnight, rather use a cable and padlock to secure it and remove the outboard from the transom.
- Consider purchasing locking bars from a marine store, they attach the dinghy motor onto a yacht.
- Keep a digital image and record of your dinghy on file so if something happens you can access it.
- Make sure your dinghy and dinghy motor insurance is kept up-to-date on an annual basis.
Inflatable Dinghy General Maintenance Tips
- Air will deflate from temperature changes in the separate tube panels, so as skipper you should constantly monitor this. Having both an automatic electric and manual pump is essential with inflatable dinghies.
- Before repairing any leak, first check to see what synthetic material the inflatable is made out of, Hypalon, Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or Polyurethane (PU), as there are different patch applications to consider for each type of surface.
- Keep it out of the sun as much as possible. Making up a customized sun cover to further protect it from harsh UV conditions ensures the surface stays in great condition.
- After salt water excursions, rinse off with fresh water after use and let it dry properly to avoid mold.
- Do not leave the dinghy in water for extended periods, as the hull becomes hard to clean and builds up, so store it out of the water as often as possible.
- Average lifespan of a dinghy is 5 – 10 years, so inspecting it often is the best way to maintain it.
- It is best to insure both your dinghy and the accessories as unfortunately dinghy and outboard motors are becoming more popular targets of theft all around the globe.
- Add extra wear patches to protect from abrasion. You can reinforce areas that are subject to be used often to extend the life of the dinghy.
- Ensure there is sufficient cushioning between the tubes and the hull, including the transom.
Towing a Dinghy
Dinghies can be towed behind a yacht, if they are lightweight and the tow is done at very low constant speed. In rough ocean waters the front of the dinghy can be lifted out of the water onto a board to reduce friction and drag. Towing is only recommended for shorter distances.
Yachts under 23ft in length are too small to carry the dinghy on the deck if it is a rigid inflatable, so they are permitted to tow their dinghies when underway or motoring.
Sailing and motor yachts over 23ft have the capacity to stow the dinghy aboard on davits or upside down on the deck or on the cabin while cruising.
One method to tow a dinghy is to place it alongside the motor or sailing boat, more or less in the middle, slightly more towards the stern. Then secure the dinghy to the motor yacht using a single long line that is secured to the bow of the motor yacht, through the painter ring on the dinghy to the stern bollard. Ensure it is properly protected from chaffing on the rubber when underway.