After 40 plus years of sailing and boating we have tried most dinghy types, but have never found the perfect solution: until now that is!
Inflatables, with and without hard bottom, ply wood, fibreglass (both mono and multi – hull versions and recently a polyethylene moulded boat, 3 meters long double skinned, unsinkable beauty in bright yellow with moulded in transom steps, and a casting platform! But they all had their short comings and with our June departure on a round the world trip, we made the decision to look further.
The process commenced with the making of a list of the features we sought in our perfect dinghy. As long distance live aboard cruisers, the our final list of attributes was as follows:
- Ideally, the perfect dinghy can be rowed, sailed and motored.
- Strong enough to withstand being dragged over rocks
- Able to survive a rub up against the most oyster infested jetty pylons you can imagine.
- Must have the ability to survive the unexpected “Roller” on the beach
- Rugged is always a big challenge and eliminates most inflatables and any flimsy construction.
- Even ply wood will not stand up to the dreaded crustacean on the rocks for long whilst a quick flip by the unexpected beach roller will send seams agape.
In our opinion, the leader here is aluminium followed by poly, then FRP.
- This means lots of reserve buoyancy.
- You must be able to fill it and still drive the boat home.
- This attribute would generally eliminate the standard Ali, FRP and some poly boats with only single skins.
- Our Poly was a double skinned and marketed as unsinkable and it was! One day in Shark Bay we were towing our “little G” outboard attached. As we rounded a shallow spit, a large wave over took the dinghy and in a moment she was filled to the brim. Amazingly, she never looked like going under and continued to float, albeit a little lower. Pulling her alongside, I jumped in and proceeded to scoop out the water. I was rather pleased with the result, especially since the 8hp outboard was less than 6 months old!
- The boat must be stable in rough conditions. In a 3m length, standard Ali and FRP are definitely a handful in more than a 1m waves. Whilst we don’t plan to be out in those conditions, many a yachty has experienced some unexpected moments in their dinghies.
- Out of the three, the double skinned Poly boats certainly rate. We were caught out in Coral Bay WA, with 25+ Knots and 1m+ short, steep waves whilst we were trying to get back to our yacht, which was nearly 2nm away. Our poly boat came through with flying colours, although the occupants were drenched!!
◆ Dry Ride
- To achieve this we have found that a deep fore foot, good freeboard and flared top sides help, but you try and find all that in a production 3m dinghy.
- Our Poly boat suffered badly from the wet ride syndrome. She was fabulous in calm waters, but in any chop the spray found its way aboard. I came close to making some bow rails so I could attach port and starboard canvas to act as a kind of spray dodger!
- An earlier FRP catamaran dinghy I had, excelled in many of the attributes listed, but again, with low topside and no flare she was wet as!
- Our biggest gripe with the poly boat was the lack of storage. Compared to either Ali or FRP in the same length our double skin Poly had the least amount of storage.
- This is an issue for some, more than others. I do consider weight but it won’t over ride other primary attributes. If lifting is any issue, then I just use block and tackle (and winches if required) on either davits (for short protected passages) or on to the foredeck with the aid of a “spinnaker pole” crane. Never the less, less weight is more!
- We run an 8hp outboard and with two of us, plus cameras, food and drink it was just enough so that our poly boat (about 80kg) would just hit 10-12Kn in calm seas.
At this point we were stumped!! The attributes we sought were available, but spread across three different constructions and I only wanted one! I had already decided that the poly boat had to go. It was too small and wet, but I loved the stability!
I was convinced that of all the possible candidates the aluminium boats came close to our ideal but stability and buoyancy needed improvement.
It was time to do some research on the net. After days of searching, I came across the Kapten Foam Collars. These collars are made of Poly foam and attach to the side of your dinghy from Transom to Bow. They provide the additional flotation that makes the boat unsinkable and ultra – stable. Adding the additional chine width causes the boat to ride better and lift onto the plane faster. I looked at the details, then the video clip: I knew I had found the answer!
We contacted the very friendly people at Kapten Collars. A discussion ensued about how the collars work and the process of attaching them. I was convinced the collars would do the job, but had to find the right model ali dinghy on which to attach them.
In the end, I think either Ali or FRP would have done, but I settled on Ali. Having researched the field I settled on a 3.1m heavy duty Aussie made ALI. The specs are 2mm bottom and transom (with lots of transom reinforcement): generally a well – made, solid dinghy with about 900mm deep fore foot – the old poly was only 450mm.
You can get cheaper ALI boats, but you get 1.6 or even 1.3mm thick plate: makes you think about coke cans…..! (weekenders are ok, but not for serious cruising)
With the dinghy on the way, we ordered the Kapten collars and set about examining how to attach the two together.
I was unhappy with the method recommended. This required holes – lots of holes-to be drilled in the sides of the boat! The attachment done via Stainless bolts, requires galvanic isolation or you will get electrolytic corrosion. The best way, in my opinion, is to glue them.
I can hear the sceptics from here: GLUE…!!
Yes glue! They glue the space shuttle heat tiles; entire boats are glued together; they glue planes and buses: so why not glue foam collars on a plate aluminium boat!
In fact it’s quite straight forward. I purchased the appropriate epoxy, aluminium etchant and corrosion preventative coating. Now, I was ready and raring to go!!!!
To find out how we did it click the link below to take you to ‘Attaching the Kapten Collars’.
It was 2013/2014 when the collars were installed. Even after being knocked against lock walls in the canal system, the collars are still working well in 2019.