When Fixing Used Beats Buying New
My wife and I took a long vacation for 18 months sailing around the Caribbean on our sailboat, “Wildest Dream”. Here are some of the things we learned along the way.
After communications, the next major piece in planning the trip was how to get around in the anchorage or marina. The obvious answer is the trusty dinghy and outboard. We have had a very nice 10 ft. Apex RIB (hard bottom) and 2 cycle 15 hp Mercury for the past 12 years. It has been our truck (and not just a compact car) to putt around in. We are scuba divers and many times go by ourselves in the dinghy with 4 tanks, all our gear and lunch. We can get up easily on plane and have clocked it with just the two of us aboard at about 20 kts using the GPS!
But how did we get ready for the trip? The Apex had been having difficulty holding full pressure as we were prepping to leave so we looked into a new one. But I have a friend that rebuilds them by salvaging the fiberglass hull and adding new, custom made tubes. People think that since the tubes are bad the dinghy needs to be replaced. Not so. We took this route and got them replaced for about ½ the price of a new one (His shop is in Ft. Lauderdale if you want to contact him) and 4 years later, it’s still just like new.
Inside the dinghy, we added a grapnel anchor with 10 ft. of small chain and 150 ft. of rode. That may seem like a lot but when we scuba dive we may anchor in 50 ft. or more of water so it really works well. I also put a two small cleats on the inside of the transom so that it is possible to tie off a stern anchor (or other line) which is required for some dingy docks. I added strap tie downs under the seat for the gas tank and two Type II life jackets tied under the seat above the tank. To be legal, we also took along a Type IV throwable cushion and a small light with a suction cup to put on top of the motor at night. And finally we praise our St. Croix dinghy ladder which folds in half and hides away. But it is the best way to get out of the water that we have ever found. Check it out.
To handle the dinghy, we added a set of Kato davits and a Forespar motor crane. We used this for short trips or for security at night at anchor. But for longer passages, we took everything apart and put the dinghy on the foredeck so it would not drag in the water when heeled over.
And finally, another little trick we discovered was to take a short 6 ft. piece of three strand dock line and splice a clip on one end. We put this on the front of the dinghy with the longer painter. When coming into a dinghy dock, it was so easy to just clip on the line instead of trying to find a cleat or a place to tie off. And the line was short enough not to get all tangled as well.
So the dinghy was never a problem on the trip. We had to put in a new water pump impeller but otherwise it never gave us any problem. We took it on many long day trips around the Caribbean.