I overheard a couple of people discussing dinghies the other day and it made me realize just how much stuff has changed…
I know it dates me but back when the cruising bug first hit me in the 70’s, dinghies were things you rowed. The 98-foot LOD schooner I was working on at the time had two dinghies, a six-foot pram and a 14-foot lapstrake pulling boat. As I recall, we got along just fine without an outboard and as far as I can see nothing has really changed to make it any different.
Personally, I really enjoy rowing 90% of the times and, as for the 10% I don’t enjoy, I generally tell myself while I might not be enjoying a particular windward slog back to the boat I’d be enjoying working on an outboard even less. With the lousy fuel available these days working on an outboard is just a fact of life.
The other thing about having a dinghy without a motor is I don’t have to worry about it being on the dinghy dock when I’m out shopping or running errands.
Our current dinghy is a Phil Bolger/Payson Big Tortoise (plans from “Instant Boatbuilding with Dynamite Payson”) which is the maximum volume and utility you can get out of two sheets of plywood, twenty-dollars of 1″ X 2″ stock, and some resin/glue of some sort. It works really well, is stable enough that I can fly fish standing up without hassle, and it rows a lot better than anyone expects.
The real advantage is that it allows me to be part of the environment that is mostly missed by the other cruisers flitting from boat to shore in a perpetual hurry with their RIBs and 15hp and over outboards. I get to see rays, turtles, and birds on a regular basis and I like that.