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How to carry a dinghy on your boat


How to carry a dinghy on your boat

In my last post, having attended the New England Boat Show in Boston, I wrote about some ways to help think about choosing a dinghy for your boat. We focused on thinking about how you will use your dinghy and what is the best one for you. In this post, we will consider the different ways to carry your dinghy.

How you carry your dinghy depends very much on the style of tender you have chosen and the type and size of the primary boat you have. Weight of the tender plays an important factor. To ensure safety, davits should never be used at their maximum capacity. Today, we will focus primarily on inflatable type tenders as that is what is most common. Hard, non-inflatable boats make excellent tenders and meet the needs of many boaters and some of the davit solutions discussed here will work for them as well.

Tenders can be carried on the mothership in the following locations;

  • Transom/Swim platform
  •  Foredeck
  •  Upper aft deck
  •  Deflated in a locker

As mentioned, the size of the mothership can determine the best place to carry your tender. To carry the tender on the foredeck or upper aft deck, typically requires a vessel large enough to have sufficient open space in these areas, The typical dinghy is 8-11 feet long, so that amount of space would be required plus room to get around the boat.

In addition, carrying a tender on the foredeck or the upper aft deck requires some way to lower and retrieve the boat. If the tender is light enough, this can be done by hand or with the mechanical advantage of a small hoist attached to a mast. For larger heavier dinghies, a crane is required using either hydraulic or mechanical power to lift the boat. These cranes can be expensive and require a solid mounting base to lift the weight of a heavier tender.

For many boaters, carrying a dinghy on the transom or swim platform is a good option. This type of set up puts the boat close to the water and relatively easy to launch. An additional consideration is that with a dinghy on your transom, backing into a stern to dock can be harder as can be boarding the boat with the dinghy in place. We often leave out dinghy behind on our morning if we know we will be docking stern-to and will not need the boat.

There are four options for this type:

  •  Traditional davit arms that hoist the tender up in a level position and store it hanging
  •  Swing up snap style davits that store the tender in a tipped up position
  •  Pull up/slide up style davits which allow the tender to be carried level directly on the swim platform
  •  Hydraulic lifting davits that can take the form of raising and lowering the entire swim platform or external arms, attached beneath the platform that raise and lower the tender

As mentioned earlier the type and weight of your dinghy can dictate the type of davit you select. The shape and design of your transom and swim platform plays a role as well. If there is a small swim platform of none, and you have a relatively vertical transom, then traditional davit arms would work well. These davits come in a variety of weight capacities and can be operated by a simple block bully system or a mechanical which. A means to secure the tender from swinging will be necessary as well.

For those with a swim platform, the simplest option is snap davits. This type of arrangement requires that a receiver loop be attached to the outside of the inflatable tubes of your dinghy or the gunnel if a hard dinghy is used. A removable hook is fastened to the swim platform a the dinghy, once attached the hook, can be lifted out of the water and leaned against the transom. the dinghy is secured using lines cleated directly to the boat. This system is quite affordable and best for lighter dinghies. IF you use your dinghy with an outboard motor, that motor will need to be removed before lifting the boat out of the water. There are systems made that allow the outboard to pivot as the dinghy swings up, thereby keeping it level. these systems add additional hardware and costs but work fairly well. These are best for smaller motors. One limiting factor of this type of arrangement is that when the dinghy is in the tippled up position, it can obscure your name and hailing port and possibly your stern light depending on where it is mounted. This is a drawback that needs to be factored in. 

The third type of davit that mounts to a swim platform is the pull up/slide up style. These systems consist of a pair of hinged arms that attach to the aft end of the swim platform and tip down towards the water to allow a dinghy to be pulled up onto them as the tip back to the level position. Once loaded on, a tender is then fastened down to the swim platform using straps to secure it. The arms are usually shaped in a way to fit the bottom of the tender. These types of davits offer the advantage of allowing an outboard to remain on the tender and accommodate different shaped tender hull bottoms. These systems are more expensive than snap davits but nowhere close to the cost of hydraulic arms.

The fourth type of transom davit system is the hydraulic lift. These systems are either arms that mount on the transom and lift the dinghy or ache to the platform and raise and lower that to launch. Such systems require electric-powered hydraulic pumps to provide the lifting. While these davits can lift large tenders they the most expensive type of system and are usually found on larger vessels above 45 feet. 

Of course, if you are interested in just a very lightweight tender, then dinghy of this type can be stored deflated in a lazaretto of similar locker. This keeps the boat completely out of the way until you need it but does limit the size of the dinghy.

The bottom line is that like choosing a type of dinghy, how you carry it is dependent on many factors including cost, convenience and type of dinghy. (Pictured is the Trick Davit System).

Quick update.  We purchased a Trick Davit system at the start of the 2020 boating season.  It has been great!  Very easy install and easy to remove the arms when not in use.

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