Sailing

Everything You Need To Know About Dinghy Boat

Last updated on August 23, 2022 by Jireh Lacson

There is a dinghy boat to suit nearly every situation! There are fishing boats that stay tied to docks, higher-speed dinghies that tie up to yachts, and inflatable dinghies that roll up when not in use. There are dinghies for use in rivers and streams and dinghies that can hold their own in seas and oceans. With all these options, how do you know which dinghy is right for you? Below, we'll discuss the various types of dinghy boats and what considerations to consider when determining which boat is best for your needs.

What Is A Dinghy Boat?

A dinghy boat is a simple, open, small boat that can be used for various purposes. They are compact and shallow, and there are many different types of dinghies, each designed for its purpose.

Why Choose A Dinghy Boat?

Because dinghies are so versatile, having just this one boat opens up a whole world of water adventures to you! They are compact and shallow, able to both traverse streams and take out into open oceans. That shallow profile also gives them a low center of gravity. This makes them great for many types of sailors, as they are difficult to capsize. Dinghies are usually very rugged and can be fitted out for rowing, sailing, or adding an outboard motor.

Types Of Dinghy Boats

There are four main categories of dinghy boats, divided by their frame type. Each type of dinghy has its own pros and cons.

Rigid Dinghy

Rigid dinghies are a classic. They are simple in design, although they come in various shapes, sizes, and materials. Rigid dinghies work well if you won't be traveling far from shore or dealing with rough surface conditions. They have a lower carrying capacity compared to inflatable dinghies, but they are incredibly durable and can handle being pulled on shore. Many sailors choose to attach outboard motors to their rigid dinghies.

Inflatable Dinghy

Inflatable dinghies need to be assembled before use, but as they are collapsible, you can easily stow them in the back of any vehicle or locker. It is the perfect inflatable boat for beginners. They have a greater buoyancy than rigid dinghies so that they can carry more passengers and cargo, and some can carry up to nine people! A fully inflatable dinghy is best suited to calm weather conditions, although it can handle moderate wind. The soft sides of inflatables make them prone to puncture damage, so always have a repair kit on board.

Rigid Inflatable Dinghy

Rigid inflatable dinghies combine features of hard dinghies and inflatable dinghies. It's so efficient that even the Coast Guard uses them! It's not collapsible, as it has a solid fiberglass or aluminum keel, but it does benefit from the extra buoyancy given by the inflatable tubes around the side. Rigid inflatable boats are more stable, so they can handle higher winds and be used over greater distances, even going out into the ocean. They can have various outboard and inboard motors, and a long shaft motor will work for the largest of these types of dinghies.

Sailing Dinghy

Most dinghies are propelled through rowing or outboard motors. However, there are also specialty dinghies designed for sailing. Sailing dinghies have a very shallow, rigid hull, typically made from aluminum, so they can be as lightweight as possible. They are commonly used for youth sailing programs, as they are easier for children to control, and a smaller sail will then be sufficient to move the vessel.

sailing dinghy boats at the harbor

Source: Unsplash

What To Consider When Buying A Dinghy Boat

With all of the various types of dinghy boats available, how do you know which one to buy? Before even looking up your options, first consider what you'll be using your dinghy for, how you intend to store it, how heavy you want it to be, how much you want it to be able to carry, and what you want it to be made of. There are options under each of these categories! Then, set your budget and look up your boat options!

Use

When buying a dinghy, it's important to consider your dinghy's primary purpose. Will you be traveling long distances at a time? How many people will need to sail with you? Will you use your dinghy mainly for entering the water from another boat, or will it be taken on shore frequently? Will it be used in rivers and streams or oceans and seas?

Storage

It's unwise to buy any boat if you haven't thought out where you'll store it when not in use. This is particularly true if you'll be using a dinghy in conjunction with a bigger sailing boat or yacht and will need to store the dinghy aboard. There are five options available to you for stowing most dinghies:

Davits

Dinghy davits are used for dinghies that are too large or heavy to be physically lifted in and out of the water. Davits are permanently installed on a dock or, more commonly, on the stern of a larger boat. It's a handy way to keep a dinghy on hand when you're out sailing in larger boats, but large waves can fill the stowed dinghy with water and unbalance the main boat.

On-Deck

Rather than risk the chance of a dinghy flooding and damaging the main boat, some people choose to tie their dinghy upside down on the deck. This is a perfectly fine solution, provided you have the space on deck and the dinghy won't be blocking important walkways.

Swim-Step

A compromise between davits and deck storage, the dinghy can be stowed there if your larger boat has a swim-step. Double-check that it's elevated far enough out of the water and tilted so that it doesn't flood.

Locker

An inflatable boat has exceedingly easy stowage. Simply deflate, roll it up, and store it in a locker.

Towed

If you're not going far from shore and the weather is fair, you can simply pull your dinghy behind your main boat.

It's best not to ever keep your dinghy boat in the water for a long period of time. Even if your dinghy is a simple wooden vessel, leaving it tied to a dock when not in use will significantly decrease its lifespan. Perhaps your storage considerations don't concern a yacht or larger boat, but you'll still need space in a shed or garage for your dinghy, regardless.

inflatable dinghy boats

Source: Flickr

Weight

Dinghies are all considered lightweight vessels, but some are much heavier than others. Will you need to be able to pull your dinghy out of the water yourself and onto a trailer or into a truck bed? Then it needs to be light enough that this is possible. The most lightweight option is fully inflatable dinghies. Lightweight dinghies also are better suited to shallow water conditions.

However, if you'll be in open water and want a stable ride, your boat is going to need to be heavier. Dinghies with a higher carrying capacity will also, by necessity, be heavier.

Material

The rigid floors of dinghies are typically made of either fiberglass or aluminum, although wooden dinghies are still available. Fiberglass hulls are cheaper but heavier, and aluminum hulls have a longer service life but come with a higher price tag.

Inflatable boats also have options when it comes to their material. They are typically made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or CSE (chlorosulfonated polyethylene). CSE is also known as "Hypalon." PVC is more affordable and easier to clean but can deteriorate if left in the sunlight for too long. It holds air longer than CSE, however. PVC will lose under 7% of its air volume within 24 hours, while CSE will lose 15%. CSE has a much longer life span but is pricier. CSE is also more rugged and better suited to use in cold water and along rocky shores. The flexible tubes used in both fully inflatable and rigid inflatable boats are a mixture of PVC and CSE.

Budget

Dinghies can cost anywhere from $500 to $15,000 (and even more, depending on customization). In addition to the cost of the boat itself, you need to consider the cost of a dinghy repair kit and any equipment you'll need for towing and storage. Keep in mind that the more expensive choice may not always be the best choice for your needs.

Towing Ability

Dinghies can vary in carrying capacity from one passenger to fifteen! You'll want to choose a dingy that has the ability to carry all of the people and cargo required for your purpose. When looking at potential boats, consider not just your passenger amount but also the weight of your cargo. The weight of luggage, provisions and recreational gear can really add up! You'll also need to add in the weight of paddles and a motor.

About the Author

Jireh Lacson