|Equipment for a boat,
tips for using the equipment,
and parts of a boat.
This page updated: August 2012
My Boat Appliances page (air conditioner, head, stove, refrigerator, watermaker, etc)
My Boat Auto-Steering page
My Boat Basics page (anchor, rigging, cabin, cockpit, mast, hull, keel, etc)
Dinghy (Tender, Dink) section
My Boat Electrical page
My Boat Engine, Drive Train, Outboard Motor page
Liferaft (and supplies on it) section
My Boat Navigation page
Safety Equipment section
"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler."
- Albert Einstein
If you can't repair it, replace it, or get
along without it while you are out there, it shouldn't be on the boat.
- Gary Elder
A cruising sailboat probably is the most complicated
vehicle/dwelling there could be: it combines everything from a powerboat,
sailboat, house, car, RV, office, power plant, water company, sewage plant, radio station.
Then puts it all in a damp, moving, powerful, corrosive environment, where it can sink at
any time, and help is not nearby.
Get a subscription to
Practical Sailor magazine ($60/year);
it does head-to-head equipment comparisons.
West Marine catalog
has useful articles in it.
SailNet - Randy Harman's "Cruising Necessities and Luxuries"
SailNet - Liza Copeland's "Criteria for Successful Cruising"
SailNet - Bruce Caldwell's "Daysailing Essentials"
SailNet - Liza Copeland's "Preparing to Sail Offshore, Part I"
SailNet - Don Casey's "If I Knew Then ..."
Gene Gruender's "Preparing to Leave" (what to take, and what not to take)
Sue and Larry's "Creative Cruising Solutions" (misc ideas)
Tom Neale's "Boating Tips"
FAQs about Sarana
Beth Leonard's "What Two Circumnavigators Left Off When They Equipped Their Dream Boat"
Beth Leonard's "Simple But Sophisticated"
"The Voyager's Handbook" by Beth Leonard
"... I had always found that the art of successful travel consisted in
taking as few 'impedimenta' as possible, and not forgetting to
carry my wits about me ... I had a secret conviction that, if I did not
succeed, it would not be for lack of the 'nicknacks' advertised
as indispensable for travellers, but from want of 'pluck', or because
a large array of baggage excited the cupidity of the tribes through whose
country we wished to pass."
- David Livingstone, missionary and explorer in Africa in the 1850's
From Andy Bacon on Cruising World message board, 3/2009:
Modifications for Living Aboard:
In the Eastern Caribbean where we sail in the winter, we observe that many sailors
make their way from the USA to the area via the open ocean, often while doing the
Caribbean 1500 Rally. Many European cruisers cross the Atlantic to get there,
often as part of the ARC. The vessels making such passages are typically high-quality,
well equipped and expensive, and hardly need modification for living aboard.
We, however, always intended that our sailboat would stay in the Eastern Caribbean
over the summer, and so we made a different choice of vessel. Although it was equipped
with what you would nowadays expect on a modern yacht (GPS, VHF, standard instruments, windlass),
we have found it necessary to substantially modify our production sailboat in order to
make it really suitable for living aboard. If yours is a lightish displacement yacht
aimed primarily at the charter market or at weekenders (who might also embark upon an
occasional 2-week cruise) then you might need to change things to make it suitable
for living aboard, as we have had to, if that is what you intend to do.
The Vessel Itself
The choice of vessel really is a personal one. Notwithstanding the comments above,
there are people sailing and living aboard every conceivable variation of sailing vessel
out here. We sail a 37-foot French production yacht [2004 Jeanneau 37]. She is spacious, comfortable,
economical, and invigorating under sail. We have concerns as to how she would stand
up to severe weather in mid-ocean, and take care to avoid finding ourselves in such
a situation. (That said, we did once find ourselves in conditions of 40-knot winds
and 12-15 foot seas and felt entirely confident in her. We have also seen a sister
ship which crossed the Atlantic twice.)
The issue of why some boats cost more than others is an interesting one, which
had a bearing on our purchase decision. In order to illustrate the answer, let's
consider 2 stereotypes: a high-volume French or German production yacht and a
Swedish or New England yacht, almost entirely hand-built or at least hand-finished
in limited numbers. The second costs twice that of the first, maybe more. Asked why,
everyone will answer that it's a matter of strength and build quality, and that's true.
But it also goes deeper than that.
The stereotype production yacht hull was probably built and then filled with pre-assembled
interior modules before the deck was placed on top. Deck and hull were joined by adhesive,
held in place until bonding was complete by self-tapping screws through the deck at the gunwales.
The stereotype hand-built yacht probably had the deck fitted before the interior was in place.
This had to be so because deck and hull were bolted together, and access had to be provided to
the nut on the inside to tighten it. Then the interior was completed, from the inside.
This involved many more hours labour, hence an extra cost which is reflected in the price
(apart from possibly thicker layers of fibreglass and resin and layup method).
There is however, more to it than the integrity of deck-hull bond. Interior modules which
are entirely assembled outside the vessel may have components fitted which are totally
inaccessible once the unit is dropped into the hull from above. If the shower hose comes
off its barb fitting on our boat, we will have a big problem because we can never get to it.
There's no guarantee that access would be better in the case of a hand-finished vessel,
but the chance of easy disassembly of panels etc to get where you need to be is much greater.
This has major implications for the liveaboard owner and maintainer. We considered this and made a judgement.
Our yacht is at the small end of the scale out here. We opted for this length because
either of us can handle all the working systems (which we regard as an essential feature),
because she is exciting to sail (and that's the main reason we are out here, after all),
yet big enough to be equipped with the things we regard as necessary.
The most important on-board system for liveaboards is also the least understood,
at least this is so for many people we know and once included ourselves: the electrical system.
If you want a refrigerator for cold beer and other drinks, storing foodstuffs, and possibly
making ice, you will – like we - need to pay careful attention to the criteria for happy batteries.
We cannot discuss the subject without some definitions. Try not to glaze over: we will try to keep it simple.
A volt is a measure of potential energy. In the case of a battery (properly called a lead accumulator),
it shows the state of charge: a fully-charged DC battery will show nearly 13 volts, a depleted one
less than 12. The simple analogue voltmeter on almost every circuit-breaker panel will give
an approximation as to battery condition. We have not found that to be specific enough,
and fitted a digital one which also measures ampere flow and amp-hours consumed. See also below.
An amp is a measure of energy flow. An amp-hour is a measure of this flow over time. So what
are typical daily energy needs for living aboard? Our refrigerator system (a chest with evaporator
plate ice compartment, rather like a small land-based refrigerator) alone uses about 60-70 amp-hours
per 24 hours. Total daily usage for everything is some 90-100 amp-hours. We are not extravagant
users: we have no microwave oven or electric appliances, no hair dryers, use the CD player
fairly sparingly, do not keep the VHF on all day. Cruisers who drive refrigerator compressors
directly using a belt to the auxiliary engine do not have anything like such a demand,
but must run the engine every day at least once.
Experts are not exaggerating when they state that the capacity of the house battery bank
should be 4 times the average daily usage. That's a lot of battery! Many boats including
ours do not provide space for such capacity. We at one time had a 2 times reserve but in
the end capitulated: it was simply not enough. We burnt out expensive fridge controllers,
exhausted batteries quickly, and generally struggled. We now have 3.5 times, at about 350 amp-hours.
The amp-hours used must be put back into the house battery by a combination of auxiliary-driven
alternator, solar panels, wind generator, independent petrol-driven generator or some other means.
As the charging process continues and the batteries are replenished, the voltage needed to
drive energy into them rises, approaching 14 volts as they come up to full charge. The result
is that the whole process slows down long before full charge is reached, and the batteries
never seem to reach full charge. In addition, charging equipment does not perform at anything
like the rated capacity, so charging systems must be over-sized. But not too much, because
batteries can only accept a certain rate of charge before they overheat. The regulator sees
to this task, but there is a limit to how much excess charge it can dissipate. As an
approximation, a rated charging capacity in amps equal to 25-40% of the battery bank capacity
in amp-hours is recommended.
In our case, this defined the size of our alternator (at anchor, you can't always count on the
wind generator giving anything!) at 85 amps. We fitted one and keep the standard 55 amp as a spare.
Now we find that the bigger alternator is at the limit of the alternator belt power range:
we burn a belt a season and have to adjust the tension monthly. We really should have double pulleys…
The wind generator is rated at 100 amps but it takes a constant 20-knot wind to yield this over
a 24-hour period. If the anchorage is fairly calm, with an average windspeed of 10 knots,
the generator cannot do better than make a 30-40 amp-hour contribution over the day.
The solar panel we have is rated at 115 watts (the largest unit we could find in 2006).
This means it is rated to yield some 10 amps per hour, but it only works at this rate during
period of strong sunlight directly overhead, and when not partially covered by shadow.
Over a typical day, it contributes perhaps 30-40 amp-hours as well.
We thus have to run the auxiliary engine on most days. To speed up the charging process
by alternator, 'smart' regulators have been developed which 'push' charge into
nearly-full batteries at a faster yet judicious rate. We installed one, and suppose
it helps. We also have installed a device which counts amps in and out, and hence
gives the balance in terms of amp-hours. This helps us determine how long to run
the auxiliary each day. I should point out that the refrigerator will cut out without
announcement when the battery voltage is just at 12 volts, so careful monitoring
is important (the rest voltage of a charged system is about 12.6 volts). Waking
to find a defrosted icebox is not a good start to the day.
Time and money spent on learning about the electrical system will be rewarded.
We have covered the basics, not to educate the reader but to motivate him/her to
consult and learn from experts.
GPS is now the standard piece of equipment for cruisers. Enough said.
We have found the electronic charts for the area to be almost 100% accurate.
That said, errors can be made using these navigation systems, and everyone can quote
a story or two, but errors are just as easily made using traditional methods of navigation.
The chartplotter was initially installed at the nav station below. When we moved it
to the binnacle, life on passage improved immeasurably. And safety was enhanced:
what the chartplotter shows can now be verified by eye without leaving the cockpit,
and gets consulted more frequently. And unlike paper charts, it doesn't blow overboard.
Night Vision (RADAR)
Although most passages can be accomplished during daylight hours, it may be necessary
to begin a passage well before dawn, in order to make a landfall in good light.
Some passages may require a full overnight trip. In these waters, many vessels use inadequate
or incorrect lighting at night, if at all. This necessitates diligent watchkeeping, and we
have found that 2 people standing alternating watches under these conditions is stressful
and tiring: for the long-distance crew, things apparently get into a stride by about
day 2 or 3 on a long passage, but we never get that far. We added a small RADAR unit
and have never regretted it. Many do not share our opinion and sail without.
The addition of a RADAR was prompted by an event at night in the Anegada Passage,
between St Maarten and the British Virgin Islands. While distracted by the approach
dead on reciprocal course of a fast-moving vessel(s) showing the strangest set of
navigation lights, we neglected to monitor what we initially took to be a cruise
ship bound for St Thomas on a parallel heading perhaps 5 to 10 miles away, and therefore
no threat to us. It was in fact a bulk carrier – bridge and forecastle lit up with arc
lamps - moving at 20-25 knots straight towards our port quarter. We saw it in time,
but it passed too close for comfort.
Dinghy and Outboard
A means to get ashore anywhere is essential. The cruiser's dinghy has a hard life:
bumps and scratches from rough surfaces, all day in the broiling sun, being dragged
up abrasive beaches. The outboard likewise has a hard time of it. Some writers
suggest that a planing dinghy (with 2 up, and with load of provisions and/or
jerrycans) is vital. The 8-15 horsepower outboard able to do this is heavy,
maybe 40-80 lbs, awkward to handle and maybe needing a derrick to raise and lower
it onto the dinghy. The dinghy too has to be robust and heavy to carry the weight
of the outboard, making hoisting it onto the foredeck more difficult, or necessitating davits.
Nice though it would be to have such equipment, we make do with a 3.5 horsepower 2-stroke
outboard, a light rigid-bottomed inflatable, and suffer the inconvenience of getting
spray in our faces and on our clothing in the rough waters common to open anchorages.
But we do have to be careful in places where there are strong currents running.
We invested in a small emergency pack which we take with us: mini flare kit, spare
shear pin and spark plug and tools for the outboard, hand-held VHF radio and we never
are without the oars. We also have a small dinghy anchor.
At night, we make sure we are well lit up and visible. One night dinghying back to the
boat in Simpson's Bay Lagoon, St Maarten, we were nearly ridden down by a speeding powerboat,
despite our having a flashlight lit. Close to shore, when there is so much light clutter,
it is admittedly hard to see slow-moving objects. Because he was approaching us straight-on,
we too had trouble seeing him! We subsequently found small flashing LED lights sold in
cyclist stores, a kind of personal strobe, and we now use these as well at night in the dinghy
The following is unsubstantiated by us, so treat with caution. Apparently, PVC inflatables
do not stand up well to the Caribbean sun. That said, the major manufacturer of this type
is French, and I have seen many French yachts equipped with them. Furthermore,
they are difficult to repair properly (the manufacturing process uses heat-sealing, not glue).
The most robust and most easily repaired inflatables are constructed of Hypalon,
which will have been glued together during assembly. Hence repair is second nature to them.
Although they are naturally also the most expensive, we opted for this material of construction.
Many (most) islands in the Eastern Caribbean have no national rescue service and little in
the way of a Coast Guard. Some have a commercial rescue operator, but subscription is not
worthwhile to the cruiser because one is usually there for only a short spell at a time.
This means that one must be self-reliant. It is tempting to think of this lifestyle as
one of carefree island-hopping by day, but this is an illusion: many of the passages
between islands are open Atlantic for 30 to 40 miles and should one be forced to take
to the liferaft, it is a long drift to the Central American isthmus. In our opinion,
this is not an area for trying to make economies. So we bought a good one. And a crash
bag which we pack before every long passage. And an EPIRB.
If you want to sleep well, you need to have faith in your ground tackle. There are many
types of anchor on the market. Although the majority of anchoring we do takes place in sand,
the anchor had to be suitable for this but also for mangrove mud and also grass.
Since no one anchor performs in all these conditions, the implication was that more
than one type would be needed. Plough anchors, especially the Delta, have good holding
characteristics in sand and grassy bottoms, albeit poor in soft mud. The Bruce type
apparently works well in sand and mud, but not as well in grass. Danforth types are
excellent for soft bottoms and sand, don't do well in grass and do not reset as reliably as other types.
So we have a Delta at the bow, all-chain rode, and small Fortress kedge anchor set
up for regular use. In the locker are a spare Delta and a massive Danforth-type fluke anchor.
We have the last-mentioned for emergency use: should a severe weather system come through
and require us to take shelter in a mangrove, the major retaining anchor will have to be
in soft mud. It seems logical to us to use the anchor type which will perform best in
these admittedly abnormal circumstances.
Chain, snubbing line, anti-chafe system all had to be acquired. If you don't have a windlass,
you will need a device which stops the chain running back out while you pause for breath between heaves.
Generally, charter companies do not provide spray-hoods on their yachts, and weekenders also
often do without. This is acceptable when sailing for a week but no-one can do without
a spray-hood over the medium to long term. A bimini (sun awning) which offers protection
from the sun was also essential. We also have mesh sunscreens which we use to shield the
cockpit – where we live, practically – from the sinking afternoon sun. With wind consistently
from the East and the afternoon sun in the West, these get daily use.
We humm-ed and haaa-ed about a watermaker, but heard so many tales about the need for
careful husbanding that we opted for four extra 5-gallon jugs instead. These proved
very handy for topping up in places where there is no fuel dock, and help us 'stay out'
just that bit longer. We have also had a vinyl/canvas raincatcher made, which we span over the foredeck.
Information about the weather can be obtained off the internet, but most people use radio.
Our prime means of hearing about the weather is via a Sony World Receiver
(portable shortwave radio) equipped with SSB, have a wire connecting the aerial
to the rigging to improve reception, a cable running from the earphone socket
to the mic input of a laptop running weatherfax software which we bought from a
commercial enterprise. Some software requires a modulator between radio and computer,
ours does not. In the space of 30 minutes, this setup downloads 3 weatherfaxes showing
wind and wave forecasts for 24, 48, and 72 hours ahead without (much) human intervention
on our part. NOAA also provide radiofaxes showing sea-state up to 72 hours ahead,
which we watch sporadically. We know cruisers who have thousands of dollars worth of
marine SSB transmitter/receivers to do the same thing, and would have nothing smaller.
It's a personal choice, and we have decided we have no use for an SSB transmitter,
only a receiver. Were we making long ocean passages, we might think differently.
(There is one disadvantage to radiofaxes: they do not show the likelihood of precipitation,
which can have a significant effect on wind strength).
The yacht came fitted with a VHF mounted in the cabin. While that is better than nothing,
a mic and control at the binnacle would be most useful. But changing the radio is an
expensive job, and we haven't done this yet. Meantime, we have a second handheld VHF radio
which we use in the cockpit, and which doubles as spare.
All diesel in the Caribbean is contaminated to some extent with water, thanks to area's
naturally high humidity. Microbes grow at the water/diesel interface in tanks and when they die,
produce a sludge which will eventually try to migrate to the injectors and cause a blockage.
We installed a properly sized pre-filter in the diesel line. At the end of the season,
it contains plenty of sludge. Fuel additives are commonly available to prevent the sludge
forming in the first place and we use this too.
We also invested in a filter/funnel which separates water out from the diesel as it goes
into the tank. We have tested its performance and it certainly does remove some of the water.
We will never know if it takes out everything...
Books, Charts and Reference Material
We have invested in more guide books, charts, manuals than you can shake a stick at,
but all of them have been worth it. A list of these is given in the sister article
to this one, on the Caribbean page
- Sleeping bags. Can get liner that can be pulled out and laundered.
Waterproof sleeping bags ?
- Built-in swim ladder.
West Marine's "Boarding Ladders "
- Deck hose (salt water pumped to fitting on deck).
Want to reach entire deck.
- Biggest possible awnings (shade, rainwater, keep dry in rain).
Should be white (how about reflective ?).
Avoid nylon (mildew), get treated natural canvas
Use Teflon/Goretex thread instead of polyester; lasts longer.
Some awnings are a real pain to rig.
Want it to be secure enough to leave up during rain.
From Steve Honour on Cruising World message board:
I make awnings for under $15 using materials available at Home Depot.
They sell poly tarps for around $10 depending on size.
The silver is the thickest and strongest.
I then get two stout PVC pipes and using lashing line to attach
the grommets of the tarps to the pipes. Drill holes thru the ends
of the pipes to do the corners. File the holes. Make long lines
on each corner. The two pipes go opposite each other. Also put
a 3' piece of line at the center of each pipe. I sometimes have
to use PVC couples/cement to extend the pipes if they are not long enough.
Then simply run a strong line from forestay to mast and mast to backstay.
The 3' lines tie onto the stout support lines with rolling hitches.
You can then tie the corners down to the life lines and put as much
bend as you like in the pipes. Tie the corners fore and aft to put
tension on the sides.
It creates something that looks exactly like the Shadetree ad
for less than $15 per awning. Easy to deploy and retrieve.
Takes strong winds because if you set it up right, the whole
thing is taut and the loads are spread evenly.
The poly tarps last about a season of heavy use and several of light.
They are easily replaceable for pocket change.
You can get the blue material but for some reason, they do not
make it in the heavy gauge so they don't hold up as well.
I've been using this system for years and have been thru 20kt winds
with them up. They take more breeze if you tie em down tighter
to the lifelines.
- Several inexpensive 12-volt fans and/or
for cooling at night.
- Put cheap computer fans in lockers to keep them ventilated.
- Best waterproof gloves for cold temperatures: dry diving gloves.
Dinghy (Tender, Dink)
Funniest dinghy name I've seen: "Row vs Wade".
A dinghy is much more important than you'd think;
having a proper dinghy greatly expands range of things you can get to.
Sometimes the best anchorage is not the one closest
to town or the best beach. And the dinghy is a safety item: it can tow/push the boat,
carry additional anchors out, be a backup for the liferaft,
pick up a MOB, take you ashore in a medical emergency, etc.
- Hard (one-piece, or folding/nesting/two-piece).
Durable, can be rowed, sailed and powered well,
can build yourself, less likely to be stolen, cheaper.
But heavy, hard to stow, can mark up the boat, can capsize or swamp,
hard to get into from diving/snorkeling,
surges and can flip while being towed.
Ones with rounded bottoms are very tippy.
Can make more stable and give positive flotation by
tying fenders or Dinghy Dogs around the outside.
Light, easier to stow, won't mark up boat,
hard to capsize, very stable, best to dive from, tows well,
can serve as liferaft.
But more expensive, more likely to be stolen,
hard to row, impossible to row into wind,
needs protection from sun and chafe,
tubes take up some space that is usable in hard dinghy,
harder to remove tar from, vulnerable to solvents.
- Rigid-bottom inflatable (RIB).
Similar to inflatable but more durable, easier to row,
faster motoring, more expensive, heavier, harder to stow.
- Hard with pontoons / Rigid Buoyancy Boat (RBB) / RID.
Making one by attaching fenders to a hard dinghy: article by Jim Isbell in Nov/Dec 2000 issue
of Good Old Boat magazine
Inflatable floor types:
- Fabric / flat-bottom.
- Inflatable / air-deck.
- Floorboard inserts.
- Segmented floorboards.
- Inflatable vee.
- Hard vee / RIB (with vee-floor or flat floor).
SailNet - Tom Wood's "The Fundamentals Of Dinghy Choice"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Choosing a Dinghy"
SailNet - Tom Wood's "Dangerous Dinghies"
Four sailing dinghies (Fatty Knees 8, Walker Bay 8, Tinker Traveler, Eastport Pram)
tested in Mar/Apr 2001 issue of Good Old Boat magazine
Walker Bay article in 9/2001 issue of Practical Sailor
Fabric and floorboard inflatables article in 6/2005 issue of Practical Sailor
Tradeoffs surveyed in article by Bob Wood in May/June 2000 issue of Good Old Boat magazine
Ten RIBs tested in article by Ed Sherman in 10/2003 issue of Cruising World magazine
Fourteen hard dinghies tested in article by Darrell Nicholson in 1/2004 issue of Cruising World magazine
Rollup and folding inflatables reviewed in article by Darrell Nicholson in 11/2003 issue of Cruising World magazine
From "Second Thoughts" article by Tim Murphy in 6/2004 issue of Cruising World magazine:
Cruisers in the south Caribbean or South Pacific usually upgrade to
a hard-bottom inflatable dinghy with a 15+ horsepower motor.
They go longer distances and through more chop than cruisers in
north Caribbean or USA.
Larger-diameter pontoons (17-inch) keep you drier.
From John Dunsmoor:
The best most successful tender option I have seen is two tenders. The
primary is a hard dinghy about 8 to 10 feet, easy to launch, rugged and can
take a beating. This many times is a good rowing, sailing and has the
provision for an outboard, say 4 hp. The second tender is an inflatable, say
ten to fourteen feet with a larger outboard, up to a 25 hp.
The idea is that you need a working tender, to set anchors, get to shore,
what have you. Then in the islands the forty-foot sailboat becomes a
stationary home and the "sportboat" comes into play. Diving, snorkeling,
fishing, going after supplies, visiting friends, all those wonderful
If you are sailing with friends and cruising, having more than one dinghy is
very convenient. Also there is security. It is a lot easier to lock up a
rigid dinghy than an inflatable.
Speaking of security, tenders are stolen a lot. It used to be that on the
list of high desire inflatables ranked pretty low. Most of the time they
were stolen for their larger engines. A 15 hp outboard is a couple of grand,
in many islands this is about a year's worth of wages. The inflatable goes into
the dump. They may be more sophisticated these days, recognizing that
inflatables are worth something also.
We always used a hard dinghy till our last trip to the Bahamas. With proper
calculation I would go to shore with the inflatable without the motor and
they are tough to row but can be done, I had a piece of single braid with a
1/8" cable inside, this I would lock to something. Never did have a problem
with anyone stealing the tender.
New on the scene, well relatively new, are rigid bottom inflatables. They
are great, but they are also expensive. I have thought that they would be
easy to rig as a sailing dinghy, very light and would scream across the
water, especially down wind. They row a lot better than a regular
inflatable, due to the rigidity of the bottom. Downside: they are expensive
($2000 to $3000); this is a lot of cruising, but it might be worth it. With
moderate power they run great. We just bought one for one of our boats, a
Carib 9'8" model, $2300 with tax and quite the boat.
Even with the 4 hp and four persons the boat will just about plane.
How hard could it be to install a centerboard and mast step ?
The best situation we had was on a schooner, I vowed if ever I had the
ability to make the decision I would have this again. We had a fourteen
foot tender, on chocks. Ready to go at any time. This was located between the
masts on a flush deck vessel. We had a pair of spare halyards, one from the
foremast and the other from the main mast. One person could raise the
tender about three feet off the deck, securing the halyards and then push
the tender over the side. Simple tilt and over she would go. Then holding
both halyards it was a simple matter to lower the tender into the water along
side the vessel. I would then let out about two feet of slack. The tender
being held both bow and stern would sit quietly along side. I would then
enter the tender, start the engine and disconnect the halyards and steam
Fourteen feet is a lot of tender, and it sure was nice. From concept to
motoring away took maybe ten minutes at most. Coming back was easy also. I
would come along side, hook up the bow halyard, hook up the stern and then
climb aboard. Hoist one, then the other till the tender was back on deck.
Sometimes as a simple overnight procedure I would only hoist the tender
about four feet out of the water and let it hang over the side, ready for
the next shore trip.
One thing I have learned over the years, if it isn't easy it won't get done.
Towing tenders is the first step to losing them. Having a good storage
system means having a tender that is fun and practical to use. Bigger is better.
From Dennis Fria of Mustang Island Yachts:
... When cruising, your boat is your home, and the dink is the
family car. If you're driving a clunker around the neighborhood, you're not too adventurous!
With a good and FAST dinghy you really expand your horizons! Sometimes you may want to explore a reef
that might be 6 or 8 miles away. With a slow dinghy you probably won't do that but once! But with a
fast dink it's a breeze!
A good example: our first trip to the Bahamas we took the rigid FBG punt I built. When we
left I had only oars. And that worked for a while, but it soon became obvious that our explorations
would be short! By the time we got to So. Florida it was obvious that we needed a motor. So we got a
2.5 HP. Then when we got to Bimini a fellow cruiser invited me along on a lobstering expedition.
"Follow me!" So he took off in his fast dinghy, and I followed in my slow dinghy. Offshore! Out
into the Gulfstream! And south nearly 6 miles to Turtle Rocks, which took me nearly an hour!
Offshore! That's crazy in a little 8' punt! But, hey, what did I know!!
By the time we got to Georgetown we were really feeling limited with our little slow dink. We
anchored near Stocking Island, at what's called Volleyball Beach, and it was a full 2 miles across
Elizabeth Harbor to Georgetown. It only took one trip with both of us in that dinghy to realize
we were gonna have to have something faster! There's a good chop out in that harbor, and after a
half-hour ride over, with the chop slopping into the dink, we were both soaked! Then we had to do
it again on the way back to the boat!
So, we bought a 6 HP Yamaha and that really helped! Much faster trips, but still very wet!
And a VERY limited payload: just the two of us and 2 bags of groceries! No more! Boy, were we envious
of those folks with a good fast dinghy!
An RIB is the best way to go, especially with at least a 10 HP OB. The bigger the tubes, the
better. I like Carib RIBs. Big tubes.
The problem is storing it. RIBs are heavy, so they are tough to get on deck. Also not too
compact, so tough to store. Many folks use davits, but I don't like them. I lash my dinghy on
the foredeck, and that little punt only weighs about 90 lbs, so we winch it up with a Primary winch
and a halyard.
If you have the room on the foredeck, that is, I think, the appropriate place for a dinghy.
You won't be able to do that with a cutter, though, as the staysail (which is typically on a
self-tacking boom) is in the way. Island Packets are typically cutters and have davits.
But, again, I don't like davits.
Possibly a good compromise is the new inflatable floor dinghies. I've had some experience
with them and they are pretty good. You have to get that damn thing up on a plane, and to do that you
need a rigid floor. Inflatables with plywood floors don't plane so well, and that's why the RIBs
are so great! However, these new inflatable floor jobs work pretty well. The floors inflate to high
pressure and are solid enough to allow the boat to plane. ...
West Marine's "Inflatable Boats"
BoatU.S.'s "Inflatable Boats"
Lightweight RIBs (Apex, Aria, Zodiac) reviewed in 7/15/2000 issue of Practical Sailor
Inflatables tested in 12/2000 issue of Practical Sailor
RIB reviews in Practical Sailor
's 1999 Gear-Buying Guide.
- Type (RIB, inflatable floor, removable floor, RID, etc).
- Length (some dinghy-docks say maximum length is 12 feet).
- Tube material (PVC, Hypalon, etc).
- Tube diameter.
- Number of tubes.
- Material construction (overlapped joints better than butt-joints).
- Max HP.
- Max capacity.
- Hoisting points.
- Oarlocks ?
- Hard dinghy can capsize when getting in (from boat, dock,
swimming); an inflatable is better.
- Inflatables are very hard to row: no keel, lots of windage, high freeboard.
Paddling while sitting on the bow works somewhat.
- A moderate-sized (3 inch ?) tear or hole will deflate and sink
an inflatable surprisingly quickly. Get the motor off immediately
to avoid submerging it.
- From 12/2000 issue of Practical Sailor:
"When it comes to [performance of] inflatable boats, length is nearly everything."
- Hypalon is more durable than PVC.
- Make sun-proof cover for inflatable dinghy to protect it.
- Add extra layer of canvas to dinghy's inside floor.
- Add sacrificial canvas to outside of dinghy's bow and stern to protect when beached.
- On tubes: never use products containing silicone (ArmorAll);
use 303 (contains UV protectant).
Silicone can prevent later patches from adhering.
- Bad (at least in hot climate): Zodiac, Metzler, older Quicksilvers ?
- A couple of people say Zodiac's "new fancy flush valves" leak.
- Bad (according to John Neal): Tinker.
- My RIB has an airspace in the hull, between the deep-V outer hull
and the flat inner sole. Water keeps getting in there, and won't
drain out; I have to pump it out. The first time, the extra weight snapped
welds on my davits before I figured out what was happening.
I'd much rather have a hull with no airspace in it.
- My RIB has a deep-V hull and a heavy motor; it throws quite a wake at
any speed above slow. Maybe a flat-bottom or cathedral-hull dinghy
would be able to go faster through harbors and no-wake zones.
- I found that, when snorkeling from the dinghy, I can propel myself up high
enough to get over the tube and back into the RIB if I am wearing swim-fins,
but can't if my feet are bare. A ladder or rope with a loop or using the
outboard lower unit as a step might work.
From Alan Eddy's "So You Want To Sail Around the World":
It is very annoying to arrive back where you have tied the dinghy,
only to find the damned thing floating deflated on the surface like
a huge skin. Rubber dinghies are fine for relatively protected
anchorages where facilities exist for handling them.
Although more difficult to sweat aboard and stow, a wood
or fiberglass dinghy will prove much more reliable over the years.
Tom Neale agrees; he says inflatables pop.
From Beau Vrolyk on IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
Thoughts on inflatable:
- Larger is ALWAYS better. In particular the larger tubes on some brands
(larger than our Achilles) were neat for a number of reasons:
- Tubes get caught under the counter in the stern [of the big boat].
Larger tubes keep the dink out of there.
- Larger tubes are better to sit on; you're further from the evil water
- Larger tubes don't slide under docks as easily; we popped our Achilles
on a steel beam under a dock in Tahiti.
- Light colors are ALWAYS better. They get dirty looking, but, you can sit
on them when it's hot (BLACK IS NOT TOLERABLE), you can always wash them,
and they don't absorb heat causing the dink to blow up. This happened in
So. Calif. one time when I was small. Big BANG!
- Hard bottoms are ALWAYS better. This, of course, applies to the skipper
and crew as well as the dink! The plywood inserts in our Achilles were a
pain to get installed, but worked "ok" once there. The single-piece
fiberglass hard bottoms are the best. Particularly the ones with a bit of
dead rise and a "V" section forward.
- Don't put the maximum sized motor the mfg says is ok on your dink. We
nearly flipped our Achilles with a 15 hp going up wind in a bad chop in
about 35 knots of wind. We were putting a second anchor out and got going a
bit fast (10 knots). The resulting 45 knots of air speed got us well and
truly airborne for too too long a time. We did something similar when
yours-truly was coming home late in a glass-calm flat out. Hit a wake and
went almost 10 feet in the air prior to landing motor first and just barely
falling forward rather than aft. Jeessss, it was dark out (should I say
drunk out) and I didn't see that 3 foot wake. If we'd had the 25 HP motor
that the mfg rated the dink for, I'd have been swimming or fish food.
- I think you get pretty much what you pay for. The expensive dinks are
certainly nicer dinks. But, after all - it's only supposed to float and get
you to the beach party.
From Kathy Barron on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
... Don't scrimp on the inflatable dinghy; buy one with large tubes and an
inflatable keel and at least 9' in length. We met more cruisers who wished
they had bought the next larger size. You end up transporting guests,
laundry, water, fuel, provisions and SCUBA gear in them. Sometimes you'll
want to set another anchor and will need to carry the anchor and chain in
the dink. ...
From Jeff Smith on The Live-Aboard List:
Tips with respect to inflatables:
1) Hypalon is the material of choice. Most other brand names are PVC
products with fancy names and the UV will destroy them. Count on it.
2) Look closely at the seams where pieces of hypalon join. Interestingly,
the uglier seams are MUCH better than the pretty ones. To elaborate:
Recognizing that many purchasers don't bother to look past esthetics,
a number of inflatable makers join the materials in
their dinghys using BUTT joints for seams. ...
Where the two sections are butted together
and then covered with a strip of material. It looks really pretty,
but is NOT at all strong. You do not want to buy a dinghy where butt joints
are used. They WILL fail eventually.
Instead, look for a dinghy where they have built overlapping joints. They
don't look as pretty but are substantially stronger than butt joints.
... the dinghy with overlapping seams is FAR stronger and
better made. Look for it on Avons for example, and many other quality
inflatables. The smooth pretty joints and seams of a butt-jointed inflatable
are doomed to premature failure.
One other thing. Look carefully at the oarlocks. Even if you think you'll
never row it, you will need to row one day, and when you do you want to be
sure that the oars are held firmly and in proper location to row.
On the subject of oars, also make sure that they stow well so that you don't
end up having them break loose underway and flop around ... especially under
Finally look closely to be sure that the transom is overbuilt and well
stressed. Again, pretty is not the key here. The transom takes a lot of
stress and you need to be sure it is well made. I've seen a lot of
inflatables fail at the transom. Overbuilt is good.
From Brian Woloshin on Cruising World
Forget the RIB, forget big engines ...
I sail on a 44-footer and use a Caribe rollup - flat floor and a 3.3 Mercury (Tohatsu, Evinrude,
Nissan, all the same engine).
The engine weighs 30 pounds and is easily handled by one person without a crane. It has an
integral tank and we only carry extra fuel for long trips.
It will not plane. What's your hurry? Relax a little. How far are you really going in the dink? By
the time you mount davits and a crane for the outboard plus the RIB and a 100-pound engine, your
stern will squat. Want a windvane? Forget it with davits. Store the dinghy on your foredeck and you can't
get forward without climbing over it or under it.
My dink sits athwartships under the boom while sailing, and it is rolled up in a locker for
offshore passages. No tripping over the thing if you have to go forward in bad weather.
From JeanneP on Cruising World
We always deflated our inflatable floor dinghy before sailing somewhere. It took us about 15 or 20
minutes to deflate it, suck all the air out, fold and stow it. We have huge lazarettes so
it was easy to stow.
Reinflating it was extremely simple - we used a 12V high-volume air pump, finishing up with a hand
pump. Took maybe 10 minutes to inflate and launch. I agree that it can get squirrely because it is
much lighter than other dinghies, but we soon got used to it. It also was so light that deploying
it and bringing it back on board could be done by one person, though it was of course much easier
and faster with two. I admit that the 12V pump made it very easy for us to do this.
We could not see any way to put davits on our boat. And we knew that towing a dinghy was a bad
idea (because we had done it until we finally learned just how many things can, and inevitably do,
Additionally, most cruisers we met who had a RIB not only worried about carrying it on the boat,
but also about what to do with it when they went ashore where the tide range exceeded 3 feet or
so. The dinghy and a 15 HP outboard gets really heavy the further up the beach you have to
carry/drag it. We had trouble carrying a 5 HP outboard and an inflatable with wood floor. Those
wheels that are supposed to help didn't seem to do so great a job.
All that said, I think a RIB is a great idea, especially if you won't be doing ocean passages. But
from our experience, it can be a burden, too.
From DG on Cruising World
We had an Avon 320 HPIF (inflatable floor). It is/was a great dinghy for what it was. The construction was very good
and we were quite pleased. The negative was that though it was portable and we deflated it before
longer trips, it was a SERIOUS PITA. First, you just dreaded the idea of deflating and stowing, or
inflating and deploying (depending upon whether you were coming or going). Eventually we purchased
an electric pump (the military type so that we could use it to inflate the floor to the proper
pressure), and then a portable battery to run it (one of the emergency battery things people use
to jump-start their cars/boats). The system we devised worked reasonably well as a compromise, and
we cruised that way for a few years. Nevertheless, the happiness of arriving at a new destination
always was dampened a bit by the "ugh, I need to inflate and launch the dinghy" blues.
Another negative of the HPIF was that the performance never was as advertised. We used a Mercury
15 hp, the largest engine rated for the boat. We sure could pop up on a plane in a heartbeat and
the boat was fast, which was great. The floor, however, definitely undulated whenever you planed,
notwithstanding the claims of rigidity. You really will bounce around in one of these boats when
you plane. Likewise, because it was so light, you were a bit out of control at speed. A couple of
times when planing we hit a small wave and the bow popped up and caught air, and I was concerned
we might flip. We didn't, and we probably wouldn't have, but we definitely had a feeling of being
out of control. Obviously this could be a factor of our using a 15 hp engine, but the boat was
rated for it. Likewise, it was somewhat more difficult to stand in the dinghy with the HPIF. You
could do it, and it wasn't horrifying or anything, but you never had the sense of standing on
We then bought a larger mothership. We debated whether to use the Avon HPIF or get a RIB. We
happened upon a used 9.5 foot AB RIB for a very reasonable price, so we bought it. We haven't
looked back. Obviously, the RIB is not as portable as the HPIF, but it simply performs better and
is easier to use. The one negative on performance is that it takes longer (by a couple of seconds)
to pop up on a plane, but otherwise that's really it. The RIB probably is a bit slower as well,
but not by a meaningful amount. We clocked ourselves in the Avon HPIF at about 24 knots. In the AB
we were at about 22. We very rarely travel at that speed, so the difference is not meaningful to
us. Also, the AB is about 1.5 feet shorter, so that could also come into play. Also also, we did
these tests in a placid empty harbor. If you have any wave action or wakes at all, the RIB
definitely would perform better, as she is not impacted as much due to the stable v-shaped hull.
This raises a related point, which is that the RIB will be more "seaworthy" and make you feel more
secure in those instances when you are in the thing in poor weather.
Anyway, the RIB is much more durable and turnkey in terms of everyday use. Set the hook, jump in
the dink, and go. Also, you could just throw your stuff in there without worrying about puncturing
the floor, or damaging the floor's valve, which sits very very proud on the Avon.
No doubt, the HPIF is a good compromise and the Avon is a good boat. If portability is a
preeminent concern, then go with a HPIF. That being said, the RIB will
be easier to use, as you likely will grow to dread inflating/deflating the HPIF, and that will
mean you will use it less.
Interestingly enough, the HPIF boats (at least the notable brands) are as expensive as RIBs, so
price doesn't really play into this equation (now there's a first!).
From Rick Sylvester on Cruising World
Now we'll be going to a RIB with davits. We live aboard and cruise a couple months a year.
Our experience with the air floor:
Once inflated it stays inflated and lives strapped inverted on the foredeck. As far as your
notions of putting it below, I'll bet you won't. It's a bunch of hassle to deflate and pack in the
valise and wrestle it down. Never mind that if it's been floating for a few days it's going to
smell really lovely below. I suppose you could clean it each time but jeez ... Also, even though we
cable-lock ours when it's in the water overnight, it's still not as secure as being lifted free on
davits. I'm also a big weenie about towing. I have visions of that sucker getting out of hand (or
away) while in crappy conditions that occasionally come from nowhere.
I hate davits but at some point practicality wins out. Go ahead and cave. It's not so bad. Once
the I-told-you-so's die down you'll be much happier.
From sded on Cruising World
We have had an Avon 3.11 air floor for 10 years
and have been very happy with it. If anything, I might have gotten a slightly smaller version,
since this is about as heavy as comfortable for one person to slog around. Plywood floor was too
difficult to insert for inflation; slatted floor made the whole thing too heavy/difficult to get
in/out of locker. Of course you need to inflate it, and the high-pressure floor takes a couple of
hundred pumps, but you can tow it, leave it on deck just like a RIB if desired if you are planning
to be out for a while - you do need to occasionally top up the high pressure floor. I also had to
replace the floor recently - UV finally got it, so this time I am using a piece of outdoor carpeting
to protect it. It planes with two people and gear with an 8 HP Evinrude, but is not as speedy as a
RIB. Without davits or a lifting mechanism/convenient place to keep it stowed all the time, it has
been a good compromise. And it can be stowed easily in the sail locker when we don't need it for a while.
From "Inflatable Maintenance" article by Jan Mundy in issue 2001 #1 of DIY Boat Owner magazine:
- First, figure out the construction of your boat:
- Welded PVC (Quicksilver, West Marine, Zodiac, etc), or
- Glued Hypalon (AB, Achilles, APEX, Avon, Novurania, Seaworthy, older West Marine, etc).
- Single biggest cause of damage is running under-inflated:
everything flexes and chafes. Should be inflated drum-hard.
- Don't leave inflatable in water constantly; store on deck or davits.
- Keep it clean. Remove grit and sand, especially in joints.
- Never use Armor All or other silicone-based treatments; they
make later repairs impossible.
- Use 303 Protectant (non-silicone) to protect against UV.
- Use a cover to protect against UV.
- If wood parts, keep them dry, seal them with epoxy,
and paint them with polyurethane.
- To repair:
- Inflate the boat.
- Cut a patch with rounded corners, minimum diameter 4 inches.
- Dry-fit patch, mark borders with grease pencil.
- Abrade surface with emery cloth (for welded PVC)
or grinding stone in Dremel (if glued Hypalon).
- Also abrade the patch if not pre-abraded.
- Wipe surface and patch with MEK (for welded PVC)
or acetone (if glued Hypalon). Repeat three times using clean rags.
- Brush on three very thin coats of glue to patch and surface,
five minutes apart (or follow glue directions).
- Apply patch and smooth it down, pressing firmly.
- Remove excess glue before it cures.
- Let dry for 24 hours.
From S/V Scotty Ann on Cruising World
Re: What is the best / most effective Hypalon glue?
Pump for inflating dinghy
Your best bet is Bostic [Bostik ?] two-part, with 5200 a close second.
It is the only thing I will let 5200 on the boat to do. Because the Bostic sometimes is
difficult to obtain, I have used 5200 extensively and been quite
pleased (and surprised) at the result.
From JeanneP on Cruising World
... Our newest toy is an electric (12v) air pump for inflating dinghies,
bought from West Marine. High volume, low pressure.
Need to top up using the hand pump to fully inflate.
But it makes all the difference.
And put the hose on the other side and it deflates completely,
sucking out all that excess air that makes the dinghy so difficult to stow. ...
Several other people and sites also recommend the "start
with electric pump and then finish with hand-pump (better: foot-pump)" strategy.
From George Geist on IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
> Does anyone know of a quality, reliable,
> 12-volt dinghy inflator ?
In short - NO! I've gone through several. They were all cheap thin
plastic things really more suited for inflatable beach toys and broke
after a while.
The only unit I would really recommend is the manual pump made by and
delivered with the METZELER dinghy. It's a large orange cylinder,
about the size of one of those Orion flaregun containers, operated by
hand (not foot), contains a pressure gauge and can be used to quickly
inflate or deflate a dinghy. I think it'll beat any 12 volt
contraption and if you can get your hands on one - buy it, you'll
like it! Mine came with the METZELER inflatable which has long gone
to that great dinghy haven in the sky - but the pump is what remains
and will probably stay with me forever.
One must consider what the pump is designed for. There are basically
1) Low pressure, high volume - that's for inflatable dinghies, air
2) High pressure, low volume - that's for tyres and the above
mentioned air suspensions.
If you try to inflate an automotive tyre with a type 1 pump, you
won't get enough pressure, if you on the other hand try to inflate a
dinghy with a type 2 tyre pump, the process is very slow and you
have time for more than one brewski before you can float your boat.
From Rob Hepler on IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
How about one of those 12 volt shop-vacs? I used my
house shop vac (I took the blower unit off the garbage
container) to inflate a 10' inflatable I once had. It
would pump it up (hard) in about 1.5 minutes.
Pumps from Northwest River Supplies
P.S. Any good vac/blower will draw quite a few amps.
From ACB on Cruising World
... Stow on coachroof half inflated (one compartment inflated)
with the other compartment rolled. Will serve as a panic
liferaft (abandon ship with the pump, and inflate the
other half in the water - this has been done in earnest!)
and only half as much pumping up to do. ...
From McRory's Logbook:
It seems to be common knowledge among veteran Caribbean
cruisers that Zodiac makes the worst dinghy for the tropics.
Apparently if left in colder climes
they can serve their purpose well for years.
But get them in the hot Caribbean sun and they
melt like ice cream, and nearly that fast.
Statistically, since leaving Florida, we have not seen
a single other Zodiac.
Also, several people complain bitterly about Zodiac not standing
behind their products, won't buy Zodiac again.
From Michelle d'Aoust on the Morgan mailing list
> ... Quicksilver dink and noticed that the surface of some of the
> rubber "tabs" (those things which connect transom, "d" rings, handles,
> etc.) is sticky. Sort of as if a chemical had attacked the surface. ...
... we also have an Inflatable
Repair, Sales and Service business.
I think your problem with the Quicksilver is just the nature of the PVC
fabric they are made of. Yes, it's fabric that's coated with either PVC
or Hypalon on the outside - NOT RUBBER. As far as I know, only
Quicksilver and Zodiac/Bombard/Seylor inflatables are made with PVC
which does not have anywhere near the longevity of hypalon.
That is why PVC inflatables should always have a cover over them to
protect them when not in use. There is nothing you can do to stop or
alleviate the problem. It's the UV that has broken down the outer
surface. It just gets worse. I wish there was better news.
From Peter Hendrick:
Caribe MVP9: great, light, and economical; couldn't carry larger one.
From Lee Haefele on The Live-Aboard List:
My experience with a 4-piece plywood-bottom inflatable (Boat
US / Seaworthy): I HATE the thing. The bottom is impossible to assemble,
the side struts broke, then the replacements frayed and poked a hole in
the tube. Life of the painted plywood is probably short (less than 4 yrs). It
will not plane 3 adults, even small ones with a good 8 HP motor. Spend
the $$ for a RIB, I wish I had. If you will be carrying more than 2
people go for the 9.9 motor, they have a larger displacement and
propeller size, giving a lot more snort.
About Tinker dinghies
Chris Caswell's "Inflatable Repair"
SailNet - Tom Wood's "Inflatable Maintenance"
MDR's "Waterbased Vinyl Paint Products"
From Tim C on Cruising World
I have a 12' Traveler.
It's very well-made, sails surprisingly well and is the only inflatable I've found
that I can row into the wind. It also doesn't need a big motor (lifting a heavy
outboard is one of my pet peeves). I think you will find it is better constructed
than any other brand out there - certainly more than the very mass-produced Apex or Zodiacs.
The trouble is that it's very expensive. You pay for what you get (quality).
I'm not convinced that the high cost justifies the features unless you are
going to get one in lieu of a liferaft. In my case I don't need a
liferaft (I have an unsinkable trimaran). To be fair you should compare
the Tinker against an Apex and a liferaft. That's where the economies come in.
From Alan on Cruising World
Tinkers are supposed to be very good boats - they are recommended by
the Pardey's because you can get a sailing kit (optional) with them
and you can use them as a life raft (another extra option).
This means that you can still get around if your dinghy motor conks
out (as long as the wind is blowing). Also, you don't have to carry
a separate life raft. But ... this versatility comes at a price.
They are very expensive.
We looked at Tinkers at a recent boat show and decided they were
just too expensive. We ended up with an Achilles (still top
quality) and we love it.
From Henk Meuzelaar on Cruising World
We have had our 12 ft Tinker Star Traveler for 5 years and love it.
It folds up readily, it rows very well and planes easily with a small outboard,
it is very safe against accidental air loss (4 independent air chambers),
it is easy to board (over the submersible bow), it has an inflatable
canopy option (for use as a lifeboat) and it comes with the best warranty
in the business (10 YEARS !). Practical Sailor (and, I believe also
Cruising World or Sail) have tested the Tinker and compared it against
other inflatables 4 or 5 years ago, if I remember well. However, although
they had mostly good things to say about it (especially rowing ability
and warranty) it was also hard to do a real comparison because it is
such an "odd bird".
Besides the high price, my only complaint is that it is difficult
to sail close-hauled because it lacks a single rigid frame that ties
the mast step to the attachments for shrouds and forestay.
Therefore the mast tends to wobble around. [In fact, our twice-used
sail kit is for sale for 50 % of its replacement value, OBO].
We use it as "offshore collision get-away insurance" by
hoisting and securing it high between our stern davits, fully inflated,
but with deflated canopy and covered by a smooth tarp to avoid filling
up with rain and spray. A sharp knife is tied up nearby to enable
launching it over our open transom at a moment's notice. Would only
advise this for vessels with very buoyant, dry sterns that have
little tendency of getting pooped, though.
From Ron Radko on Cruising World
I also have a 12' Traveler. I absolutely love it. The one I tried before
that was the Avon Redcrest, and I absolutely hated it.
Even though the Tinker is considerably bigger, it doesn't weigh much
more than the RedCrest (I think the weight for the Traveler is about
70 lbs without sailing gear). And it folds into a package that is quite small.
I needed something that would work without a motor, and was light,
and easy to setup take down. The Tinker does all that.
It sails decently and rows well. It's ludicrously stable (1600 lb load capacity).
I haven't run mine under motor, so I don't know how it compares to others under motor.
As for price, the basic 12' boat is not necessarily that much more than
other 12' boats, it's when you start adding the sails and other options
that it gets more expensive. The quality seems to be very high on it as well.
From Jim Manzari on The Live-Aboard List:
The robust oar-locks are one of the things I like best about the Avon
Redcrest. The design of the oar-locks makes it possible to really put your
back into a stroke without fear that the oarlock will break off. This is
important if you find yourself in the situation where it is necessary to
row out a second anchor in the face of a rising gale, something we did
several times during our 4-year North/South Atlantic cruise. Placing the
anchor and rope/chain rode into the back of the dinghy (as the
French say -- in an organised heap), it was possible to row into a stiff wind while
the rode paid out behind. Having a relatively soft transom tube rather
than a rigid vertical motor mount makes it much easier to feed the anchor
rode over the stern of the dinghy as one rows away from the boat.
Get the longest oars that you can swing comfortably and take some spares,
for one or more will surely be lost during a multi-year cruise.
What I didn't like about the Avon Redcrest were the inflation valves. The
valves were protected by a simple push-in plug which was easily snagged and
lost. Sand, salt, and sun then damaged the interior valve. It would have
been much better if valve had been protected by a screw-on type of cover.
The fabric seemed to be un-killable after 4 years of constant abuse. The
seams, however, were damaged by razor clams along the NE coast of Brazil
and French Guiana. This was entirely our fault for leaving the dinghy in
the water continuously. Had we taken it out of the water whenever we were
on the boat and/or cleaned it more frequently this would never have happened.
From Bob Dryer on The Live-Aboard List:
Beware of the current version of the Redcrest outboard bracket; the one with the
I found that unless I topped up the inflation daily, there was sufficient play in
the bracket for the motor to pull the bracket back far enough for the prop shaft
to get way out of horizontal, so that the motor lost most of its drive.
I sent the boat to an Avon service station and they said everything was up to
spec. I complained to West Marine, where I had bought the Redcrest and,
wonderful folks that they are, they gave me a refund with no hassle.
From Brooke Oberg and Ed Pare' on The Live-Aboard List:
We just got back from our maiden voyage with our new inflatable. The
folding Achilles LEX 96 replaced a 6'7" by 3'6" hard FG pram. We are _SO_
glad we did this. By the way, getting the floorboards in took about 2
minutes - nothing to it. The thing actually is everything the manufacturer
said it would be - a welcome change.
We put the boat together on the deck under the boom. We handle the boat
with the spinnaker halyard. At 81 pounds, one person can drop it in the
water or haul it back out. I'm pretty sure I could even mount the 29#
outboard and do this but I don't need to ... yet. The tubes keep any
water from entering the boat. The inflatable is far more stable than our
hard dink was and we can get on and off stepping pretty much anywhere we
want to. My last experience in a hard dinghy resulted in an unplanned swim
and a sinking dink! The tube is high enough to step easily on a boarding
ladder. The plywood thwart makes more sense than an inflatable thwart
because you can put your legs or stuff under it. I sat my 250# on the
starboard tube close to the motor and never felt any instability (or
The Nissan 3.5 is really more motor than the boat needed but it was the
smallest motor I could find with neutral. Neutral is absolutely necessary
for starting and controlling the boat at low speeds. I can even flush the
motor while it sits on the stern pulpit by just strapping on a bucket of
fresh water and making sure it is in neutral! The 1.4 liter capacity is
only good for 30-40 minutes but then, it was only intended to be a tender,
not a cruising machine. Anybody have any experience getting gas in one of
these things on the water?
I was looking for any tendency of the boat to follow the curvature of the
waves but it didn't happen. The inflatable keel is _not_ meant to be a load
carrying cell but something to harden up the floor and keep it from bending.
We had fun "surfing" down the swells coming down the channel.
(including painting an inflatable)
(fabric and supplies)
Finding a slow leak
Painting dinghy tubes
- Valves, seams, joints, rub points are most likely places.
- Inflate the tubes to full or beyond full, coat with soapy water, look for bubbles.
- Coat with soapy water, wrap with thin clear plastic wrap,
leave for a day or two, look for bubbles under the plastic.
- For inside leak, fill dinghy with water,
leave for a while, look for bubbles.
- Replace O-rings on valves.
- Mostly fill a chamber with water,
leave for a while, look for wet spot.
Dry out well when done.
- Inject "inflatable sealant" (or tire "fix-a-flat") and hope it gets the leak.
But it could gunk up the valves or any built-in pump.
From Mark S. on Cruisers Forum:
I took my inflatable to a "professional" for repair earlier this year,
and they put some of that liquid latex sealant inside the tube that they worked on.
From cchris0411 on Cruisers Forum:
The liquid gummed up the valve. I spent a few hours picking bits of
partly-dried latex out of the valve with needlenose pliers. It helped, but
the valve still doesn't seal as well as it used to. You can hear the air hissing
out when you disconnect the pump; put the cap on and screw it down promptly.
After several months, the liquid was still tacky. The insides of the tube were
stuck together every time I tried to inflate it. I can't use the electric air
pump on that side, because the pressure from the pump is not enough to overcome the adhesive effect.
Every time I deflate the tube, it smells like somebody spilled a bottle of ammonia.
It irritates my nose and my eyes. I keep thinking that if I inflate/deflate the
boat enough times, all the ammonia will evaporate, but not yet.
In summary, I really wish they had not put this stuff in my boat.
BTW: If you are looking at the same stuff I saw in West Marine,
the package instructions explicitly state that it is not intended to repair leaks.
I had lent my zodi inflatable to a neighbor, he put a can of the fix a flat into
the inflatable and it did just as what has been posted, turned into a mess.
The inflatable was deflated and stuck together. I did not even try to mess with it,
pulled the floor and ordered a new one. This was an expensive lesson.
In my opinion the product is great for band-aid fix on tires,
but will never get near my dock again.
Inflatable Boat Internal Sealant Kit
is supposed to dry, and not make the insides of the tubes stick together when deflated.
Marine sealant may have a short shelf life; may not be in stock at a marine store.
Could fill the tubes with a polyurethane closed-cell expanding foam (but that seems expensive) ?
I asked specifically about painting a Hypalon dinghy; not sure if these things
would work for a PVC dinghy.
- Dinghy-tube paint from manufacturers is expensive, may not cover
underlying colors with less than 2 or 3 coats, and seems to be hard
to buy in USA (maybe some EPA rules have kicked in ?).
- Latex or rubberized roofing paint. Should be more flexible than other paints.
Usually available only in black, green, or red.
- Rubber roof coating, such as for RV's, such as Elixir/Heng PLAS-T-COTE, or KOOL SEAL.
PPL's "Rubber Roof - Coatings"
- Rubberized pool paint, such as CRC Rubber-Base Pool Paint. Available only in 1-gallon size ?
But it may be bad to use a chlorinated paint on Hypalon (chlorosulfonated polyethylene).
Asked a manufacturer, and they didn't respond to that issue, but said "it's not suitable to paint a flexible surface".
- Start with 2-part polyurethane paint,
mix it up, add about 25% of 5200, apply to dinghy (quickly; it kicks off fast), add coat or two of dinghy paint on
top, can take up to 2 weeks (!) to dry if use 7-day-cure 5200.
If you don't add the dinghy paint on top, the 2-part/5200 combination gives an extremely slippery surface when wet.
I tried this 7/2014, and it was a fiasco:
Bought 750 ml of 2-part paint (Epifanes white epoxy primer; couldn't get anything else
in reasonable size or color), and normal white 5200 (couldn't get any other version of 5200).
Mixed 2/3 of the paint and catalyst; wasn't sure I needed it all.
Waited 15 minutes.
Added all of the 5200. Then decided to do the rest of the paint and catalyst.
Waited a couple of minutes, started painting.
The 5200 started kicking off immediately, making big lumps on the brush and on
the dinghy tubes. Managed to get the fabric coated, but it looks a mess.
Applied only one hypalon area patch (wanted to do half a dozen), and that was a struggle, because of the lumps.
Maybe I should have used slow-cure 5200 ? Or maybe adding that second shot of paint and
catalyst once the 5200 was added is what ruined it ? Did I buy the wrong paint ?
- Many people say don't use acrylic latex housepaint: it will peel or flake off in 6-12 months.
But someone else showed me their dinghy which had been painted that way, and looked great 12 months later.
Clean the dinghy fabric (maybe with acetone; not sure if okay for PVC).
Lightly sand the dinghy fabric to give the paint something to grip.
A dinghy can be:
Bad: easy to lose if painter chafes through,
easier to steal, bangs into boat at night,
stuff grows on bottom of it, water and sun age it, could foul propeller,
can't reverse, awkward when docking,
dangerous in heavy weather,
best to hoist motor anyway,
best to remove all contents anyway,
slows boat down slightly, can swamp or capsize,
might prevent you from trolling a fishing line.
Maybe use a small drogue behind the dinghy while towing,
and/or make the painter up as series drogue.
From Erik Hammarlund on Cruising World message board:
There's an easy way to prevent dink hits from behind underway:
Get a strong plastic funnel. Thread the painter through it.
Tie a knot between the funnel and the dinghy, a little over
a dinghy length away from the dink. Tie another knot on the
other side (the towing-boat side) of the funnel.
When the dink starts to surf down a wave it will encounter
a steadily increasing resistance as the funnel turns around.
As long as the boat-dinghy line is long enough (3 dinghy
lengths should do) you'll never hit the boat even in
steep following seas. You can play with the rope lengths
and funnel size to suit you and the concept will still work.
Under normal conditions the funnel is towed pointy end first
and is often suspended above the water entirely; in any
case it offers almost no resistance.
- Attached-towed (one end attached to stern of boat).
Can leave motor on dinghy most times,
stows and deploys quickly.
- Hoisted onto davits.
Types of davits:
- Clip-on (clip to dinghy's gunwale; remove motor; flip dinghy up over davits).
- Rail-mounted (lift straight up, or lift and swivel).
- Deck-mounted (stronger than rail-mounted).
- Hydraulic (most powerful).
Davits are bad because: create windage, cut down visibility, may need cover,
adds weight high up, dangerous if pooped / dinghy filled,
ugly, one more obstacle when docking/docked.
(Want drain plugs in dinghy ?)
From Dennis Fria of Mustang Island Yachts:
I don't like davits for two reasons. First, they place an undue mechanical strain on the
transom (or the deck aft) which was never designed for the angles of load induced by a 200#
dinghy, with a 100# OB, attached to another 100#s of hardware (davits). Also, and foremost in my mind, is
what happens in the event of a large following sea which boards the boat or is breaking. I think
most knowledgeable sailors will not carry their dinghy there when crossing long distances in open
water. They will store the dinghy lashed to the fore deck. A much friendlier place! I
also think davits are ugly and far too costly! They are GREAT for coastal cruising, when simply
lifting the dink out of the water to decrease the drag of towing.
I dragged my little FBG punt everywhere, except crossing the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf Stream,
and when racing! Otherwise I tow it, and it has probably about 4000 miles under its keel! I have
absolutely no problem with towing a dinghy, provided there is no reason to worry that a big sea
might deposit it at my 6 o'clock!
- Lashed onto deck.
Drawbacks: takes up deck space, probably covers hatches and ports.
Measure deck-space for stowing
dinghy before buying one.
- Stowed below (if it folds/disassembles/deflates).
Drawbacks: hard to carry/drag heavy/wet/bulky/dirty dinghy,
takes up space below, more time/effort to launch/stow.
From Steve Honour on Cruising World
I don't think you want to be doing any passages with that dink [AB-10 with
a 15 horse outboard] on davits. It's not the strength of the davits.
It's the way the dink would get bashed about hanging out there.
The most secure way to travel with it is to hoist the motor on the stern
rail with a halyard and hoist the dink onto the deck also with a halyard.
Deflate the thing and lash it down.
Use the davits for good weather short hops when you know things will be OK.
Moor the dink well with springs to prevent motion in any direction.
The dink will be fine as long as you don't see big wind/big waves.
- Want cushioning around rim of dinghy to protect
main boat and other people's boats.
- Want stainless-steel rubbing strip on entire length of dinghy's keel
to protect it when grounding.
- Tie fenders inside to provide flotation in case it is swamped.
- Relatively easy to build your own hard dinghy ?
- If you build your own hard dinghy, design it so it can be
used as a cover for the inflatable on deck, protecting
the inflatable and saving deck space.
Has to be the right size and have removable seats.
From article by Darrell Nicholson in 1/2004 issue of Cruising World magazine
- Size: performance increases with waterline, but so does weight and stowage.
- Fit: where will you stow it ?
- Stability: beamier with flatter bottom gives more initial stability,
but round bottom gives more stability after 15 degrees of heeling.
- Weight: need to drag it ashore, hoist it onto deck.
- Rowing efficiency: long waterline and efficient shape are key.
- Thwarts: nice if multiple rowing stations, for varying loads.
- Towing: want minimal drag, and self-bailer. Keel or skeg will improve tracking.
- Oars: at least 6.5 feet long, but must fit inside boat too.
- Oar locks: round oarlocks attached to oars are best. Have spares.
- Buoyancy: flotation chambers, or foam.
- Sailing performance: don't expect greatness.
- Rubrail: very important.
- Lifting eyes.
- Self-bailer or drain plug: essential.
Build your own hard dinghy:
Boat Plans OnLine
Building a nesting dinghy
From Glenn Duncan on Cruising World
Several years ago, I built a couple of nesting dinghies to fit onto my Vancouver 27's
coachhouse. First one was styled after a dory. Rowed like a witch, but wouldn't
carry enough of a load, because of the narrow beam.
The second dinghy was a standard pram, which worked very well.
Based on my experiences and reading at the time, a few general principles follow ...
... an 8' dinghy doesn't come apart into two 4' halves.
One section has to be significantly smaller because it's "outside" has
to fit into the other sections "inside".
Make models out of cardboard or, better yet, pattern plywood to
work out the nesting configuration.
... stitch and tape construction with 1/4" ply is simple and makes
a surprisingly light dinghy, even allowing for the extra weight
of double mating bulkheads and fasteners.
... build the dinghy with two bulkheads about 1/4 inch apart.
Then saw the boat in half between the bulkheads.
... flotation under the stern and bow seats seems to be standard,
but it can play hell with getting the bow section to fit into the stern section.
... it's nice if the two nested section can be stowed on deck upside down.
... fancy connectors aren't really necessary. I used four lengths of 1/4 s/s
threaded rod with wingnuts each end. Local reinforcing pads are needed,
of course, plus large washers. I found simply large soft
rubber "washers" glued around the bolt holes kept the water
out quite well. Neoprene or innertube material is fine.
... I used to assemble my dinghy on the boat, then lower it into the
water using the boom as a crane. Some people put both halves in the water,
get into the stern section and both the bits together.
But it's going to leak through the fastening holes until you tighten them.
From Night Swimming on Cruising World
We built one out of plywood with a single layer of fiberglass.
Works great. Rows well, sails well. We use it as our backup/fun dinghy.
Got the plans from a guy named Eric Spoonberg, but I think someone once
posted a site for free plans on this board. I think you can make any
dinghy nest with the judicious use of a chainsaw. The secret (for ours
at least) is that the two halves are self-contained and the seat acts
as a giant clamp to hold them together by slipping over the bulkhead.
There are also some screws involved, but they don't seem to contribute that much.
The dinghy is very solid feeling. You definitely don't have the feeling
that the two parts move independently of one another or slip in any way.
Put flotation in bow and stern, although stern flotation is tough to do.
B & B Yacht Designs "Catspaw"
Porta-Bote folding boat:
From Jerald King on Cruising World
I have a Caliber 40 which is really a 38' boat with a 2' swim step added.
I keep a 12' PortaBote on deck folded flat.
It fits between the main traveler and the mast.
It extends 3' forward of the mast.
We can set it up and be away, with the 6 HP motor moving us at
a 17 knot plane in less than 25 minutes.
When stowed on deck it takes up no room since you can
walk on it and it is only 3" thick when folded.
We sailed the North Pacific with it on deck, taking green
water back to the mast, no problem.
I selected the PortaBote after towing an 8' 6" inflatable
and a 12' hard dinghy.
I love the PortaBote - it is our dinghy of choice for this
summer's trip to Mexico and beyond.
Portabote also makes a 10' version with the same beam as my 12'.
... The 10' versions are only $1100 and will plane at 17 knots
with a 6 HP and 300 pound load.
From Ray Henry on Cruising World
The joints are glued together with some sort of foam (1/8") sandwiched
in between. Then the whole thing is stapled every 2 inches
with stainless steel mambo staples. Then there is a plastic
cover over the whole thing. It's not the prettiest thing
in the world, but it is extremely durable and functional.
I've had mine for 2 years now, and have even taken it rowing
on a river trip with class 1 rapids - no leaks, no damage, nothing.
The problem is the initial cost. Hard to swallow.
From Tom O'Meara on The Live-Aboard List:
We used to sell these boats. Although we are no longer "in the business", I
can assure you that should we go cruising again, a Porta-Bote would again
be our tender.
We had a 10-foot model when we owned our Hunter 40, and a 12-foot model
aboard Sea Skate, a Searunner 40-foot tri.
They are light, bulletproof and unsinkable if you leave the factory foam in
place. The reason I mention leaving the foam in place (which should be
obvious to anyone) is that when we sold the boats, we had a client claim
his sunk while being towed offshore and he wanted a replacement. After
talking to him and his wife, we discovered he had removed all the foam. So
much for that warranty claim.
With a 5 hp motor, our 12-footer would easily plane with two aboard. Given
that you cannot destroy them by any normal means short of having at one
with an ax, I think they make the ideal tender.
From Kenneth and Jane McKelvie on The Live-Aboard List:
We have had one of these for many years in Hong Kong - relatively light,
bulletproof and easily driven by a relatively small outboard (at my age,
important!) or by oars (also important at my age!).
The seats succumbed to a combination of UV and typhoon damage after about 5
years but were easily replaced, and the wooden transom needs to be properly
maintained (why don't they supply a fiberglass transom??). Dog proof! Two
of them racing to be first into the portabote caused no problems - an
inflatable ... pfffft! Running it up onto a coral-strewn beach or against
a stone jetty in order to get the dogs on and off the shore on the comfort
break runs and keeping them (and the owners) reasonably dry is not a problem
- an inflatable ... pfffft!
Very stable when moving - it seems to be sucked onto the surface of the
water by the hull shape, but not so good at rest and this is the only
disadvantage to my mind. It is much less stable than an inflatable to get
in and out of, and almost impossible for a swimmer (voluntary or otherwise)
to climb back into from the water. As long as you are aware of this and it
is not a problem, I would strongly recommend one of these as a tender.
Although not designed to be davit hung, it is possible, but siting of the
lifting rings needs thought, and you must install a drain hole and plug as
there isn't one as standard - again positioning of this is important and you
will probably need to hang it at an angle when unattended so that it will
Modifications / Use:
- Put reflective tape on the dinghy and motor.
- Lash down your oarlocks in case of a capsize.
- Lash down all contents of dinghy in case of a capsize or
swamping (when operating it or when it is docked)
and to deter casual theft.
- Carry on dinghy: anchor, handheld VHF, oars, oarlocks, bright light,
long cable and lock, registration (laminated), bailer,
whistle, fenders, PFD, first aid kit, water bottle.
- Use fenders (even with inflatable dinghy) to protect
dinghy from docks, and to protect boats from dinghy.
- Dinghy motor: want deadman switch, and safety line.
- Dinghy should have bow and stern lights (and patrols
in Key West and USVI will cite you if not).
From Norm on The Live-Aboard List:
Dinghies require, in Florida, in addition to life jackets and lights at night,
night distress signals (flares or an "electric distress signal" such as SOS
flashlight) and an "efficient sound producing device" (freon horn).
Some counties require a bailing device.
- Want to be able to plane; requires about 7 HP per
person to plane the average dinghy.
- "[Get] the biggest you can afford and store on your boat.
In a small dinghy, you and everything in it will get wet every time
it blows more than 10 knots, and that makes life miserable."
- 10' rigid inflatable dinghy with an 8 HP Honda four stroke motor:
dinghy is 150 lbs and the motor is about 78.
- West Marine RU-260 rollup with a 3.5 hp outboard:
dinghy weighs 37 lbs and the outboard weighs 30 lbs.
- With my Novurania 11-foot RIB, 20 HP motor, and 220 lbs of myself,
I can't go very fast in harbors without creating a large wake.
Smaller, lighter, shallower-draft dinghies can go much faster with less wake.
- Towing and lifting rings should be through-bolted or well-reinforced.
- ForeSpar Nova Lift
to lift outboard onto stern rail.
- To hoist dinghy on a halyard and flip it over to stow on deck:
Rig a rope bridle and pole: run line from dinghy's bow to
one pole end to halyard to other pole end to stern.
- Put tube or roller or plastic balls on top lifeline where
you hoist the dinghy aboard, so you can slide it over lifeline.
- Shipping a dinghy that you've bought:
From Tom O'Meara on the
WorldCruising mailing list:
Or go to a moving company and see if they can fit it
into spare space on the truck.
Here is what we have found
shipping [PortaBotes] that we sell:
- They are too large for UPS.
[Other dinghies may not be; use UPS Ground.]
- Airborne Express will ship them, no problem.
Do not go to a "Pack and Ship" outfit for this
unless you are independently wealthy; call and find
the nearest Airborne Service Counter.
- Truck freight is cheapest.
Make SURE you mark it in BOLD print "Top Load Only".
- Hard dinghy goes faster than inflatable of same size with same HP ?
- Polyethylene-and-aluminum dinghy:
- Make a tiller extension (from PVC pipe) for dinghy's outboard,
so you can trim dinghy better by sitting in the center.
- Oars should be twice length of dinghy's beam.
- Lock oars to dinghy so they don't get stolen.
- From Chris Bauer: Oars should be painted white so you can find
them in the water at night.
- Seat center should be about 18 inches forward of oarlocks,
and about 10 inches above floor.
From Gary Elder:
Twin-Vee brand: an 8 ft catamaran, almost as stable as
an inflatable, tows like a dream, obviously not prone to punctures. It's
almost bullet proof, and at about 100 lbs (without motor) can be put on deck
or on davits. I probably should have gotten the 10 ft version, but it's
considerably heavier. I like it just fine as a basic tender, and when the
8 hp Yamaha (and re-pitched prop) is running well, it will plane with my wife
and I aboard. With just me in it, it goes too fast. It is a little small
for very long trips though, and it can be wet. One other negative is that
it does not row very well.
Choosing a dinghy and outboard, my personal opinions:
I think a 10-foot to 11-foot RIB is good.
Some dinghy docks have a restriction: nothing
longer than 12 feet. Smaller dinghies give
a rougher ride, are dangerous in strong conditions.
Hard dinghies are tippier.
I think 8 or 9.9 HP is the right choice. Weight
is VERY important; I hate the weight of my 15 HP 2-stroke.
Low weight is better for davits, easier to service,
easier to hoist to deck. Easier all around.
4-stroke would be very nice. They are more fuel-efficient,
and seem a little more reliable maybe. The plugs on my 2-stroke
keep fouling with oil.
Sailing dinghy, my personal impressions:
- Near-toy things: AquaGlide MultiSport. Cheaper but less performance.
- Inflatable sailing dinghies.
- Hard sailing dinghies.
- Folding saiing dinghies.
For me in the Virgin Islands area, shipping is a big problem. Probably can't get any
hard dinghy shipped to here for any reasonable cost. Could buy a Walker Bay through
a West Marine store in Puerto Rico (Walker Bay Breeze 8 sailing dinghy costs about $2K).
Most inflatable sailing dinghies seem to be just a normal RIB or inflatable
with a mast/sail/rudder added. They probably sail pretty badly, and they're expensive.
The Tinker is (the only ?) inflatable shaped to have a fine bow and sail well,
but it's very expensive (2750 pounds, or about $4600 !).
[Folding] Porta-Bote with sailing rig looks good but is not cheap ($2K for the boat and $900 for the sailing rig;
shipping to nearest airport is free, which means buyer has to deal with Customs and pay duty).
Stowaway K2 is in $5K range.
Bauer sailing dinghies from Bauteck Marine
Chesapeake Light Craft dinghy kits
Steve Callahan's FRIB (RIB dinghy and sailing liferaft)
Glen-L dinghy kits
Porta-Bote folding boats
Walker Bay Dinghies
Apex Inflatables and RIBs
Avon (Bombard, Sevylor)
Caribe Inflatables and RIBs
Portland Pudgy ($2200 for basic boat)
Sea Eagle Inflatables
Seaworthy Inflatables (BoatU.S.)
Tinker Marine Inflatables
Titan aluminum-hull inflatables
West Marine Inflatables
From mung on The Live-Aboard List:
Re: Bottom-paint for dinghy?
Not true of all paints; read the label.
Keep in mind that most if not all bottom paint
needs to be in the water to keep its properties. So if
you are going to always keep it in the water yes, but if
you take it out for more than 24 hours and don't keep it
wet then you will have wasted the money to paint it.
From Susan Meckley on World-Cruising mailing list:
Take an old piece of double-braid line and strip the outer braid off.
Insert new poly line into braid. This way it will float but the poly line
will be protected from UV ... remember, poly line deteriorates quicker than you can cut
new line ... that is, if left out in the sun.
Liferaft (and supplies on it)
West Marine's "Selecting a Life Raft"
BoatU.S.'s "Life Rafts"
Gene Gruender's "The ABC's of Life Rafts"
Equipped To Survive's "Life Rafts in the Desert" (results not published yet)
Equipped To Survive's "Aviation Life Raft Reviews"
See liferaft article in Practical Sailor's 5/1/2000 issue.
Coastal liferafts reviewed in Practical Sailor's 6/2000 issue.
Offshore liferafts reviewed in Practical Sailor's 7/1/2000 issue.
SailNet - Mark Matthews' "Repacking the Liferaft"
Liferaft materials article in Practical Sailor's 8/1/2000 issue.
Inshore liferafts article in Practical Sailor's 8/15/2000 issue.
- "A '4-man' has room for 2 large adults".
- From Bud on Cruising World message board:
Me and another person spent about 12-13 hrs in a 4 man LR in storm
conditions and let me tell you if you're figuring for 4 people,
you absolutely need an 8 man raft. Always double your needs.
The four man has about 16 sqft of floor space
(the size of a half sheet of plywood).
We sat on the floor with legs out stretched out facing one
another and there was no space left for hardly anything.
From Brian Woloshin on Cruising World message board:
If the CO2 tank in the liferaft has not been hydrostaticly tested in the last five years
be prepared for a VERY BIG repack bill. My Avon six-man cost $600 to certify last spring.
From DLL on BoaterEd forum 2/2008:
[When buying a liferaft:]
Make sure the manufacturer puts it in writing that everything in it will be less than
a year old, or better yet, made within the last 6 months.
From Bob Austin on BoaterEd forum 2/2008:
[2/2008] I just had a re-pack on my 6-man Deluxe, Off Shore Life Raft.
I bought it at the end of May 2004 because we had a trip planned up the west coast.
Our plans were changed due to family things and then my health has kept us home most of the time since.
I took this "Deluxe" raft over to a very reputable dealer and was amazed to find
the CO2 cylinder was dated 5-2000. What they did was legal, I guess, but not good business.
Their ads say you should get your raft checked every year at an estimated cost of $150 to $200.
If I had done that, my CO2 was already requiring a Hydrostat and new valve when it was
one year old. $$$$ Our fishing package was dated 1988 and looked used.
It was open, not sealed. The oars look used. Our sea anchor was packed so far inside
it did not fall out as their ads implied it should so the entryway would be on the
leeward side for easier entry. We inflated it with 100 psi air, except the lower
chamber would not open for 100 psi, so the gentleman attached the cylinder again,
using 1800 psi to "pop" it open. Then he continued with 100 psi. His reasoning for that
is that the chemicals in the CO2 bottles can cause deterioration of the raft.
The PRV valves did not have a plug. The actuating valve on the CO2 bottle is the
old Sparklee, which had failure problems, so it is not used in most raft manufacturers,
maybe all by now. I think the new valve is called the SEI.
The cost of a hydrostat on the CO2 bottle and a new valve will not be cheap.
I have asked the company to provide me with 2004 items at a minimum.
If you have a raft and have never really thought about it, you may have a rude awakening.
If you have never seen your raft on the floor or in the water, good luck getting in it.
I did not understand what the expert was telling me until he held it up so it was
positioned like I would be swimming up to it. I could not open the entry way, sealed with velcro,
with my fist, elbow, etc. Now, those of you who are more experienced in these matters might
point out there is a line you are supposed to pull. You are right. But which line?
It is not written on the raft.
My raft said it has a 50 ft lanyard. It has about 25-30 feet.
I looked at a 1996 raft by the same company and the oars are bright and shiny, like new.
The fishing kit looked better than mine, but it may have been replaced.
This man spent 2 hours showing my wife and I how to really operate the raft.
The video I was sent did not cover the stuff you need to know if you are in the water.
I understand the entry door needs a real good seal because waves will hit it,
but without the time this man took to help us, if it were dark and stormy,
I might have just cut my way through the door, I wouldn't know where the correct line
was on the raft. This is not necessarily the company's fault, but I wish their
video had covered these things.
The nylon "steps" that are supposed to aid you getting in will be floating in your way.
The best way to get in appears to be reaching inside the raft for a line, hang on to it,
then go down in the water and kick hard to help you get in. I am sure there are other ways,
but his point was that few of us really know what we have or what is in it.
ONLY the manufacturer can provide the new CO2 valve. If they won't send it to his shop,
he says he will have to pack it and ship it to their facilities, then back to me. $$$$$
No one said boating would be cheap and I certainly did not have to buy a life raft.
But compared to losing my wife or a friend because I didn't have one would be more costly.
It gets worse. Another raft had a similar control valve for the CO2 bottle.
I understood that is was put on a raft by the same manufacturer as mine, so the owner
of the business brought it over to show me the difference between a Sparklee and a slightly different one.
A picture really is worth a thousand words. When he opened this other actuator, the wire
around the brass cam was NOT inserted correctly. In a life and death situation, the person
using this raft would be sunk. Literally. The wire winds around and fits in a cut out.
When you pull the lanyard, the wire moves the cam around and allows the CO2 to fill the tubes.
The ball at the end of this wire was not set up correctly. I have a color, digital photo of it.
I just looked at a photo of my CO2 bottle. It has TARE 8.55; CO2 4.50; N2 .35 and a total,
also hand written in red -- 13.40. NEXT TO IT IS RED LETTERS SAYING 6-00. Yet the stamp on
the tank says 5-2000. I wonder if the red is when they packed it, or they made a mistake and
said the tank was made in June 2000 ?
Givens is the manufacturer. My raft is number 3398.
But lets try to be fair to Givens, this other raft may have been serviced by a less
experienced shop than the one I was in.
I ordered my raft early and Givens didn't get it to me so I canceled the contract
for non-performance per time line. They shipped it overnight to me so I accepted it.
I don't know if Givens is the only raft manufacturer that puts old things in the rafts.
I am not going to get any satisfaction from them, but I hope anyone reading this will
warn virtually every boater they know. Get it in writing. Nothing in that raft will be over
N months old. Remember, I bought their best and got screwed. They can argue the CO2 bottle
was within the 5 year period. 5-2000. I don't know how SOLAS or the USCG looks at these dates,
but I received it in the last part of May 2004 as I recall. IF it were made on May 1, 2000,
it would have been past its Hydro before my warranty year was up. Can you see Givens realizing
they had really screwed up and I was canceling, so they grabbed whatever they had on the shelf
and putting it in. A 1988 fishing kit? I have a photo of it with a new one next to it.
... A reputable firm should replace
these items with an apology. I have been told Givens usually does not cooperate.
... if you have a Givens with a valve that looks like the Sparklee,
have it checked by a really good pro. Please note I have not called Givens bad names
nor said all their rafts are junk. That would not be true. But I have a photo of
this actuator that shows the little ball is NOT in the "cut out" it is supposed to be in.
The owner of this shop said the raft would not have been inflated if used in this condition.
Givens had an excellent reputation. There was a change of ownership and at one point
some very negative publicity about some bad repacks. It may be that your raft was one of these.
From DLL on BoaterEd forum 2/2008:
There is a report on "Equipted to Survive" of the problem getting thru the canopy - as
you suggested. There are a lot of rafts which do not hold air even after relatively short time.
I don't know how Dave's raft was kept, but many are in fiberglass container, in the high
humidity and high heat environment, plus lower temps at night -- give expansion and
contraction -- so that moisture gets into the packed raft and deterioration occurs.
If I was buying a raft today, I would want one which is vacuum-packed and does not require
a repack for 3 years -- and then keep it in a valise, or below decks or at home when I was
not using the boat. The tradeoff is not being able to get the raft on deck in the emergency.
You did good, by spending time with the repacking technician!
We kept the raft in the V-Berth for the summer of 2004, thinking we might still go up
to the San Juans. Then we stored it in the house, in a spare bedroom most of the time.
It was in our garage a while, but mostly in the house. At most, its exposure to sunlight
was a few days on the sun deck, and our boat is in a covered slip.
This life raft has never sat in the hot sun that I can remember.
From Sandy on BoaterEd forum 2/2008:
I may not be using the correct terminology, but to me, an original packing is not a repack.
This is the only "repack" of this raft. I understand you need to replace the items annually
if you are going to use it, but due to health issues, I knew we would not need it.
Several years ago, I bought a previously-owned Zodiac Offshore Racing 4 valise raft
through the BoaterEd classifieds. When it came time to have it serviced and repacked
I took it to LRSE in RI and I asked whether there was any chance of seeing it opened up.
They said they heartily encourage owners to be present when the raft is inspected and
I can tell you this is an absolutely invaluable experience . I was a lot more fortunate
than DLL in that everything inside the inner vacuum-pak bag looked like new though
of course there are batteries, flares and rations that need timely replacement and cylinders and
tubes to be tested/filled.
From DLL on BoaterEd forum 2/2008:
This owner-inspection is the only really good way to get to intimately know before a
real emergency exactly what to do to deploy and to expect from your particular raft
and have peace of mind that your life-saving equipment is in better shape than what
DLL traumatically confronted and should be reliable when needed. I learned so much
about this raft that I hadn't thought about and took about 30 or more digital pics
while asking about every single feature, and the service tech was more than happy
that I was showing the interest this particular subject truly deserves. It helped me
understand why it really is important to keep to the recommended service schedule,
not the least reason being to change the fold positions to lessen the risk of tube
material cracking over time. I think the vacuum-pak may possibly slightly increase
fold crease stress but expect it also considerably increases the overall longevity
of all the contents as long as servicing is done. You just have to compare the somewhat
painful cost of servicing to possibility of an unknowingly unusable raft boaters may be confidently relying on.
I was then able to later go over the pics and features and peculiarities of proper
deployment, entry and use with my usual offshore crew, and expect to do that yearly
to refresh. I had seen and even been in plenty of rafts at boatshows but this
experience was so much more valuable. ...
The most sobering thing about our raft was that I could NOT knock the velcro loose with
my fist or elbow and I was standing on concrete, let alone in the water. We have a couple
of lanyards that plainly say "PULL". But you don't have any more directions. I could have
been flushing a toilet for all I knew.
All I can say to anyone operating their boat after dark, and if they have a life raft
they might need, they had better do like you and I did. The sales brochure talks about
a heavy-duty boarding ladder or some such terminology. It is white, lightweight nylon
that looks like it would float on top. I guess you could find it, push it down to where
your foot is and lift yourself upwards. Our expert showed us the line inside and said
most people would be better off grabbing that to pull themselves inward.
Since our sea anchor was buried inside the life raft, we would not have the advantage
of it stabilizing the raft. And the 50 ft lanyard being approx 25-30 ft would
complicate it some. Our expert recommended using a red nylon "breakaway" line -- sorry,
can't remember it. It is supposed to break at 500 pounds pressure, which our guy feels
is better than having your lanyard pulling the rubber patch off your raft. I know I did
not use the correct terminology, but I hope you get the idea.
I also wish the manufacturer would put a weight in the ballast device, so it would sink faster,
allowing stability for the raft quicker. One thing our expert will NOT do is make any changes
to the factory equipment. I can't buy another CO2 cannister or actuator from him.
I don't know if that is the law or just his comfort zone.
[As of end of 4/2008, no satisfaction from Givens.]
From Bob Austin on BoaterEd forum:
A few years ago one of my neigbors owned a SOLAS liferaft certification and repacking
company -- it was a real education. Most of the rafts they packed were from large ships
and yachts, not small private boats. The rafts which were in fiberglass canisters
on deck suffered the most. The best were those which were kept below in valises. ...
[Having the repacker give you photos] or personally being present [during repacking] is excellent. The reason I prefer the
personal presence is to see what the raft is really like, and how it actually inflates.
Dinghy as liferaft:
Suppose you have a dinghy with positive flotation and quick release.
Does that mean you don't need a liferaft ?
Certainly means that you'd be sure it is in working shape,
which is not always true of a liferaft.
Could even have two such dinghies on board instead of a dinghy
and a liferaft. Maybe would want a survival suit per person, in addition.
Might be harder to launch than a liferaft, and more likely to capsize
and lose the contents.
Good things about using an inflatable, second dinghy (with suitable additions) as a liferaft:
- Routine use/inspection ensures it is in working condition.
- Can renew contents, inspect, test, and practice abandon-ship without incurring repack fee.
- Useful to have as a second dinghy.
I asked John Dunsmoor this:
Suppose you have a dinghy with positive flotation and quick release.
Does that mean you don't need a liferaft ?
Certainly means that you'd be sure it [and everything in it] is in working shape,
which is not true of a liferaft.
Could even have two such dinghies on board instead of a dinghy
and a liferaft.
and got this response:
... If you are going to be crossing oceans,
and money is not a problem then I would purchase a Givens, it is probably
the best made life raft ever and could be a home in severe conditions and
survive for long periods of time. Downside, they are expensive, big and heavy.
If you are going to the islands and will never be more than a couple of
hundred miles offshore then I don't think I would make the investment.
A good life raft like the Givens is an island, secure but beyond your
ability to navigate. You just sit. I am not sure that would be my first
choice. A good sailing dinghy could not only suffice as a tender, life
saver, but could also get you to shore. A raft by its very nature is not
going to get you anywhere. I have read a couple of stories about rafts
drifting just out of reach of safety only to be swept offshore once again.
A good liferaft also has features not satisfied by an inflatable dinghy:
- Roof/canopy to protect you from the sun.
- Roof and/or jack-lines so you don't get thrown out when it gets rolled.
- Ballast pockets.
- Redundancy in the inflatable chambers.
- Quick release from stowage.
- Automatic deployment / hydrostatic release (most liferafts don't have this anyway).
- Smaller when stowed.
- Certified (may be required by insurance, rally rules, etc).
- Has emergency supplies stored in it (you may not do this in a dinghy you're using every day).
Modifications to make to use an inflatable, second dinghy as a liferaft:
- Add canopy.
- Add jack-lines.
- Add water ballast pockets.
- Add quick-inflation option (unless you keep it inflated all of the time).
- Add survival suits.
From Genesis on BoaterEd
Are the typical liferafts really all that useful?
Have you ever attempted to deploy such a raft under the typical sea conditions
in which you'd need it? You know, 10+ foot breakers, the boat's tossing all over the place,
the raft is on the foredeck and *you need to get there without going overboard*
and actually get it deployed?
This is my problem with the "liferaft" solutions out there - I have serious
questions about their true utility in an emergency situation if for no
other reason than your ability to get the darn thing unlimbered and get in
it without either going in the drink or damaging it to the point it becomes useless!
Such situations don't typically arise on a nice sunny day!
Oh sure, if you have a seacock unexpectedly fail (or you hit something really
big and submerged that severely holes you) and you're filling up with water
in decent weather I'm sure they're great. But in that condition so is a tender;
just launch it and step up, and further, you can mitigate some of those risks
with emergency bilge pickups off the main engines - you might be able to keep
from going down in such a situation. The 406 EPIRB should get you rescued in
a reasonable amount of time; the issue is staying alive long enough for that
to happen if the boat goes out from under you.
The value of a raft, as I see it, is in the real snot when you get in trouble
due to structural or mechanical failure (e.g. engines out in a blow.) Why?
Because in such a situation you need its capsize resistance (a survival bag
with water, watermaker, tarp, etc can be at hand in any event.) And it's there
that I question their utility right up front. Can you get it deployed?
Hydrostatic releases are nice, but by the time those trip the boat is
COMPLETELY under; hardly ideal.
Another dialog with John Dunsmoor; I asked if the typical testing/repacking
fee (in the $100 to $500 range) was related to purchase price of the raft:
In out of the way places they can't even repack it.
Avon says repacking costs 5% to 10% of purchase price.
You will understand quickly why most cruisers do not carry life rafts. They
are expensive and a good sailor and a good boat has about as much
opportunity to actually use the life raft as a good driver and good vehicle
has of getting a flat tire. I say that as I am knocking on wood.
Life rafts are interesting creatures and most can not take much abuse. The
best ones like a Givens are very robust but are also very expensive, large
and heavy and they are expensive to have serviced.
I am not sure what the ratio is for servicing cost.
I know here [Florida] I have paid
seven or eight hundred dollars for a commercial raft with a lot of extra
gear. Radios, flares, distillation unit, blah, blah, blah. Not that these
were replaced, that would have been thousands of dollars.
Many cruisers elect to rig a hard sailing dinghy with survival gear or go
with an inflatable that has an auto-inflate option.
Sliding scale of cost vs options vs weight vs available funds. Everything
is a compromise.
From Justin on Cruising World message board:
... a life raft can be as much a help as a hindrance.
If only we had the statistics to show how many people perish
in liferafts off boats that are found still floating.
Will you ever need it anyway?
Will you even have time to deploy the raft? Will it inflate?
Will it stay attached to the boat long enough for you to get onboard?
Will you be able to stay in the raft once you do get in?
Will you ever be found even if you do get in and stay in?
From Gary Elder:
Most boats do not carry liferafts.
For crossing oceans, I would seriously consider one.
My boat had a liferaft in a hard case mounted on deck when I bought it,
and after a few years the sun cooked it to the point of being useless.
I took it off the boat and do not plan to replace it.
For coastal cruising, the latest generation of EPIRB's are great,
the next generation will be even better.
From Curtis and MaggiLu Tucker on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
We had our liferaft serviced ... While being inflated, one of the
seams exploded. We were so glad that it didn't happen at sea ...
We also had our EPIRB tested and it was found to have a
defective battery, which thankfully was under warranty and was replaced.
From JohnC on BoaterEd forum:
Hydrostatic releases are typically designed to release when about 12' under water.
The idea of waiting till the boat is that far under for the thing to hopefully
pop up and inflate doesn't appeal to me too much. And if you're in a gale,
there's always a chance if it doesn't come up quite where you're expecting it,
the raft will blow away before you can get to it anyway. The guy I was talking
to at Winslow also said when a canister is dropped from the foredeck it will
often inflate upside down, and getting into it becomes a problem. Being able
to place a valise in the water from the stern is definitely the preferred situation.
I had heard from a friend who used to fish in Gloucester about a brand new 40'
downeast boat up there that was rolled by a rogue wave while fishing, and despite
the fact that the raft was brand new and so was the hydrostatic release, it never
came up. They were fishing in a fleet and were quickly picked up, but everyone
was a bit bothered that the release failed like that. On a boat with a full tower
like mine there are too many places for it to get caught up anyway.
I originally bought a Crewsaver for my previous 26' express sportfish (Regulator).
My mistake there was buying it without ever seeing the valise and trying to pick it up.
The thing weighed 110 pounds, and the only place I had for it was in the v-berth
in the cabin. Getting it in and out of the cabin at the dock was a pain, doing
it offshore in bad conditions would have been a nightmare. I stuck with it for 6 years
anyway, but when I bought the bigger boat and had dry storage out on deck I decided
I would buy something that would fit there. The Crewsaver would not fit under the
bench seat, actually the standard packing of the Winslow wouldn't either. But one
of the reasons I bought from them is that they will custom pack to your dimensions
within a certain range, so I got it packed so it fits under the seat with room
to spare in all directions so it won't be wedged in there.
The Winslow with some options I got came out to 64 pounds in the valise.
It's pretty easy to carry, and compared to what I had seems really light.
They do make lighter versions with less gear inside also. ...
Buying a used liferaft,
from Brian Woloshin on Cruising World message board:
Get one that is just due for an annual inspection.
Make a deal with the seller that if it passes inspection and looks OK to you
that you will pay for the inspection. If it fails he pays for any charges.
Go to the inspection and watch them inflate it. Ask the inspector how much life
he thinks the liferaft has left. If the CO2 canister needs to be hydroed it will
add a lot to the inspection cost. For my Avon it added about $200.
Never, ever, buy a liferaft without having seen it inflated first.
You have no idea what you are buying.
There are con artists selling valises full of bricks and rags.
I see no reason not to buy a ten year old liferaft if it is in good shape.
Mine is now fifteen years old and at last inspection it looked like new.
From Phil Sherwood on World-Cruising mailing list:
 I just completed some research and went to the Strictly Sail
boat show in Oakland in April for the express purpose of getting up close
and personal with lots of different life rafts from as many of the various
manufacturers as possible. My conclusions in a nutshell (which of course
are just mine, Y and everyone else's MMV):
Switlik is the top-of-the-line product, really good stuff, but it's also
the most expensive, by a considerable margin. You're paying a lot for the name.
Viking is extremely solid, industrial grade, also really good stuff, used
in a great many commercial applications (fishing and working boats, cruise
liners, etc). Doesn't have the brand/name recognition (yet) that Switlik
does among cruisers and rec boaters, but according to the Viking sales mgr
I talked to in Oakland, they're catching up and may be hiking prices in the
next year or two to capitalize on that. The four-man self-righting also
packs into a remarkably small canister, smaller than the unserviceably old
Givens 6-man I have now.
Winslow makes good products but the more affordable ones that they market
to the recreational yachting crowd (objectionable label, but that's you and
me) are lighter because they're made of much lighter fabric -- it's
basically their aviation-grade raft. If you move out of that product tier
and into some heavier products, you get into some heavier pricing as well.
DBC, in Surrey BC or thereabouts, used to make very good, solid liferafts
but is now owned by Zodiac. If you can buy an older, pre-Zodiac one that is
still serviceable cost effectively, that could be a good option.
Zodiac is a French product and I ran into more than one person whose
perspective I respect who didn't think their products held up that well
compared to other manufacturers.
Revere is an economy-level product. It costs less for various reasons. You
have to decide for yourself if you want to rely on that sort of a product
if worst comes to worst and how you'll think about the subject if it's your
sorry butt winds up floating around out there waiting to be rescued. 'Nuf
said on that account.
Givens wasn't at the show, although I talked with the head sales person by
phone a few times prior to the show. Some kind of weird politics are going
on there -- the guy who started the company sold it, then bought some part
of it back, or retained some of the manufacturing rights but not the brand
name, or something. Serviceability worldwide (or even on the West Coast)
could be an issue with Givens. Also not clear to me whether the people now
manufacturing under the Givens name are doing it right, or the original
Givens guy, again manufacturing but now under the RCR name, I think, is
still doing it right. They also suddenly got unresponsive when I didn't
take their bait immediately and asked a lot more questions. Too complicated
for me; I was outta there.
I wound up getting a 4-person Viking self-righting life raft. It's a bit
bigger than the regular 4-person, although not quite as big as either
the Viking or the Switlik 6-person raft. (I'm a pretty big guy, about 6'7"
and 230 lbs, and don't really expect to be cruising with more than four
people aboard.) Including the stainless steel rack to deck-mount the
canister in, it was about $3K, boat show prices. A very big-ticket item, at
least for the atmosphere I live in. But at that it was $2K less than the
rec yachting-level Switlik, and I couldn't identify any differences in
design, materials, or workmanship that could begin to explain the $2K price
And all of this, like your life insurance policy (which this basically is)
for a product you hope you never have to use. I felt that Viking offered an
excellent quality product at a reasonable price point, below which
compromises lurked that I personally did not want to make. But that was
just my conclusion. As I say, YMMV.
Supplies on liferaft (or in abandon-ship bag; partly in priority order):
Abandon-ship bag should be stored near companionway/cockpit.
- Handheld VHF radio.
- Water-purifying tablets.
- Hand-operated watermaker.
- Solar water still.
- Space blanket.
- Shade to protect from sun.
- Thermal Protective Aid suit for each person
- Sun hat and/or warm hat.
- First aid kit.
- Survival manual.
- Patch kit.
- Non-melting flares. Or a rescue light.
- Signaling mirror.
- Collapsible RADAR reflector.
- SEE/RESCUE Streamer ($80).
- Spare set of eyeglasses.
- Canvas bucket.
- Copies of identification documents (passports, etc).
- Entertainment (deck of cards, travel chess set).
- Water glass.
- Air-mattress for additional floor insulation ?
- Fishing gear (spear, gaff).
- Drogue or sea-anchor or bucket-and-line.
Abandon-ship bags tested in 3/2001 issue of Practical Sailor
Rule of thumb ("rule of 4's") from Tom Wolf in Wilderness First Aid class:
A person can live for:
- 4 minutes without oxygen.
- 4 hours without shelter from cold.
- 4 days without water.
- 4 weeks without food.
Doug Ritter's "Abandon Ship Bag"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Preparing an Abandon-Ship Bag"
Don Casey's "Boat Plumbing"
West Marine's "Pressurized Freshwater Systems"
SailNet - Tom Wood's "Boat Plumbing Inspection"
David Brown's "Water System Installation"
BoatU.S.'s "Freshwater Pumps"
Pumps article by Steve D'Antonio in 4/2000 issue of Cruising World magazine
Don Casey's "Installing a Deckwash Pump"
Don Casey's "Raw-Water Strainers"
David Brown's "Installing A Transom Shower"
Fuel/water/waste tank articles in Oct 2000 issue of Cruising World magazine
Installing flexible water tank article by Paul Esterle in 1/2004 issue of Sail magazine
Possible seawater filter/strainer locations:
Your boat may have more seawater filters/strainers than you suspect; don't overlook:
- Engine cooling intake.
- Genset cooling intake.
- Outboard motor cooling intake.
- Air conditioner cooling intake.
- Refrigerator cooling intake.
- Watermaker intake (pre-filter).
- Head intake.
- Saltwater faucet intakes.
- Deck washdown intake.
From Roger Hellyar-Brook in Ocean Navigator magazine newsletter:
What material is best for an onboard tank? How are tanks best
installed? These and other questions came up when we were performing
several tank replacements during recent refits. Fuel tanks have been
discussed in this newsletter before, but let's go through the basic
requirements for various tanks again, as this is a recurring issue for
Marine-grade aluminum is the most common material used for
constructing tanks. If it is installed correctly, it can last for
years; if poorly installed, it can corrode very quickly. Even the best
alloys cannot stand to be washed with bilge water or even held against
a wet surface, so a dry platform with drainage is vital. This means the
platform cannot be bare wood, as its moisture content can damage the
alloy. You should epoxy-coat plywood and then use strips of neoprene or
starboard to allow the tank base to stay dry. To avoid galvanic
corrosion, never use any brass or copper alloys in direct contact with
the tank. You also must use stainless-steel bushings for the pick-up
and return lines, and the grounding wires need a stainless washer
between the copper lug and the tank grounding tab. Do not let the tank
move at all, as chafe can damage the soft alloy.
If aluminum is not the best choice for the location, you can use
cross-linked polyethylene (pex) or a custom fiberglass tank; the
polyethylene must be cross-linked to resist hydrocarbons. Since such a
tank will expand up to 3 percent, provision must be made for growth.
Fiberglass tanks can be very successful, but this type of material is
best left to an experienced builder, as the fittings for a fiberglass
tank are harder to engineer than for other tanks.
Stainless steel can be used, but it has lots of potential problems and
should only be built after consulting the ABYC standards. One of those
standards is that a stainless tank be cylindrical with domed ends,
which wastes space.
Remember that no matter which material you choose, all tanks should be
capable of being cleaned out from a top inspection/cleaning port. Most
modern boats are built with the tankage in place before the deck is on.
We have had to cut bad tanks into sections to remove them, and the
replacements were multiple smaller tanks that could fit through the
companionway. So a good installation can save thousands of dollars in
Black-water or head holding tanks should only be thick-walled
polyethylene or fiberglass composite, as corrosion potential rules out
all but expensive alloys. Potable water tanks can be stainless steel,
or they can be a food-grade plastic/polyethylene or composite material.
But they should not be constructed from aluminum. The key is using a
material that is safe to store water for human consumption, with no
chemical leaching from poorly built composite tanks.
In an emergency or if there is no other alternative for the space, an
inflatable bladder tank is available for every application, just be
aware chafe is an issue with these tanks.
From editor in 12/2003 issue of Passagemaker Magazine:
- Stainless steel is best. Fairly easy to add inspection ports.
Clean with a hot water pressure washer, flush with
chlorine solution, then flush with clean water.
- Polyethylene: harder to add inspection ports, because of flexibility.
Often leak. Pressure-washer is too aggressive.
- Fiberglass: Must be made of FDA-approved resins and gelcoats.
- Aluminum: replace it with another material.
- Never "winterize" a water tank or heater with antifreeze; drain it.
Winterize water lines by blowing them empty with air, or adding cheap
vodka or nontoxic antifreeze.
From Ed Kelly on The Live-Aboard List:
Re: Epoxy tank coating:
We are using epoxy for a water tank. We are trying to rehab a built-in
112 gallon aluminum water tank. It developed corrosion holes ...
Our search for Epoxy finally ended when we found a
product called Brewcoat - which is FDA-approved for water or beer and
wine. We earlier talked to the West system epoxy experts ...
they cannot recommend their epoxy for water tanks as it has never been
tested and approved by FDA - though they noted very good techniques for
you to use it if you desire to do a water tank in it - as many boats
have done for many years.
From Peggie Hall on Cruising World message board:
- Keep a complete plumbing diagram.
- Water hose should be polybutylene, not vinyl.
- Plumbing fittings: use Marelon, not nylon or PVC.
- Saltwater faucet or pump causes a lot of corrosion in sink,
even stainless or aluminum sink.
- From "After 50,000 Miles" by Hal Roth:
"Use no iron products in any of the tanks or
plumbing because ... the iron never stops rusting."
Scan everything with a magnet.
- Pipe-to-hose adapter: smooth is best, but if you have
a barbed adapter, sand the barbs a bit.
- If water pressure pump runs too often, maybe the expansion
tank is totally full of water;
it should be about 2/3 full.
Or there could be a leak somewhere,
or a bad diaphragm in the pump.
- Water tank overflow should go overboard because,
sooner or later, you will go ashore and forget you
left the shore hose filling the tank!
- Water tank size: realistic size is 2 to 5 gallons per day per person.
- Toilet intake should always be separate from other intakes,
since some small backflow of waste can get through pump and check-valve.
- Salt water sitting in a hose for several days turns putrid;
use seawater lines frequently.
- Good fresh-water pump: Jabsco Sensor-Max VSD model 31755 (the bigger one) $259.
- From article by Charles J. Doane on Sail Magazine web site:
"If you need to treat the water on your boat to keep things from growing in it, you should use peroxide rather than chlorine.
Peroxide has a longer retention time and will not attack aluminum."
It's never a good idea to connect hard pipe (or any other rigid device)
directly to any other rigid objective -- the toilet, the tank, pump, or through hull.
Boats are subject to quite a bit of shock in heavy seas ... or just banging the
dock (it happens to the best of us!) -- enough shock to move things ... a little or
a lot, depending upon how well-secured they are.
When that happens, if it puts enough stress on the connection,
the weakest part will crack ... in most cases, it's the PVC pipe ...
but a female plastic holding tank fitting is equally at risk.
In cold weather, the risk is even greater, 'cuz the colder it gets,
the more brittle PVC becomes. Always "soft couple" hard pipe to
anything else with enough hose to act as a shock absorber ... to let
whatever is gonna shift, shift without putting stress on the connection.
From Andrew Bebbington on Cruising World message board:
... make sure the Y valves are oriented so that they drain out.
We found that a small pool of standing waste inside resulted in
calcium deposits that jammed them within just a few days. ...
Ways of repairing a leak in a copper tube in the drinking water system:
- Piece of rubber and hose-clamp over the leak.
- Marine-Tex or epoxy over the leak.
- Empty water out of the tube and solder it.
- Replace bad section with new section of copper tube.
- Replace bad section with PEX plastic tubing.
Changing drinking water system from copper to PEX:
There are special copper to plastic adapters.
From Chris Deziel's "How to Connect Pex to Copper"
PEX connects easily to existing copper lines using simple, push-together style fittings
that eliminate the need for making difficult soldered joints.
DIY Network's "How to install a PEX plumbing system"
PEX pipes cannot be connected directly to a water heater or the heat will damage them; the heater must be
connected to copper lines at least 18 inches long, then to PEX with a transition fitting.
Never use PEX for above-ground exterior lines, as UV rays from sunlight will quickly ruin its integrity.
Use water filters between shore and tank, and between tank and faucet.
Boats notoriously have bad-tasting water.
Ametek 151002 (Kleen-Plus ?) with CBC-10 filter cartridge
(e.g. from Tim's RV Parts and Supply
Systems IV F7-GBH
From Al Hatch on Cruising World
1. Paper and charcoal filters remove only chemicals and particulates.
They DO NOT remove any bacteria, microbes or virus.
In fact if not used daily and thus rinsed daily, the charcoal
becomes a perfect medium for growing bacteria. Many university
labs have proven this and about 5 or so years ago the charcoal
filter industry finally admitted lack of daily use was a problem.
Bad enough so that if you don't use the filter for a week the
water coming out of the filter is several thousand times
dirtier (bacteria wise) than the water coming in.
2. While 1 micron filters will remove parasites such as giardia
they will not touch most bacteria and they won't eliminate any viruses.
In fact there is only one filter on the market worldwide that is
certified to remove viruses. It is manufactured by Katadyn in
Switzerland. Sold in the US in mountaineering shops and camping stores
as a handheld unit filtering 1 quart/min. or in the expedition model
filtering 1 gal/min. They make an inline unit but it requires 90 psi
to filter about 1 qt/min. More info on this filter can be gotten
from the importer Katadyn USA in Scottsdale Arizona. They also make
a countertop model which is too large for most boats.
If you are concerned about drinking and cooking water get a Katadyn
filter and just filter what you need each day.
From JeanneP on Cruising World
I agree that you need to use a filter on a daily
basis to prevent organic contamination. But for liveaboards,
that's no big deal. And when we leave the boat for a few days
we "pickle" the water filter the same way we "pickle" the water
desalinator (it's so small, 4 litres/hour, that we can't really
rely totally on it for our drinking water). As I said, we filter
with paper before the water goes into the tank to remove sediment,
then have an in-line charcoal filter, and 1 micron filter,
to treat the chlorinated tank water. Treating the tank water
is necessary regardless of whether you filter it or not,
if you live in the tropics - otherwise not only bacteria will grow,
but also algae and other slimy substances. Chlorinating the water
keeps everything pretty clean and clear (actually, the biocide
for pickling watermakers is probably even better, and we know
boats who have used it in place of chlorine - especially the
Australians, where it is easily available because it's
used to sterilize their home brew beer bottles).
From Erik Hammarlund on Cruising World
Actually, chlorine DOES kill giardia ... we used it to sterilize H2O
to that effect numerous times. And there are also filters that will remove giardia.
Viruses are currently beyond the scope of filtration systems
that one would use on a yacht. For those, chemical or
UV treatment is required.
From Rick Kennerly on The Live-Aboard List:
Re: Water Purification
> Does anyone on-list use a water catchment system onboard ?
We do, but only collect rain water well offshore or downwind from
non-industrial islands. And we always fit one of those RV store filters
that has garden hose fittings on each end to the catchment system anyway.
About drinking water, however, it seems to me that there are two different
things to look at here.
First of all, the tanks and how they're treated. They should be cleaned
every year and even if you do have good access, they should be "shock"
treated with a healthy dose of chlorine (assuming the tanks are not made of
a reactive material, or any of the water treatments recommended for your
tanks) and left to stand for 24 hours. Be sure to circulate the shock
treatment through all your hoses, too. Then the tanks and hoses should be
flushed several times. You'll need to filter all the water going in on
every fill, even when you're flushing the tanks as you clean them.
Drinking water is clearly a case of GIGO, garbage in, garbage out, but the
fact is you'll never get your holding systems really sterile, so you need to
slightly over-chlorinate (or otherwise treat with iodine, purification
tablets, etc) the water you hold.
The second part is how you filter the water at the sink. We use a double
filtration system, similar to the way most of us treat our diesel. The
first is an in-line RV store filter (always cheaper than boat store) that
removes coarse particles, chlorine, and has a silver mesh which kills
bacteria that "stand" in the stagnant water inside the filter between uses.
The next filter is a PUR filter, which is even finer and takes care of those
non-bacteria organisms travel books are always warning us about.
This makes for somewhat slower flow at the sink, which is a pain when
drawing cooking water. For that, we have a foot pump with another of the RV
filters in-line, which is good enough for water you're going to boil anyway.
From Peggie Hall on rec.boats.cruising newsgroup,
about "a source for stainless steel sinks":
If you have a pressurized water system, there's nothing "marine" about
the sinks and faucets ... so check out Home Depot and major plumbing
supply houses that have a really good selection, especially those that
cater to high end homes ... 'cuz they're the ones which have the best
selection of "nonstandard" shapes and sizes for wetbars -- which are
mostly stainless. If you want it to last, just make sure you get the
best quality stainless hardware.
From Mary Mcatee on The Live-Aboard List:
The West Advisor has a great section on regulators for [direct connection to] dockside water.
I would recommend three safeguards besides the regulator:
From Randolph Stroschein on The Live-Aboard List:
1) Never leave the water on when you leave the boat.
We disconnect the hose so that passing folks
aren't tempted to help us out.
2) Add a water alarm in the bilge. Pick your location carefully
to assure you aren't irritated
by minute water alarms. These alarms are cheap and reliable.
3) This last one is an option but a good one. Talk to your local plumbing supply guy.
They make water counters for sprinkling systems that limit the volume throughput
to whatever you set it at,
say 60 gallons. You might have to reset it manually occasionally
but it does give some additional
peace of mind.
... I do not want to be
plumbed in - the water in your tanks will get stale, necessitating much
fooling around every time you want to go away ...
From article by Steve D'Antonio in 11/2002 issue of Cruising World magazine:
- Need inspection/cleanout port into every baffled chamber.
- Tank should be stainless steel; port should be same material as tank.
Port cover plates should be thicker than tank wall, to avoid
distortion and bad seal.
- If adding an inspection port to an existing tank, could use
a specialized rivet with internal threads to provide seat for
the bolts. Or use a split inside ring from Clarus.
- Could installer a stripper tube: a pipe from top into tank, to
suck up debris from bottom. Or a drain valve in the lowest point of the
bottom of the tank. Want a large drain valve, so it doesn't get clogged.
- Don't want a screen in the pickup tube inside the tank;
if it clogs, there's no easy way to detect it or clean it.
- After cleaning the tank, rinse with fresh water, fill with 1% bleach
solution and let stand 1 hour, empty it, then fill again with fresh water, and empty it.
Then fill with drinking water and use it.
From Evans Starzinger on Cruising World
We like the Groco pump best (good pressure and reliable),
but the pressure switch tends to die if you do not use it
for several months (it sticks closed, even if you flush it
with fresh water). It is pretty easy to carry a spare pressure
switch and install it, but it is too bad the design is flawed this way.
We are currently using a Flojet, which has less pressure but is ok.
Whatever pump you get, be sure to install a water filter before
the pump, otherwise the pump will self-destruct when it gets
sand/mud (or other stuff) in the water.
From JoeC on Cruising World
Also note that
the pumps do get pretty warm, particularly when you have put down lots
of chain and it is thick with mud.
From Jeff M on Cruising World
I'm on my second one [Groco ?]. First rule is keep the connections tight
and keep the salt water off it. I mounted the first one vertically,
and when the pump seals started to weep it dribbled onto the motor ... very bad.
I had no trouble with the pressure valve sticking. I did notice that
as the pump aged, the vanes would wear, and the pump would not shut
off as it had trouble reaching the higher pressure. I just kept
adjusting the cutoff setting lower until the above dribble ate
the motor, requiring a new one. I mounted the second one
Gauges for tanks (water, fuel, holding):
Snake River Electronics
Gauge for holding tank:
Botons "Tank Eye Gauge"
From Stan Gardner on The Live-Aboard List:
Sealand Tankwatch sensor in stainless steel holding tank "disintegrated" after a year.
SailNet - Mark Matthews' "Safety Check"
Personal Flotation Device (PFD, life-vest, life-jacket):
BoatSafe's "Boat Smart from the Start. Wear Your Life Jacket."
BoatSafe's "PFD Basics"
BoatSafe's "Choosing and Using the Correct PFD"
BoatSafe's "How Do You Test Your PFD?"
Automatically Inflatable PFD's article in 7/2000 issue of BoatU.S. Magazine.
BoatU.S.'s "Inflatable Life Jackets"
Inflatable PFD review in 10/1/2000 issue of Practical Sailor
"Inflatable PFDs" test by Quentin Warren in Nov/Dec 2000 issue of Blue Water Sailing magazine
PFDs article in 10/1/2001 issue of Practical Sailor
From Ric on Cruising World
... we were able to try on all available types of PFD's and test them
in a pool. Not only were the inflatables comfortable to wear (i.e., you
will put them on and leave them on) but they were more buoyant (15 to 35
pounds of buoyancy vs. the biggest, bulkiest Offshore Life
Jackets -- Type I, that gave 22-25 pounds), and they were better
designed to hold the unconscious victim's face out of the
water than other types.
European studies consistently show need for 35 pounds of buoyancy.
They do require careful care to avoid punctures and mechanical problems
with automatic inflation equipment. Be sure to get a vest with manual
inflation capabilities, and inflatables are best not used for children
who may not have quick-wittedness to use the manual backup.
From Van on Cruising World
I have the SOSpenders with the built-in harness.
Unfortunately, the damned things all deployed automatically with
either rainwater or minimal wave splashing.
Get the new USCG approved kind that have to be manually discharged.
From Andy on Cruising World
Mustang automatic inflating life vest with harness is now USCG approved.
I got one for Christmas. I am 6'3" and 250 lbs. It fits me even with foul weather gear!!!
The WM or Sospenders were much too short. They felt like a horse collar around my
neck with the D rings 8" under my chin.
From Richmond Marine Police, in letter from Linda Cahill in 2/1/2001 issue of Practical Sailor
3 things regularly go wrong with inflatable PFD's:
- Plastic pull mechanism fails.
- CO2 cartridge goes bad (leaks ? corrodes ?).
- CO2 cartridge gradually unscrews itself as you put PFD on and take it off.
- Clothing in shades of blue, green, white, grey are not easy to see on/in the water.
PFD's should be bright red.
- Put reflective tape and boat's name on each PFD.
And attach a small whistle and small light.
- Test inflatable PFD: orally inflate, let stand overnight, deflate,
inspect CO2 cylinder, replace bobbin.
Immersion Suit (Survival Suit):
West Marine's "Safety Harnesses and Jacklines"
SailNet - John Rousmaniere's "Safety Harnesses And Tethers"
- Adjustable shoulders and waist.
- Lanyard with clips at both ends, and maybe one in the middle.
- Clips that can't open accidentally (Gibb, etc).
- Tether should be v-shaped with clips at 3 points,
so you never get un-clipped from boat.
- Safety harness should have leg straps.
(But few on market ?
"SOSpenders makes a Universal Crotch Strap (Model ACS 1000).
The 2000 West Marine catalog has them on
page 403 / Model No 136536 for $7.99")
- Jack lines should end 6 feet forward of transom,
so you don't get dragged behind boat.
- Flat webbing best because it doesn't roll
underfoot, and other lines can't be mistaken for it.
But webbing stretches when wet; get it soaking
wet before tensioning it.
- When you go into cabin, step inside and unclip tether from harness
and leave tether dangling in companionway. Then when coming
out of cabin, you can clip back on before coming on deck.
- UV damages jack-lines; stow them below when finished using them.
- A == paper, wood, cloth.
- B == liquids.
- C == electrical.
- D == flammable metals.
Apparently only type B is required on boats in USA ?
BoatSafe's "Marine Fire Prevention and Control"
SailNet - John Kretschmer's "Fire Aboard"
SailNet - Don Casey's "Fire on Board!"
Heidi Hackler's "Eight lessons learned fighting a real fire aboard our boat"
BoatU.S.'s "Fire Extinguishers"
- Dry chemical powder (some corrosive, some not).
- Clean-agent (halotron, FM-200, FE-241, HFC-227, etc).
- Aqueous foam.
- Water (only for type A fires).
- Physical smothering (fire blanket, sand, etc).
Fire extinguishers tested in 8/15/2001 and 6/2005 issues of Practical Sailor
Fire extinguishers article (including automatic system choice and installation) by Susan Canfield in issue 2002 #3 of DIY Boat Owner magazine
According to a BoatU.S. study, electrical problems (such as wire chafe) cause 55% of boat fires.
Engine or transmission overheating caused 24% of fires;
fuel leaks caused 8% of fires.
From Mo Girard's "Spring Check Up":
You can extend the life of your extinguishers by shaking the chemical
up at least every 6 months. You should be able to feel the powder
in the extinguisher as you shake it. If not, the powder has
solidified and it should be serviced.
I would recommend that you have at least a 5 pound extinguisher,
even though some vessels only require a 2.5 pound unit.
The 2.5 pound unit doesn't last very long and unless you hit
the fire just right on the first attempt, you may not get a second chance.
Mount fire extinguishers horizontally instead of vertically
to help keep powder from settling/packing as boat moves.
From CCHIPFIRE on BoaterEd
... If you plan to change your extinguisher get one with a
metal neck and handle. UV light can make plastic units brittle (making an
accidental activation a real possibility). Also don't forget you
need a USCG-rated holder (metal not plastic) for the extinguisher
or it will not count as operational ...
From Dave Pascoe on BoaterEd
When interviewed after a boat fire, the typical owner will tell
a story something like this: there were three fire-x aboard.
Owner discharges two of them and nothing happens.
The third is in a drawer that he can't get to because it's
too close to the fire, or he can't remember where it is.
Dock neighbors rush to the scene with their fire-x.
After the fire is out, there are nine extinguishers laying around,
of which we've determined that only two of them worked.
People make the mistake of thinking that because the gauge
reads in the green zone, the unit is okay.
Not only does the powder cake up on the bottom, but frequently
the pressure gauge needle freezes in place due to corrosion.
I just finished playing around with two units I have here in my office.
Frankly, I cannot tell whether the chemical is packed on the bottom or not.
They are heavy on the bottom side, and there's no sense that the
material moves around when I turn it upside down.
The only way I could find to prove it was to give it a shot.
Surprise, it worked. The needle dropped a fraction of an inch,
so despite the brief discharge, the unit is still useable.
There are two advantages to activating to test it.
First, you find out if it works. Second, you find out if
the pressure needle moves after a brief discharge.
Plus you'll also find out if the valve is corroded.
If it is, the valve will not reseal fully and all the pressure
will slowly leak out, letting you know that it's time for replacement.
[Other people say testing by activation is bad, mostly
because valve may not reseal properly. Also, these things fully discharge in
about 10 seconds, so there's not much to waste.]
One last thing, the ABYC standard calls for fire-x to be
mounted in conspicuous locations where someone not familiar
with the boat could find them if necessary.
It's a mistake to simply toss them into a drawer, and assume
that because you know where they are, that you'll be the
only one called upon to have to use it. What if the fire
starts when you're not there, but your wife, kids or
guests are? Do they know where the units are located?
Automatic fire extinguisher (in engine compartment) should have manual release too.
From article by Margaret Williams in Cruising World's "Safety at Sea":
"All portable extinguishers discharge in a matter of seconds."
[So you'd better know exactly how to use it, and get it right the first time.]
Portable 5-pound extinguisher discharges for about 14 seconds.
Powder residue from dry-chemical extinguisher can destroy bearings in engine.
Best extinguishing agent: aqueous foam.
Versatile, non-toxic, easy to clean up, but not USCG-approved.
Kidde Fire Out Foam ($60).
Flamestop ($15) from American Safety Products
When time to recharge, take fire extinguishers to a recharge station
and ask to set them off yourself, to see how they work.
Novel automatic fire extinguisher (melting tube releases charge):
From article in 6/2005 issue of Practical Sailor
- Dry-powder extinguishers are very hard to clean up after.
- CO2 extinguishers tend to be bigger and heavier, and there's more
risk of the fire rekindling after the CO2 is expended. And the cold blast
can cause "thermal shock" damage when sprayed on a hot engine.
- Dry-powder extinguishers that stop class B and C fires usually use some kind
of bicarbonate. Extinguishers also rated for class A use a different,
highly corrosive chemical that can damage electronics.
- An extinguisher with a hose-mounted nozzle requires two hands to
operate; one with a fixed nozzle requires only one hand.
- Best strategy: several dry-chemical extinguishers to satisfy USCG requirements,
a clean-agent (halotron, FM-200, FE-241, HFC-227, etc) extinguisher (preferably automatic)
for/in the engine compartment, and an aqueous foam extinguisher for actual use
everywhere except the engine compartment.
Fume alarms (propane, CNG, carbon monoxide, gasoline, methane, hydrogen, etc):
BoatU.S.'s "CO and Fume Detectors"
West Marine's "Fume Detectors and Alarms"
David Pascoe's "Carbon Monoxide Alert"
Patricia Baasel's "Propane's Pleasures and Perils"
Modern CO alarms give fewer false alarms than older units.
From 3/2006 issue of Practical Sailor
Nuisance alarms are a problem: "... gas venting from a conventional lead-acid battery
that is charging can activate a CO alarm."
"CO is practically the same weight as air and
will therefore go anywhere - unpredictably !"
Only safe way to test CO alarm using actual CO is
to return it to the manufacturer.
In comparison to gasoline exhaust, the CO component of diesel exhaust is extremely low.
Xintex CMD-2M CO alarm $80
Xintex propane/CNG alarms
From Todd Dunn on Cruising World
... a propane detector in the bilge. It is also very easy
to check the detector/shut-off circuit to see if it is leaking.
All you do is use your butane barbeque lighter by cupping your
hand around the detector and clicking the lighter on without lighting it.
That releases butane in the area of the detector which then
shuts the propane down and sounds the alarm if it is working. ...
Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) and Personal Location Beacon (PLB):
NOAA's "Emergency Beacons"
What is an EPIRB ?
BoatU.S.'s "Why Buy A 406 MHz EPIRB?"
NOAA's "Emergency Beacons"
SailNet - Jim Krezenski's "Betting it All on EPIRBs"
Equipped To Survive's "PLB FAQ"
- Class B (121.5 MHz):
Obsolete; high false-alarm rate (99 %) makes authorities require
corroboration before responding.
Phased out as of 1/1/2007; do not use.
- 406 MHz:
Expensive ($600 - $900).
Also high false-alarm rate (90+ %).
May be water-activated or manual-activated.
May have integrated GPS (AKA "GPIRB"), interface to GPS, or not.
- Category I: Auto-release bracket.
- Category II: Manual-release bracket.
Article by John Kettlewell in Mar/Apr 2008 issue of Ocean Navigator magazine
Neil Langford's "Expose on EPIRBs - what price safety?"
ACR Satellite 3 406 Cat II EPIRB: about $470 at Amazon 2/2013
KTI SafetyAlert SA1G
(AU$380 plus shipping ?)
406 MHz EPIRB's can be
rented for $45/week from BoatU.S.
USCG has a program of free testing of 406 MHz EPIRBs.
It tests the actual transmissions (self-test button doesn't do that).
The registration you filled out when you purchased your EPIRB is
good for two years, after which it needs to be updated.
I called NOAA (888-212-SAVE) in 7/2004 and got this info:
- Registering with NOAA, and having FCC licenses (SRS and RRTO), are completely separate things.
An EPIRB or PLB will work fine and cause a search if registered with NOAA;
whether or not there are FCC licenses and FCC call-sign doesn't matter.
- A NOAA-registered PLB will work outside the USA.
From articles in 12/2002 issue of Cruising World magazine
- False-alert rates on 406 MHz EPIRBs are so high (90% plus) that a
search is not initiated immediately. First, they see if the
alert signal continues. Then they call your contact person,
to see if they know how to call you directly. Then they
try for some other confirmation or correlation, by VHF or SSB broadcast,
or by the presence of a storm at your location, etc.
Then an alert goes to the area "rescue center", which may
or may not have resources that can search for you.
- The system is far from perfect. In many parts of the
world, many days can elapse before any kind of search is
launched. Some poor countries have no search resources.
In some cases, alerts fall through the bureaucratic cracks.
- Your registered "contact person" should have a good
description of your vessel, people aboard, location and float plan,
types of communication equipment, call-signs and phone
numbers, whether you have a liferaft.
- Some water-activated EPIRBs must stay in the water to signal effectively (I
guess the water acts as the radio ground plane):
don't pull them aboard the liferaft.
- Hydrostatic release should be replaced every 2 years.
- Battery must be replaced after it is used in an emergency.
- Once EPIRB is activated in an emergency, leave it on until
you're rescued or the batteries die. Don't turn it on and
off to conserve battery life.
From sidebar article by Ben Ellison in 5/2004 issue of Sail magazine
... it's tricky to get a GPS to cold-start in close proximity to radio
transmissions, especially when everything is squeezed together into a tiny
waterproof case. Apparently there are some serious performance issues with PLBs and even with their bigger
brethren, the GPS-enabled EPIRBs, also known as GPIRBs. ... Some models seem to deliver
GPS position data quite poorly, if at all. ... Some experts say there may be other performance
problems related to claimed battery life and transmit powers and that the signal strength
of some PLBs may be significantly reduced when wet. ...
From West Marine advisor 81 version 1 7/2004:
- Initial 406 EPIRB signal goes to satellite, which relays to ground station (LUT).
After they determine position, appropriate control center (MCC) is notified.
MCC tracks signal and looks up registration, and contacts registered contact person.
Then, MCC contacts appropriate rescue control center (RCC).
RCC starts search.
- Satellite computes 406 EPIRB position to within 1 NM radius.
- 406 EPIRB average "time to notification" (to MCC ?) is 46 minutes.
- Adding GPS to EPIRB reduces average "time to notification" (to MCC ?) to 4 minutes.
- Adding GPS to EPIRB does not improve position report to less than 1 NM radius.
- Search will use homing beacon built into EPIRB to actually find you.
From Alejandro Paquin on Yacht-L mailing list
... there are no guarantees that once SARSAT and partners receive the
[EPIRB] alarm and they can confirm you are not drunk in Las Vegas, that a SAR operation
will be launched. That may be true for the USA or first world country
jurisdictions BUT when you try other less developed regions (Caribbean for
example) it may be very difficult for SARSAT in Maryland, for example, to
contact a SAR agency. I know that from first-hand experience.
The eight (8) emergency numbers given to me by SARSAT Chief Commander in
Maryland last September for Venezuelan SAR operators were outdated and now
belonged to private citizens or regular businesses. Surprise surprise. To make
matters worse, the responsibility for MSAR operations in Venezuela is not
clearly defined ...
On most EPIRBs, replacing the battery is very expensive ($200-$500), and
requires returning the unit to the manufacturer.
Replacement is required every 5 to 6 years and after every emergency use;
includes new seals and gaskets, testing, etc. But for some reason,
several major brands of PLBs do have user-replaceable batteries (still $200).
"When you are looking for a 406 EPIRB, determine the cost
of battery replacement before you buy. My $800 EPIRB requires
a $350 battery replacement after six years."
My opinion: I'd rather have a Marine SSB radio than an EPIRB.
The EPIRB is single-function, one-way (no indication that
someone has heard the alert and is doing something about it),
and not fully testable.
The radio can be used for many things. On the other hand,
the radio requires more equipment and installation, in
a quick emergency you may not have time to use the radio,
and you can't take the radio with you into the liferaft.
From Clyde Kennewick on Cruising World
Now that it's legal to buy a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) in the
lower 48 states as of yesterday (7/1/2003), I wonder if it
will replace the EPIRB in coastal and inland waters ?
The literature on the PLB states that it's for land-based use,
but in some publications they state that it can be used in
coastal waters. In one boating publication they came out
and evaluated it's benefits on the water. There are some
differences between an EPIRB and a PLB. The signal from a PLB
is monitored by the US Air Force who must then relay the
information to the US Coast Guard; the EPIRB is monitored
by the US Coast Guard. The PLB has a short battery life
requirement of 24 vs. 48 hours for the EPIRB. The PLB
is only rated for a submersion of one meter, but you
can always get a waterproof bag. In general the
EPIRB can withstand a lot more abuse than a PLB, but
with a PLB it goes where ever you go; an EPIRB stays
with your boat, even though you might be on the water
on someone else's sailboat. I notice that the PLBs are
now listed along with EPIRBs on online boating stores like West Marine.
I like the idea of carrying a PLB when I'm going to be
sailing on someone else's sailboat; it's like bringing your
own PFD instead of relaying on the sailboat owner's safety
Both EPIRBs and PLBs are registered with NOAA for free, and both
will work internationally.
From jypsyjana on SSCA discussion boards 1/2011:
If we recall correctly, our ACR 406 has a limited life. That is to say that after 12 (?) years,
ACR will no longer replace the battery. That was a pretty rude surprise.
From Frank / Draco on SSCA discussion boards 1/2011:
ACR will not replace the battery of any EPIRB that is more than 12 years old.
Summarized from article by John Kettlewell in Mar/Apr 2008 issue of Ocean Navigator magazine
PLB compared to EPIRB: majority of reduction in size is achieved by shrinking the battery pack
and its sophistication. PLB's minimum broadcast time (in cold temperatures) is 24 hours, versus
EPIRB's 48 hours. These times should be greatly extended in warmer temperatures.
Reduced battery life may affect final rescue phase, when rescuers are homing in using the 121.5 MHz beacon.
PLB's usually are waterproof, but may not float, and probably won't float upright so that GPS acquires signal or
beacon sends signal up to satellite.
New product that is alternative to EPIRB: Globalstar's Spot. Longer battery life, more features,
cost is about $170 plus $99/year, but coverage is not worldwide.
I asked ACR 10/2011 about PLB versus EPIRB:
I wondered if the "reaction path" for a PLB is a little more complicated than for an EPIRB ?
I guessed an EPIRB alert goes straight to some maritime-safety agency.
Would a PLB alert go to some more general-purpose land-based agency, before eventually
being forwarded to some maritime agency ?
Response from ACR:
- The path of response for EPIRBs and PLBs are the same.
- EPIRB can go for 48 hours, PLB for 24.
- EPIRB activates when in the water, PLB activates by manual button.
- EPIRB floats properly to transmit, PLB needs to be held properly.
- Both must be properly registered.
In 10/2011, a sailboat 90 NM W of Martinique activated their EPIRB because an unknown powerboat (old, white, 50-60 foot) seemed to be
trying to intercept them, and came within 3/4 mile. The sailboat tried to contact the powerboat on VHF, tried to evade,
then put out a Mayday on VHF, and then
activated their EPIRB. Then the wind came up and they were able to sail away from the powerboat.
Later, this reaction was said to be okay by USCG: "San Juan CG confirms that if a vessel believes
that they are in danger, triggering an EPIRB is completely justifiable.
The San Juan CG officer did not feel that the crew of [the sailboat] misused the Global Maritime Distress Safety System in any manner."
easyRESCUE A040 (personal MOB AIS transmitter)
VPIRB: transmits alert via VHF and DSC.
But VHF signal range depends on antenna size and height; what range will this have ?
Annual subscription: $100 for basic (includes messaging), additional $50 for position-tracking,
additional $8 for rescue service.
Apparently there is a no-refund policy on the subscriptions, so if you sign up and decide it's not
working for you, no refund.
Summarized from letter by Gil Anspacher in Apr 2010 issue of All At Sea magazine
SPOT is not completely reliable; plenty of our location/status updates did not get through.
Thus, it is not a replacement for an EPIRB.
From Joe Kuster on BackpackingLight forum
I've used mine throughout tons of places where my standard GPS had a horrible time syncing,
and given 5 minutes I never had the SPOT fail to send a signal.
Here are the limitations as far as I can tell:
While moving it takes a while to sync if you just turned it on.
The same is true for my Gecko 301 GPS. This is easily fixed by leaving the unit on.
You have to know what to expect to tell if it sent the signal. I keep reading about how
people couldn't tell it sent, but I've always been able to see mine flash the acknowledgement
if I wanted to verify. I just toss it on the ground while I'm cooking dinner and wait for
the double flashes which are eye-catching in the evening light.
I think a lot of folks are giving up and turning the unit off too soon. You have to plan
on the initial GPS sync taking 4 minutes and then up to 10-15 for all three signals to
go out (it sends 3 different times just in case, but filters it down to 1 for your emails etc).
Sure, if you're on the move this isn't great since its fix is slow that way.
If however you are in an emergency you're likely stationary anyway.
I've had luck leaving it on, hitting the OK button and just tossing it in
the top pouch of my pack and the signal went through.
The good: I've sent over 100 signals now and have yet to have a single signal not go through,
even in canyons, heavy forest coverage, in heavy snow/storm conditions and even cold-starting
it 1,500 miles away from the last point with no issues.
It also sips batteries very lightly. The manufacturer claims nearly 1 year in standby mode,
which is why I really wonder why people keep turning theirs off during trips only to suffer
increased sync time. I've left mine on during dozens of trips - effectively weeks worth of
on-time and my original batteries have plenty of charge according to my multimeter.
Overall, my Gecko 301 GPS is less reliable in signal fixes, as are my Holux GPS receivers I use for auto navigation.
For me, it works as advertised and it has actually gained my trust. Hitting that occasional OK button
has given my family a lot of peace of mind so I get a lot less flak and they don't unnecessarily worry nearly the same when I go solo.
I also need to state that I do not use the tracking feature. I've heard it's spotty but the manual OKs have been fine for me.
The only downsides to me are it could be a bit lighter, have a better message-sent indicator
and they need to not charge as much on the yearly subscriptions.
From Phil / Sunshine on World-Cruising mailing list
We also love our SPOT and wish we could say the same for their web site.
It is klunky at best and extremely slow. The device itself is great when you are out of cell and Wi-Fi
range and need to let the folks back home you are OK. Personally, I would not consider it as a substitute for an EPIRB.
From Normandie / Sea Venture on World-Cruising mailing list
One reason not to consider it a substitute for an EPIRB is that sometimes it sends messages
even if it can't find the GPS coordinates. Otherwise, it's a great link to family at home.
From Ed Kelly:
The SPOT transmissions need to have a satellite near and above us when we send it, and also having no heavy clouds
that could block the signal. The signal goes over the GLOBALSTAR Satellite network. In the past Globalstar has
had times in the mid-Atlantic when no satellites were there to relay signals ... causing alarm to folks watching from afar.
Globalstar uses low earth satellites.
From eat4fun on reddit:
Raising your transmitter 8 feet into the air can increase signal strength by 40%, as
can placing it on a sheet of metal, and don't hold it close to your body (you'll absorb the signal).
SPOT versus EPIRB:
EPIRB is better:
- Provides a direction-finding signal (homing beacon) that rescuer can use when they get within a few miles of you.
- No annual subscription fee; SPOT subscription costs $100 to $150 per year.
- SPOT not guaranteed to be waterproof ?
- SPOT communications not 100% reliable ?
- SPOT is proprietary system run by single company.
SPOT is better:
- Provides position-tracking and OK button that communicates to family/friends.
- Provides a "help" button that communicates to family/friends, less drastic than an official distress call.
- EPIRB more expensive initial purchase price.
- EPIRB battery expensive to replace, every 5 years.
- Some EPIRB's have lifetime limited to 12 years.
- In an emergency, when activated, EPIRB battery will last 2-3 days, while SPOT battery will last for weeks.
Communication service for non-emergency situations.
Two satellites that receive test-messages from any 406 EPIRB, including most non-ACR EPIRBs.
That causes an "OK" message to be sent to friends/family via email and text message.
If using ACR's AquaLink PLB, GPS coords are sent too.
Annual subscription: starting at $40.
Sounds like the "OK" message is a canned, pre-set message, not one you create or tailor each time.
From Peter Ogilvie on World-Cruising mailing list:
If you cruise in most ocean waters except the tropics, you will have
less than an hour of consciousness and precious little more time than
that before you are dead from hypothermia. There just isn't much hope
that an aircraft or ship could find you in time, if your own boat didn't
pick you up. Of course, a 'gumby' suit will greatly increase survival
time but such a suit probably would only be a factor in a controlled
abandonment of your boat. If I carried a personal EPIRB, it would
primarily be to help the authorities find my body.
I wouldn't put much faith in it being useful for much else.
That would be a great psychological plus for my wife and loved ones.
Have had an acquaintance's boat go missing on a voyage from Hawaii to the mainland.
It was a tri eventually found inverted with his crew tangled in lines and drowned.
He was never found. It was awfully hard on his wife not having the closure of finding the body.
Man-Overboard (MOB) Alarms:
- Each crew wears a 121.5 MHz transmitter ($200 - $400).
- Vessel has a receiver ($200 - $3500!), maybe with direction-finding ability.
Article in 9/2000 issue of Practical Sailor
Article by Gordon West in 5/2004 issue of Sail magazine
Emerald Marine Products
(Mini B2 and Vecta2)
Man-Overboard (MOB) Retrieval:
- Stern swim steps (permanent).
- Ladder (portable).
- Sling (horseshoe-shape, seat, ring).
- Cradle / net / stretcher / scoop.
- Sail / sheet / parbuckle (one edge attached to toerail, lift outboard end and roll victim aboard).
- Harness (worn).
- Use dinghy or surfboard as intermediate step between in-water and aboard-boat.
Article in 1/2006 issue of Practical Sailor
Maybe throw mask, snorkel and swim fins to person in water, to aid their swimming, and
let them help get themselves up out of the water a bit when being lifted ?
SailNet - Tom Wood's "Maintaining Safety Gear"
See RADAR section of my Boat Electrical page (for RADAR reflector info, too).
- Fire blanket for galley.
- Survey your boat for fire potential:
sources of heat near sources of fuel.
Most likely source of dangerous (hidden) fire: electrical short.
All wiring must be fused.
Want smoke detector in engine compartment.
- Diver-down flag; use while snorkeling, cleaning
- Thin-skin suit; use while snorkeling to protect
from plants and animals.
- Emergency overboard ladder.
- Whistle: smaller is better (easier to clear,
less energy to use, easier to carry).
Whistles tested in 11/15/2000 issue of Practical Sailor.
Fox 40 whistle.
- Rescue light instead of flares: can be seen farther, lasts far longer, safer.
Such as ACR DistresS.O.S
- Life-sling: don't just have one on the stern rail; practice
getting a live person out of the water with it.
- High-powered spotlight to shine on your sails or at freighters
to make them notice you. Want light driven by 12V wiring, not
a portable battery.
- Hailer (loudspeaker), with horn capability.
- Collision mat.
- Emergency flotation for boat: inflatable salvage bags.
Typically 1 cubic meter each (a ton of buoyancy each);
an 80 cubic-foot SCUBA tank will inflate two bags.
Attach them to strong points, as low as possible,
inside or outside boat.
Turtlepac Yacht Flotation Bags
- Towing a safety line that you could grab if you
fall overboard seems to be a bad idea:
Can foul propeller, can get run over by other boats,
you won't be able to hang on if boat speed is more than
a couple of knots, you won't be able to pull yourself
along it if speed is more than a knot or so (could be
rigged to disengage auto-pilot or something).
- Disposing of expired flares: donate to Coast Guard Auxiliary,
Sea Scouts (part of Boy Scouts), etc.
- Light-reflecting patches on upper part of mast, to make
boat more visible to spotlights from other boats.
- Having good non-skid on deck is a safety issue.
- Just like the propane locker, you need a gasoline
locker that vents overboard.
See RADAR Detector section of my Boat Electrical page
- Lounge chairs (lawn furniture) on deck at anchor.
Posture Chair ($35) from Improvements.
- Hammock for sleeping on deck ?
Air mattress for sleeping on deck or in cockpit ?
I just use the cockpit cushions, in both places.
- Folding bicycle (bike):
Jim and Diane
"Yes we had a folding bike but never used it outside the States.
The roads are just too rough."
Bikes corrode badly and are hard to stow, hard to haul to shore,
and hard to use on bad roads in less-developed areas.
Folding bikes may have non-standard-size tires, which are expensive
and hard to find.
See bicycle review in
's 1/1/2000 issue.
From Ray Henry on Cruising World
We bought the $89 folding bikes at Damark.
Stripped them down (fenders, chain guard,
reflectors, etc) to save some weight.
Two years now and only a little rust
(I do NO preventative maintenance for this).
Keep them in a cockpit locker.
No, these are not comfortable cruising bikes,
they are something to get you to places too far to walk,
but still within 15 miles or so.
Sure they're a little heavier and are rusting some,
but I can just throw them out (or give them away)
and buy TWO MORE of them before I
spend as much for a Dahon!!!
From Logan S/V Scotty Ann on Cruising World
New anchorage: You'll see lots more with the bike than you will walking.
To enjoy the bike it has to be a reasonable ride.
The little tire types just don't do it.
I've talked to people with folding bikes and they just
weren't happy with them.
I've tried riding them and they just seemed loose.
Begin with the assumption the bikes will be abused.
Assume too that if there are two of you, you need two bikes. Three? Three bikes.
Otherwise, the bike sits while you walk with your partner/friend/whatever.
A used (if you can find it) mountain bike is the ticket.
You *need* quick releases for the wheels and seat so you can disassemble easily.
Other than that most anything will do the job. ...
Theft: Yes, it can happen. ... You want *good* locks. The
Kryptonite ones and the knockoffs are good.
Get the bigger "U" locks. You'll understand why soon enough.
One good quality cable lock will be good too. ...
Helmets: They are often required.
Even if they aren't, you're an idiot not to wear one.
Sit on the fender of your car and fall off sideways on your head! See my point.
Before you run out and get the fancy folding bikes
they sell, find one and ride it 10 miles.
Then ride a real bike 10 miles. You decide, but
not on the strength of the idea.
I'm betting you'll go with the real bike.
Sure, they are a little bit of a pain,
but you'll wonder how you lived without them after a very short while.
From billy on Cruising World
This is probably going to sound negative but there were very limited
places to use a bicycle safely from the Northern Hudson to South Florida.
It seems America's love affair with the car has made this so. The more bike
paths the better, and also rural areas aren't quite so bad, but nonetheless bad.
I know very well how to road ride but there has been such a change on
attitude of modern aggressive behavior in drivers that I felt the risks
of getting across town for provisions was not worth it on a bicycle
any more. Walking to the grocery store became our norm more and more and if
you approach most store managers with a cartfull of stuff they were more than
generous giving you a lift back to the marina. There are other ways.
The bicycle in the out islands of the Bahamas was useless,
and sometimes unsafe also. I am sure that the places that Logan went were
perfect for cycling and there are no doubt a few that we missed
on the east coast, Annapolis sure the heck not one of them.
From John / Truelove on The Live-Aboard List:
It's easy to get around on most islands via walking or taxis. Unless you're
headed for a very remote place, you'll find most cruisers who bring folding
bikes tire of the maintenance, stowing and transportation (to shore) hassles
and sell 'em. You can also buy an old junker bike on most islands for a
couple of bucks and just leave it when you're through.
From Bruce Bowman on the WorldCruising mailing list
... Be careful about choosing a bike on the basis of size and weight only.
The smaller the folded size, the squirlier the ride: the smaller the
diameter of the front wheel the less the directional stability. The
Strida (Italian, about $400) has a 16" wheel, belt drive, light
weight, looks wierd and IMO requires a lot of skill to ride. The Dahon
Boardwalk (Chinese, $250) with its 20" wheel and chain drive is more
stable and heavier; the Dahon Mariner ($320) with its 26" wheel and
mountain-bike look-alike frame is pretty well-behaved and heavy (over 32#). ...
From Ray Thackeray on the WorldCruising mailing list
I've had two Dahons in the past - they fell apart in 6 months, and are so
fiddly unfolding them it's a royal pain! Rust like hell too - and mine was a
From Steve Van Slyke on SSCA discussion boards:
We had stainless DaHons with 16" wheels on our last cruise and they were indispensable.
I think folding bikes are one of the most valuable pieces of gear for cruising sailors.
They allow you greatly expand your sightseeing horizons and they drastically reduce
the amount time needed to do chores like clearing, provisioning, etc.
I towed a cart behind mine that would hold 3 jerry cans or 6 bags of groceries.
From Marc Gershel on SSCA discussion boards:
Steve is right. Mine is a non-stainless with 20" wheels, and a 6-speed deraillier.
I went virtually everywhere with it. Had it now for 3 years, still in great shape.
Bought it from Defender for $289. Can't imagine not having one.
From Colin Foster on SSCA discussion boards:
Notes on DaHon stainless bikes. We have had a pair for over 10 years with good results.
They do require quite a lot of maintenance despite being STAINLESS but with care
they should last forever. There is quite a lot of galvanized or unprotected steel on them.
You will need a can of Corroseal and once per month, paint a little on with a glue brush
wherever you see some rust spots appearing - mainly on fasteners. It ends up looking
pretty nasty with all the black touch up spots but we regard that as a good deterrent against theft.
From Carey Johnston on SSCA discussion boards:
We have folding bikes on board. We chose to have something with larger tires than the
Dahons as the larger tires make them easier to pedal. We also chose to buy second (third,
fourth, fifth?) hand bikes that don't look real spiffy. Why? Pretty obvious we think -- they
would be less likely to be stolen. We have twice purchased (sold the first ones while "ashore"
for 6 years) used folding bikes for "about" $25USD/each. Our first were purchased from
out-bound Med cruisers when we were inbound (also a good source for charts and pasarelles!).
They do take up room but we are willing to spare the room and find them indispensible.
I even strapped boat kitty (in bag!) to the back rack and pedalled him 2 miles down a
2-lane road in Porto Santo (Madeira) to the Vet!
From John Mason on The Live-Aboard List:
... It is also better to get a bike locally than to carry the awkward thing with
you. Rusty "cruiser bikes" are available pretty much anywhere, cheap. Sell
it or give it away when you go. A bike on a sea-going boat will become a
rustbucket quickly anyway.
In the Florida marinas we found bikes going from boat to boat for about $20
for servicable but ugly machines. Some had even been "uglified" by the
owners to deter thieves. Theft can be a problem, but if the cost is low, the
risk is low.
Fancy stainless steel folding bikes like the Dahon have a half-life measured
in minutes when unsecured and out of sight. I have friends who can attest to
From Mark Mech on The Live-Aboard List:
I just got back from Walmart and they had an excellent
folding bike that is more suitable for boating than any I
have seen. It has an aluminum frame, 5 speeds, rear suspension
and is very well built. It totally blows away the folder that West and
RV dealers sell for over $350 and it is only $127 !
The bike is a Kent 7000 series.
20" Stow-a-way compact recreational vehicle.
It is aluminum, has 5 steps to fold.
It has a 5-speed Shimano gear shift.
Model Number OV 32098 or just 32098.
Bar code number 016751 32098 4.
It is a new product for them.
The Kent service number is 800-451-5368.
From Nemo on Cruising World
Re: Folding Bikes:
Just an opinion, and from one who hasn't sailed around the world (sorry), but I do have
a 40-foot-ish boat and have lived aboard, traveling, nearly four years now.
Don't waste your money.
My folding bike seemed to always be in the way, the chain grease rubbed on something
regrettable a couple times a month, and the bike quickly developed rust that then
became a fiberglass cleaning chore. Too, it wasn't very long before the brake and
shift cables seized up -- I maintained the replacements better but they still seized up.
Bikes are a real theft-target in disadvantaged areas, so ya get to worry about that, also.
And besides, you're not gonna haul major groceries or jerry jugs on one, so "all this"
just for sightseeing?
The fact is, local people need to get around too, so there's almost always a cheeep bus
system of sorts to use -- plus, that gives you a chance to interact with the locals
instead of classing yourself separate by your ride.
And finally, I've biked in areas where locals just don't see many people on a bike so
they aren't used to driving around them, and when that's combined with the usual
lousy road conditions it makes for a pretty hazardous ride.
I'd say yes, if staying in only one or two locations for a long, long time, but wouldn't
bother with it if traveling. I left mine ashore and unlocked in Trinidad --- maybe someone
else found the damned thing useful.
From Lee Haefele on The Live-Aboard List:
The Dahons that I have had 6 years now still work great. A derailleur guard should be added,
otherwise folding and storing the bike bends it, making adjustment
impossible. Replacement tires should be purchased ahead as 1.50 or 1.75 X 20
are no longer stocked in local stores, they have been replaced by 1.90 X 20
which do not fit within the fenders and have a lot of rolling resistance.
A To B Magazine
($200+; Mariner 26 is $400)
NexiBike (but the web site is gone)
Walmart.com sells a Kent International Folding Bike with aluminum frame ? Heavy but cheap.
Convert a complete bike into one you can break down, using S and S Couplings
- Belly-board for swim/surf/tow.
Kayak Online's "Choosing a Kayak"
From Logan S/V Scotty Ann on Cruising World message board:
We use a yak as a second dink ...
The yak has lots of functions.
Using it and a dink you and your crew/partner/whatever are
not tied to one another, i.e., one can go back to the boat
while the other is at the yachtclub bar and will likely be until closing.
In the waters we are in (tropics and sub-tropics) the wet
butt is no problem. You can add a large waterproof bag to carry stuff.
The yak will let you poke around in the rocks and play
in the surf and generally is more fun than a rowing or motordriven dink.
We tried a flooding kayak, i.e., a Folboat. I have owned Kleppers.
The poor Folboat died because salt water didn't like the alloy
and the tropical sun and ozone hole didn't like the nylon and the
plastic just wasn't up to the job. A Klepper would have fared better
but I still think it might have died.
They sell very short single plastic kayaks. It would be my preference.
The yak lives on the deck and is in the way a lot.
But, Scotty Ann is only 31 feet. The place for the kayak in truly
bad weather is somewhere where it will break loose from its own
buoyancy in a knockdown or capsize or if a lot of green water comes aboard.
I think it would be in the way below in those conditions.
You may need to get to part of the hull in a big hurry and
I wouldn't want to have to shift the yak to get there.
By all means - take a yak. We have only been without for maybe
a year intermittently over the past 8 years and missed it when it was gone.
From Peggy Carr on rec.boats.cruising newsgroup:
I have two of the Ocean Kayak
which is a "sit-on-top" type where you are
not encased IN the boat, but are sitting on it. I bought that kind because I
felt that there would be a number of "newbies" trying it out, and they've been
very successful for all of us. You don't have to learn to roll, to save your
life! My cousins use them in the surf, for which they're wonderful. I use them
on the Chesapeake Bay, which allows me to poke into shallows where no one else
can go. They enhance a weekend cruise and open new horizons every time we take
them along. I have a power boat, and when the boat is loaded I tie them to the
swim platform (they weigh less than 40 pounds each) and when I have room they
fit nicely across the back of the cockpit. If I were going to do it over again,
I think I might buy one two-person, and one single. A MUST for me has been the
snap-in padded seat, which gives you support in the shallow seat of the kayak.
Maybe that's because I'm over 50 ... I also have rubber plugs to close up the
scupper holes when the water is cooler.
From Bob Richardson on rec.boats.cruising newsgroup:
... We have
lots of barnacles and rocks where we use it, so having a RUGGED kayak
was important for us. It didn't need to be designed for ocean use, since
we only use it while anchored - when the weather is nice. We also want
it light, since it needs to be lifted on deck every night. And we want
it to be very stable, since it might be tricky entering and exiting from
our Tashiba 40 sailboat. The Necky Gannet we chose seems to meet our needs
perfectly. We really like the SKEG it has, which makes paddling in a
straight line much easier.
I thought that it would be difficult to enter and exit the kayak while
at an anchorage. I was pleasantly surprised. With two hands and one foot
on a boarding ladder you gradually transfer weight from the ladder to
the kayak. No sweat!
From Evan Gatehouse on rec.boats.cruising newsgroup:
As a past user of 'real' kayaks, I find the sit-on types sluggish, wet, and
slow. You probably won't notice the difference because you've never tried a
real one before. We had friends that loved theirs on their Cheoy Lee 40
ketch. I didn't as noted above. Most have self-draining bailing holes.
Some of these are in the seat (stupid idea). When you go too fast - instant
cold water enema!
From Susy Quiggle on Yacht-L mailing list:
Kayak's are great for liveaboards ... And if stowage is
an issue, a klepper or Folbot are terrific, though they
still require a large amount of space. I've had a Folboat
as well as fiberglass and the newer plastic kayaks. When
living aboard you will want a multi-purpose kayak (as opposed
to a playboat, a lake or sea kayak, etc.) so the plastic knock-about
variety are best. LIGHT WEIGHT! This is critical.
I hang mine on the lifelines ... So it's out of the way when not
in use. If you have a tendency to
go topsy-turvy every now and then, you'll want a wider beam.
26 - 28" is really very stable. I use mine as my dinghy most
of the time ... and it's better! The covered bow and stern
handle lots of cargo ... and keep it dryer in rough weather.
Just a word on the inflatables. They are fun ... and
take up much less room onboard. But they don't 'drive'
like a kayak. They're hard to paddle and they don't slice
through the water ... it's like paddling an inner tube.
But fun! The best I've seen has a 'glass' bottom. I can't
remember who makes it ... saw it in the Defender outlet
in Connecticut last spring.
- Very hard to buy a new kayak in the Culebra / Virgin Islands area. Shipping
them in costs a lot. Maybe you could buy one in San Juan.
- If you're patient and listen to the cruiser's nets, you'll find used kayaks for sale
in heavy cruiser locations (St Martin, Grenada).
- I bought a used sit-on-top kayak, 9 feet long and weighing probably 45 pounds.
I don't want to leave it in the water all of the time, because it will get bottom-growth, and might be stolen.
But it's fairly awkward to heave up onto deck, being bulky and a bit heavy. And it takes
up a lot of space on my side-deck.
- Underwater digital camera (not "waterproof"; not film):
There seem to be 3 ways to go:
JIS Grades of Water and Dust resistance
- Underwater camera.
- Hard housing around non-waterproof camera.
- Soft housing (pouch) around non-waterproof camera.
"Flash model cameras are definitely preferred for underwater
photography to illuminate the colors. ... the pictures will be blue,
green and 'blah' without flash."
From a friend of mine who has an Olympus D-340R:
I would recommend an extra SmartMedia card if you're
going to be away from a computer for extended periods
of time (and thus would have no way of uploading the
images to the computer). I got some crazy bonus deal
with State Street Direct where they threw in a case,
rechargeable batteries, a recharger and 2 smart media
cards for $70 or something. It was worth it for the
case and batteries alone.
I find that the picture size at Super High Quality
(SHQ) is too big. I tend to take High Quality (HQ)
pictures because they're smaller. I get 32 HQ
pictures per 8MB SmartMedia card. 16 at SHQ. You can
mix and match. You can get 64 normal quality
pictures, but they are very "normal".
Downloading by serial cable is quite slow,
it takes about 10-15 minutes to
download a full 8MB memory card.
From Pentax Optio W10 reviews 12/2006:
Buyer Beware -- Warranty does not cover "liquid" damages:
It states clearly in the warranty policy that liquid damages are not covered. Therefore, the waterproof nature
of this camera is disclaimed and not covered by the 12-month manufacturer warranty. It seems from the
failure rate of users ~20%, that this product is quite a gamble without an additional warranty.
Bottom line: you buy this camera AS IS with regard to its waterproof features.
The W10 (and W20, 7MP) is/are waterproof as indicated by Pentax.
What is not indicated is that to retain the waterproofing, you need to return
the camera to a Pentax service center every year to have the seals replaced,
at a current price of about US$50.
Article in 10/2001 issue of Latitude 38 magazine
Want 3+ megapixels and 20mm to 300mm focal length.
Editor in 5/2006 issue of Latitude 38 magazine
Fujifilm digital cameras produce blues and greens that are people-pleasing
without having to be tweaked in Photoshop. Fujifilm E550 is cheap and great,
but has shutter-lag that makes it bad for action photos.
Sandy Lindsey's "Making Your Underwater Photos Better"
From Image Crafter's "Nature Photography Tips and Tricks":
- When highly reflective water makes up a large
percentage of your image, overexpose from the
camera meter reading by one stop or more.
- To get rid of the glare that you see on water on a bright day,
use a polarizing filter (if using an auto-focus
camera, use a circular polarizer).
From JeanneP on Cruising World
Mildew in our cameras is a problem with carrying them on the boat.
Just have to find a good camera repair place every so often to clean them.
Even the waterproof sport cameras will mold.
And the film is not going to survive if you leave it in a closed-up
boat for a week - the heat will ruin it. I buy 12-exposure rolls
so I can use up the entire roll of film quickly.
May be more expensive, but not if the alternative is losing
most of the roll to bad storage conditions.
- Folding cart for wheeling groceries/stuff from town to boat ?
But Jim and Diane:
"... Most of the folding carts I have seen do not really fold up to a very small package.
You need something with big wheels.
Those little wire things you see people using at stores here in the
States would be worthless with the rough streets. ..."
- Glass-bottomed bucket for looking into sea from dinghy.
Good for those who don't like to snorkel, and for easy check of anchor set.
You take a 5 gallon plastic pail, cut a large hole in the bottom,
cover over the hole with a round piece of clear plastic that's held
into place with the sealant/adhesive of your choice, and viola! ...
you have just made a lookie bucket.
You can use this device to check the set of your anchor without gettin wet.
Don't be fooled into buying the inflatable kind at the marine store like we were.
From Peter Malloy:
Cut the bottom of the bucket leaving a little material on the bottom
of the bucket and glue the clear plastic inside. Now you can use the
bucket to carry things as well as check the anchor.
- Waterproof fish identification book.
- Hydrophone for listening to sea life:
Dolphin Phone ($160)
- SCUBA equipment: see
my SCUBA Diving page.
Windsurfing requires pretty good balance, and can be a bit hard to learn.
May not be for everyone.
Typical prices: board-and-sail approx $1400
(for example, see The House).
Shipping: Got this response from a USA windsurfing store about shipping to Culebra or St Thomas:
"Unfortunately it is not possible to ship a windsurfing board to either of those places.
The only way to actually have that done is via shipping container which is very expensive
and a service that we do not provide."
Best board for first few hours of learning is a wide high-flotation board;
then you'll want something narrower and smaller for subsequent use.
combination windsurfer / kayak / sailing dinghy / tow-board.
Hull/board is inflatable, and whole thing weighs about 50 pounds, so easier
to ship and carry than a non-inflatable equivalent.
There are several models: LE (obsolete ?), 3.1, 4.1 (bigger).
About $500 - $600 plus shipping.
May want additional "kayak kit" ($80) and 12-volt air-pump ($60).
Hull/board is polyester cloth over PVC and tough enough to use as tow-board,
so maybe it's pretty durable.
Not a lot of customer-written reviews on the web 8/2009.
Since it's a combination device, performance is a compromise in every mode:
won't be as good a windsurfer as a true windsurfer, not as good a kayak
as a dedicated kayak, etc. Most owners emphasize it as a kid-appropriate thing or casual-fun thing.
Aquaglide makes true windsurfer rigs, too, so the sail probably is well-constructed.
Not sure of the source of this:
SOLUTION TO PUTTING IT TOGETHER BY YOURSELF:
1. Get THICK METAL D-rings (the kind climbers use) and attach them to each of the web stabilizing straps.
2. Put the hull in the water and then put the mast on. I think this saves dragging
the keel/rudder over the ground with the sail attached. If you are a BIG STRONG GUY,
maybe you can just pick it up! I'm a not-so-strong woman.
I also remove the mast while it's still in the water.
A FEW COMMENTS:
1. I still don't know if I had it blown up tight enough. I pumped until
it seemed that air was going out the relief valve of the pump.
When the three stabilizing webstraps are cinched firmly to keep the mast straight,
the rubber thing the mast is on was depressed about 3" below the top of the cover.
This seemed to work, but I don't know if it's right.
2. I launched and landed on a beach that was mostly small pebbles and they got inside,
between the cover and the liner. I can't figure out how to remove them, but they
also don't seem to hurt anything.
3. I learned that even though the directions say to inflate to 50% (and not more) to
insert the keel or rudder, I found that about 70% and dipping them in water makes them go through really easily.
4. RUDDER: Once in the water, I couldn't tell if the rudder was sticking out the
back like it should or facing the wrong way (remember the above post, I'm a novice)
so today I painted the side that should face me with red nail polish (an admittedly
girlie solution) and it worked like a charm.
5. DRYING: It takes a long time to dry, so plan where you might be able to let it dry
out in your garage, house, or on your deck (check the forecast).
Similar products: Mistral WindGlider (can't find new-for-sale, but used ones are available);
Inshore 2.2 (Chinese-made sold in Australia ? Very little info about it).
Looks to be harder to do than windsurfing, and maybe more dangerous.
Typical prices: board-controlbar-and-sail approx $1400
(for example, see Best Kiteboarding).
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