LIFE WITH DINGHY
Never overload your dinghy, or you’ll
swamp it. Check your dinghy’s capacity
plate, and stay below the weight limit.
Put together a bag of essentials to
take with you in the dinghy. An open-mesh bag works, and it can be secured
under the middle seat with bungees,
where it’s easily accessed but not
1. Bailer to offload rainwater or
seepage from a slow leak. A cut-off
plastic bleach or gallon water bottle
with the lid screwed on works and
provides a built-in handle.
2. Hand pump for ejecting more
water more quickly
3. Mirror to signal for help in an
4. Extra drain plug
5. Spare outboard key
6. Baseball cap, sunscreen, and spare
7. Life jackets for the number of
people using the dinghy. Add extras
for guests and properly sized ones
Critical equipment and dinghy advice
for kids, and wear them.
Everyone in the dinghy should be
wearing a life jacket while the boat is
underway. Many dinghies move at a fast
clip, and guests especially are vulnerable
to falling overboard.
Every dinghy needs to be equipped with
paddles, which are essential backup.
It’s a good idea to bring the following,
because even a short trip to a nearby
boat can go wrong if the motor dies and
the tide and/or wind sweeps you away:
1. Waterproof flashlight, in case you
return in the dark or need to read
your combination lock. Check these
batteries at least once a month.
2. VHF and/or a cellphone, all in a
3. Extra set of boat keys
4. Personal location beacon
5. Extra length of line to extend the
painter and tie to a tree or rock ashore.
6. Two rags: one for wiping down, one
for keeping gas spills contained when
refilling the outboard.
water covering the bottom translates to
hundreds of pounds of weight/drag/stress
on dinghy D-rings, slow progress, and
fuel inefficiency. It’s
also possible for a
dinghy to flip over
and submerge the
motor or engine or
even break loose,
so keep a watchful
eye on your tow at
Finally, consider your towing
speed. Don’t tow a dinghy so quickly
that it becomes airborne. Never tow in
questionable conditions. If you absolutely
must tow, start slow. Powerboaters may
be tempted to get a planing hull up to
speed; this will put extra pressure on
every piece of this puzzle. Don’t do it.
Never tow a dinghy on long passages.
Writer Zuzana Prochazka is a U.S. Coast
Guard 100-Ton Master and has cruised,
chartered, and skippered flotillas in many
parts of the world.
a dinghy so