A dinghy is a cruiser’s car. It’s used for sightseeing, for going to get groceries and supplies, to get to other people’s boats, to kedge off if possible when the motherboat runs aground. Dinghies aren’t just for cruisers, however. Those of us who aren’t yet out there full-time also need them unless they want to rely exclusively on launches.
Probably 99% of boaters use inflatables. Their advantages include stability, the ability to deflate it and store it below, and the fact that it’s quiet when it bumps up against the mothership. However, they also puncture, they row terribly, and they eventually deteriorate in the sun which requires a person to purchase another one. Prices can vary from $600 or $700 to $10,000 plus.
Since most boaters have inflatables and we didn’t know any better, we bought one for our first dinghy. Admittedly it was a bottom-of-the-line inflatable and we had to pump it up once or twice during the season, but it worked well enough until we stored it in the garage over the winter. An unidentified critter chewed on it at the seams, rendering it unrepairable. After that experience we decided that inflatables weren’t for us. With the right hard dinghy we could purchase it once and never have to buy another. Of course this decision put us squarely in the minority, but we’re used to that.
Since the demise of our inflatable was discovered on the brink of the sailing season, we didn’t have time to do much research. We decided to go with something relatively inexpensive so we could find out for sure if a hard dinghy was the right choice for us. After a fruitless search on Craig’s List, we went to West Marine and bought the ugliest dinghy on Fishers Island Sound – a WaterTender 9.4 – on sale for $500. It was indestructible. We also discovered it was unsinkable after I PT-109’d it once with Little Bristol when we were trying to catch our mooring. Jeff watched in horror as hundreds of gallons of water flowed into it (he was concerned that the outboard would submerge) yet that dink kept floating. It was still going strong after two seasons, but we knew it wouldn’t work for us when we go cruising full-time. For that, we wanted a Fatty Knees dinghy.
We arrived at a Fatty Knees upon deciding (after a lot of serious thought and research) to forgo a liferaft when we cut the mooring lines and sail away. Liferafts are big (a not insignificant consideration on our 30 foot boat), expensive, and they need to be repacked on a regular basis. They have been known not to deploy properly. They also are completely passive, requiring that you simply float while you await rescue (which is likely, but not always guaranteed). Passivity is simply not our style. So we started looking at other options.
Initially we thought we might get a Portland Pudgy but after more research we decided on a Fatty Knees. The Fatty Knees was designed by Lyle Hess, and she’s a beauty. She rows well, sails well (there’s an optional sailing kit available), and carries a ton. With a few modifications she could become our lifeboat. I fell in love with her the moment I saw one and have been lusting after one ever since.
The Fatty Knees is far from cheap so I was hoping that eventually we might be able to score one on Craig’s List. The problem was that they tended to be snapped up within a few days of being listed. Given that we didn’t need one now, I had only been half-heartedly searching every month or so. Then yesterday the stars aligned.
A 2010 8′ Fatty Knees (the size we were looking for) was listed. The ad had been up for a while, but she looked brand new. I sent an e-mail, spoke to the seller’s son, and two hours later we found ourselves driving 170 miles after work to West Yarmouth, MA up on Cape Cod. I didn’t dare wait until Saturday because the seller had just dropped the price a few days previously and I knew she’d be gone.
Upon arrival we discovered that the pictures were absolutely representative of her condition. In speaking with the seller, he explained that she had been used only a handful of times and had been sitting in his garage on sawhorses for the last several years. She truly looked brand new. I commented that I couldn’t believe she was still available, and the seller said that his son had priced her too high initially, but he really wanted it out of his garage so they dropped the price by a lot. It didn’t have the sail kit, but we could purchase that later from Fatty Knees when we were ready. Brand new with her accessories she would have cost $5,155. Our price? $1,700. It felt like winning the lottery. There was absolutely no question we were going to take her.
The seller and his wife both commented separately that he was quite sentimental about her, so he was thrilled that she was going to someone who clearly loved her. And it was clear that I loved her. I was ecstatic, practically hopping up and down with excitement. We loaded her up onto the roof rack and drove to Shenny at 55 mph where we dropped her off, ultimately arriving home around midnight. We were both exhausted, but thrilled with our deal of the century.
As for her name? Well, when we are on the boat mixing cocktails, I always make my Pegu Club before I make Jeff’s martini so that I don’t end up with vermouth in my drink. We’ve taken to calling this martini with a trace of Pegu Club a Pegutini. So the name of our Fatty Knees? Pegu-teeny of course. I pulled some pictures off of the internet that show how she looks. Pictures of Pegu-teeny will be forthcoming in the spring.
8 thoughts on “Deal of the Century! Our Fatty Knees Dinghy.”
Pretty gutsy woman buying a boat named “Fatty Knees.”
Ha! Actually, the story goes that Lyle Hess came up with the name when, as he was designing the boat, his wife was giving their granddaughter a bath. She poked her in the stomach and said, “Your a chubby little thing” and the granddaughter replied, “But grandma you have fatty knees.” Not sure if it’s true, but it’s cute nevertheless.
They are now made on Cape Cod, friend of mine, Dave Foynes runs the company and makes them. He also has a Facebook page, I love my 9′ Fatty Knees. It is a 1984, made by Lyle Hess himself. Also has a sail kit with a custom squaretop sail. Another friend of mine, Mark at Squeteague Sailmakers makes the sails and covers for them.
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Thanks for the info. I can’t get enough of learning about them. How fantastic to have one made by Lyle Hess himself! We’ll definitely be ordering the sailing kit, likely next season.
I know this is a while after you’ve posted this blog, but I am curious what you’ve done to modify the fatty knees as a lifeboat? I just purchased a 35 foot sloop that comes equipped with a fully kitted out fatty knees, including sail kit and dinghy dogs (lucky me!). It doesn’t, however, have a lifeboat, and I am also of the same persuasion as you and the Pardy’s that a passive rescue just isn’t my style. My concern would be speed at which I could deploy the fatty knees in the event of a sinking, and keeping her positively bouyant should she be capsized or flooded. I think the dinghy dogs would be super helpful in this regard. Anyway, thanks for the blog post! Hope to hear from you.
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Hi Adam – thanks for posting, and congratulations on your Fatty Knees! Unfortunately we had to sell ours because it simply was taking up too much room on the foredeck for us to feel comfortable, especially with the hank-on jib. I still miss that dinghy and fantasize about buying another. Anyway, I agree that the Dinghy Dogs will be helpful and that’s what we would have used if we had kept it. As for quickly deploying it, we figured we had our knives for cutting the tie-downs and then we would have tossed it overboard (while holding onto the painter of course!). If you don’t already have the book, The Cost Conscious Cruiser by the Pardeys had some good tips on using a Fatty Knees as a lifeboat. Congrats again! Kimberly
So you weren’t able to fit a Fatty Knees 8 on the foredeck aft of the anchor locker? I think it measures very close to my Walker Bay (which fits, sort of) and I am looking at all options for a sailing dinghy.
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Hi Phil – If I recall correctly it did interfere a bit with the anchor locker, but really we only sold it because we wanted a bit more room on the foredeck with the hank ons. If we had kept the roller furler we would have modified the lid to the anchor locker so that we could still open it even with the Fatty Knees hanging over it a bit. It was an awesome sailing (and rowing) dinghy. Kimberly