Dinghy No. 5

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We bought Little Bristol 6 1/2 years ago.  We just bought dinghy number five.  Five dinghies in six years?  You are likely wondering just what the heck is our problem.

A dinghy is your automobile when you are boating, whether you boat full-time or on weekends.  And, like automobiles, there are a wide variety of styles and sizes to choose from.  Rigid dinghies, inflatable dinghies, rigid inflatable dinghies. The options are almost endless.  But like all things boat, dinghies are always a compromise.

Our first dinghy was the cheapest inflatable we could find at Defender.  It was o.k., but we made the mistake of storing it in the garage that first winter.  We pulled it out right before launching in the spring only to discover that a small creature (or creatures) had gnawed a hole in it right at the seam.  That led to our second dinghy.

Our second dinghy was a West Marine Watertender – what we came to call the Ugliest Dinghy in Fishers Island Sound.  It was a rigid dinghy, made out of polyethylene so it was indestructible, it was cheap, and we could buy it right away – time was of the essence.  But I was lusting hard after a Fatty Knees.  Which led to our third dinghy.

Our third dinghy was my beloved Fatty Knees.  It was gorgeous, it rowed great, and we could sail with it.  At over 100 pounds it was heavy, but I loved that dinghy.  Unfortunately it didn’t fit well on the foredeck and we wanted that option for crossings, so we reluctantly sold it.

Our fourth dinghy was an Achilles hypalon inflatable.  It towed well, held air, never had a leak, and was tough as nails for an inflatable.  But we really missed having a hard dinghy.  You can pull a hard dinghy up on a rocky beach, or tie it up to a rough piling, without having to worry about puncturing a tube like with an inflatable.  I repeatedly suggested another Fatty Knees, but Jeff kept pointing out that they are very heavy which is an issue now with Jeff’s CHF.  I couldn’t argue with that.  What to do, what to do?  Enter dinghy number five.

One evening Jeff said, “How about a Walker Bay?”  It was 41 pounds lighter than the Fatty Knees, it was made out of polypropylene so it’s extremely durable, it rows well, and you can get a sail kit for it.  It was a great idea.

We didn’t want to buy a new one, particularly given that we already had a perfectly fine inflatable, but they come up on Craigs List and Facebook Marketplace more often than a Fatty Knees so we decided we’d keep an eye out.  A few weeks later we found an 8′ Walker Bay located 95 miles from Annapolis.  We easily rented a pickup truck from Enterprise, had a scenic drive into Virginia, and $500 later we owned our 5th – and hopefully our last – dinghy.

But wait a minute.  If the 8′ Fatty Knees didn’t fit on the foredeck, how will the 8′ Walker Bay?  Well, it’s not so much that the Fatty Knees didn’t fit, but that it covered up the windlass and anchor locker.  At the time we thought that was a big deal.  Now that we’ve been cruising for a year we know that we tow our dinghy 99% of the time.  For the other 1% of the time, after we raise the anchor we’ll keep the engine in idle while we lift the dinghy and put it on the foredeck – it only takes a few minutes.  When we arrive at our anchorage, it’s light enough that we can easily toss it overboard before dropping the anchor.  And for short passages, we may simply tow it.  We know a fellow Bristol 29.9 owner who towed his Fatty Knees (sigh) from Marathon, Florida to Rio Dulce, Guatemala.  We just need to be willing to cut it loose if there’s a problem.

So far the Walker Bay has proven to be a good choice.  It’s faster when we motor since it’s not shaped like a rubber brick, it rows wonderfully, and it’s a drier ride.  Will it really be our last dinghy?  Only time will tell.


6 thoughts on “Dinghy No. 5

  1. I love this! Saw the Walker Bay in one of your photos. We were moored in Marathin next to a family of 4 who were sailing/rowing their motorless Walker Bay 8 as their tender on a yearlong sailing sabbatical. They had the rubber tube around the outside.

    Do you have a life raft aboard? That is a serious point of discussion should we attempt a real ocean crossing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Phil! We would like to get a rubber tube but they are really expensive. We saw a Walker Bay last year with fenders along the perimeter – I think we’ll give that a shot when we can pick up some small fenders at a marine consignment store.

      We do not have a life raft aboard yet. Frankly, I’m not sure where we would put one, but I guess we’d figure something out. For now we’re going without unless we decide to do a very long crossing like you guys are thinking about. Kimberly


  2. We have our Portland Pudgy and I recommend it strongly.

    It is heavy, but indestructible and is a SOLAS life raft. It is not cheap. With the sailing rig (not the least bit required), and exposure cover, sea anchor, etc, you’re getting onto $7K+ USD.

    However, you need never worry about whether it will inflate. It is also only 7-feet long… eight feet won’t fit on Caro Babbo.


    A look at the pudgy with our exposure canopy deployed:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi John – we’ve always liked the Pudgy. Friends of ours just bought one on Craigs List last month so when we share an anchorage in them with the Exumas we may see how it fits on the foredeck. We’d certainly like to have some sort of liferaft if we start going farther offshore. Of course that’s still being debated. 🙂 Kimberly


  3. love it. good luck. Love, N

    On Thu, Oct 24, 2019 at 3:30 PM Adventures on the Club wrote:

    > Kimberly posted: ” We bought Little Bristol 6 1/2 years ago. We just > bought dinghy number five. Five dinghies in six years? You are likely > wondering just what the heck is our problem. A dinghy is your automobile > when you are boating, whether you boat full-time” >

    Liked by 1 person

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