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Stow, Stow, Stow

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In May of 2007 my wife Eleanor and I, along with co-owner John Smith, bought Karrie, a 1988 Grand Banks 36 sedan in Ft. Meyers, Florida. (The boat and her dinghy were featured in "A Tender Issue," PMM June '01.) Unfortunately, the purchase price did not include its beautiful handmade New England-design rowing dinghy. This left us with the challenge of coming up with a new dinghy. Fortunately, the boat did have a well-engineered and mounted set of St. Croix davits.

Now in real estate buying it's commonly accepted that the key factors are "location, location, location." With some literary license, when it comes to dinghy and tender purchasing it's "stow, stow, stow." Where do you stow it on your boat? What kind of load capacity does it have? And, where do you put the darn thing on land when not in use? As Bill Parlatore wrote in his sidebar to "A Tender Issue," "Carrying a dinghy is the purest form of a love-hate relationship."

Well the first stow issue had been well taken care of by the previous owners. They started off with a flat-bottomed inflatable dinghy that they manhandled aboard and stowed on its side alongside the cabin house. This looked kind of dorky, and besides, they had a beautiful custom-built sailing and rowing dinghy that they had to leave home in Marion, Massachusetts. They considered various arrangements to stow the rowing dinghy using the boom and mast, but rejected them for technical and aesthetic reasons. Their choice was davits on the transom because a davit system uses no deck space, and the dinghy was up out of the water and could easily be lifted by one or two people. Since the St. Croix davit mounting plates could not just be mounted on top of the caprail, some kind of reinforcement was needed. Two 1-inch stainless angles and two 1/8-inch stainless strips were mounted between the teak transom and the fiberglass service panels. The owner reported that this was a difficult, but fun, project. The end product is beautiful and looks like a clean factory installation. Personally, I would rate this modification and the custom decorative teak work it required as something only a very skilled craftsman should do. This situation left us with a great davit system but no dinghy, and whatever dinghy we chose had to fit the existing davits.

Both retired, John and I had each previously owned Sumner hard dinghies and were predisposed toward purchasing a hard dinghy. We searched Craig's List and located a 1982 Dyer Dhow sailing dinghy and trailer for $1,800. We felt that the Dyer lines and quality reputation were a good fit with the Grand Banks 36, so that choice was easy. The Dyer Dhow, with its 9-foot length, 4½-foot beam, and load capacity of 650 lb. took care of our second stow requirement. But the hard part was figuring out how to hoist the Dyer on the St. Croix davits effectively, safely, and without making it a klutzy looking rig. The big Grand Banks had a rugged davit system ready to go, but the little Dyer had zero attachment hardware and no pick-up points.

John and I immediately agreed that we wanted to engineer our system without drilling any holes in the dinghy and whatever we came up with had to be pleasing to the eye (in our case three pairs of eyes). We sanded four 1-inch-thick, 4-inch-square, U-shaped teak blocks on the backside to match the curvature of the dinghy hull. We fastened the blocks to the Dyer hull up against the rail with 3M 5200 adhesive. We then cut 2½-inch diameter heavy wall stainless tubes, which were to be the lifting support members. The ends of the tubes were ground to fit the curvature of the Dyer hull for a smooth, tight fit. Then, we attached the tubes to the davit lines with an eye bolt and snap shackle. This system has worked perfectly. The dinghy is easily launched and the stainless tubes are left attached to the davit lines and left laying on the swim platform where they are easily retrieved to haul the dinghy out of the water.

The solution to the third stow issue (where and how to keep the dinghy on land), came as a result of a trip Eleanor and I made to Block Island, Rhode Island. Along the way from our homeport in Annapolis, we stopped at the Minneford Yacht Club North in City Island, New York. This club consisted of docks where the slip holders owned the slips. Here we noticed that many of the owners had their dinghies on floats or boards or other rigs at the head of their slips, thus making them readily accessible. This setup looked a little makeshift to my wife and me. Returning to Annapolis and studying our Grand Banks 36 in her 40-foot slip at Sarles Boatyard and Marina, a lightbulb went on in my head. Why not hang the dinghy in the slip? I checked the dock to make sure it was strong enough and called St. Croix Marine Products in Bloomington, Minnesota to order a set of mounting plates matching the ones on the Grand Banks. We bolted the plates to the dock. Now when we return from a cruise with the dinghy, it's a simple matter to lower the dinghy into the water, stand in the dinghy, slide the davits out of their mount on the cockpit coaming, slide them into the matching mount on the dock, and haul up the dinghy (including the 3hp outboard).

In the Chesapeake Bay we make about 50/50 marina and anchoring trips. The ease of mounting the dinghy on and off the boat makes these trips more fun. In his sidebar, Bill Parlatore also wrote, "We're on our own to figure it out." And we did, Bill, all without dinghy racks, trailers, or haulouts. It couldn't be better.

Old Guys Rule.