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Dinghy cruising
Old 07-23-2014, 02:12 PM   #1
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Dinghy cruising

A few years back, on the thread Been so long...., we had a brief discussion on how big a boat has to be.

Englishman Roger Barnes has recently published The Dinghy Cruising Companion: Tales and Advice from Sailing a Small Open Boat (2014). It's available in paperback and on Kindle: highly recommended!

Here is an extract from his article in this month's Classic Boat magazine, entitled "Why I Sail Dinghies", which explains the attraction.
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The spartan comfort of a cruising dinghy runs contrary to the prevailing trend in contemporary yachting towards the sybaritic and showy. Yachts grow larger and ever more luxurious by the day. Hot and cold running water is now normal, as well as a fridge and central heating. The traditional chart table has become a sophisticated ‘nav station’ equipped with a vast array of electronic instruments. Typical on-deck systems include a powered anchor winch and sophisticated sail-handling equipment. As the sails are functionally unnecessary to propel a modern yacht, they are generally used only in open waters. Close-quarter manoeuvres are always done under power.

Dinghy cruising is a diametrically different attitude to sailing, a delight in simplicity and minimalism. It is the same sensibility that attracts fell-walkers and climbers into the upland landscape on foot. A powerful 4x4 would be much more comfortable, but the experience of wild country is heightened if you only take the minimum of simple gear with you. The sea is the last great wilderness on Earth, a place of escape from the stress of modern life. To go out onto it in a small open boat is to experience all its beauty and splendor in the most direct and powerful way.

If dinghy cruising can be compared to wild camping, yachting is like caravanning – the urge to go into the natural environment, taking all the comforts of home with you. There is nothing wrong with caravanning, but it appeals to a different sort of person. To cruise in a dinghy is to confront many conventional assumptions about the best route to contentment in life. A cabin yacht displays status and success, and this is important to many people. The owner of a cruising dinghy does not cut the same social dash, but the modesty and simplicity of dinghy cruising brings its own particular rewards.
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Old 07-23-2014, 02:23 PM   #2
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I'd be dingy to to out in a dinghy.
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Old 07-23-2014, 03:35 PM   #3
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"A cabin yacht displays status and success, and this is important to many people."

Displaying 'status and success' is not important to me or DW...having a place to pee in private is.
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Old 07-23-2014, 04:00 PM   #4
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You'll never have to worry about lounge hogs, or being seated with unpleasant strangers at dinner.

On the other hand, room service is harder to come by...
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Old 07-23-2014, 04:05 PM   #5
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I've cruised a fair bit and cabin yachts run the gamut from 20 feet to over 60 feet and from nearly derelict to all near spaceship levels of automation and complexity. Trust me, cruising in a yacht is only glamorous in the glossy magazines, whether there is a cabin or not.

When cruising in the Bahamas we met retirees who looked homeless but then dinghied back to their half million dollar yachts. Come to think of it, after months away from the US, most of us looked marginally homeless.
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Old 07-23-2014, 04:11 PM   #6
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I'm considering trade down from our current 32 foot sloop to a 20 foot Flicka or 24 foot Dana. We were up to a 42 foot cutter for a while but I didn't like all the complexity of the systems and sail handling. It was taking the sailing out of owning a sailboat and we were acting more like a motorboat with auxiliary sails! Not to mention how much tome was spent fixing systems or the fact that maneuvering a 42 foot in tight marinas is very stressful.

I can't believe so many mom and pop cruising crews are out there on 40+ foot boats, even at late ages. But the truth is they rarely raise the sails anymore. But nobody needs that much space for 2 people.
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Old 07-23-2014, 04:29 PM   #7
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Sorry to hijack the thread but I (think) I have a Perpetual Traveler mindset but I'm not fire'd yet. One of my dreams is to work on a sailboat for room and board, no real compensation besides the experience. I just want to learn the ropes (pun intended). With some local references (and my winning personality) would you ever take a stranger on? I'm thinking the Caribbean or something like that.
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Old 07-23-2014, 05:31 PM   #8
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I just took sailing classes and I'm looking for Sunfish, no trailer, just to keep on a dock. I can rig it and go out alone, and I've put together a women's group to go sail a couple times a week. I sailed on a bigger expensive boat this week and ask how often they sailed -- once a month in the summer. I've already sailed over 10 times in the club boats and paid nothing.
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Old 07-23-2014, 05:38 PM   #9
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I'm considering trade down from our current 32 foot sloop to a 20 foot Flicka or 24 foot Dana. We were up to a 42 foot cutter for a while but I didn't like all the complexity of the systems and sail handling. It was taking the sailing out of owning a sailboat and we were acting more like a motorboat with auxiliary sails! Not to mention how much tome was spent fixing systems or the fact that maneuvering a 42 foot in tight marinas is very stressful.

I can't believe so many mom and pop cruising crews are out there on 40+ foot boats, even at late ages. But the truth is they rarely raise the sails anymore. But nobody needs that much space for 2 people.
I have a Dana, love her, have crossed the atlantic in her with no problem. She is a very well mannered craft, has looked after me very well.

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Old 07-23-2014, 07:06 PM   #10
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Oh dear...
Such memories...
First dinghy was on Specs Pond... maybe age 7 or 8. An old rowboat with 1/2 inch space between the floorboards that we filled with moss... enough for a 5 minute "sail".. (pilowcase on a stick) from the "point" to the "island" 100 yards away, then walking on the bottom to get back!

H.S... Hanging out at the Barrington Yacht Club til there was no one left to "crew" on the Flying Dutchman class racing, and I'd get invited...

College... sailing team... for two years... frostbite sailing on the (MIT) Tech Dinghies...

And then after marriage, right up until today... always had some kind of sailing boat... Pumpkin Seed, an old plywood Sunfish that's still being used today... and many in between.

My current "dinghy" is a 1967 15 foot Sears Roebuck Sailing Canoe...

When we lived on Martha's Vineyard (mid 1960's), we sailed our Sunfish from Vineyard Haven to Edgartown, all the way to Gay Head and back... with DW, and our 3 year old and 2 year old sons on board.

I still recreate these memories vicariously with my remote control sailboat.
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File Type: jpg sail.jpg (45.3 KB, 25 views)
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Old 07-24-2014, 01:28 AM   #11
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I lived on a small sailboat for over a year. It was affordable and I learned to sail, ocean fish and myriad other experiences.

First time out it was magical. Just the wind and the boat cutting through the water. No one around.

I would take it to Catalina and even shark fishing. It seemed to me, the smaller the boat, the more it was enjoyed. The people who owned the big boats were rarely seen, but had people taking care of their boat on a weekly basis.
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Old 07-24-2014, 06:10 AM   #12
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When I lived in Boston, I had a 10'6" Achilles inflatable that I towed from my car, launched it in the Charles River and went through the Boston Haarbor islands after passing under the landing path of Logan airport. On the way out .... Cambridge on the left, Boston on the right and through the locks. Fun - fun -fun ! Once I recall a very large yacht (helicopter and all) in the Harbor and the Captain (?) in full dress attire with stripes and all, called down to me: "You there in the inflatable .... now that is fun- this is work" And it was the best $2000.00 I ever spent in the 90's. And a head? A coffee can and a blanket !
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Old 07-24-2014, 11:31 AM   #13
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Sorry to hijack the thread but I (think) I have a Perpetual Traveler mindset but I'm not fire'd yet. One of my dreams is to work on a sailboat for room and board, no real compensation besides the experience. I just want to learn the ropes (pun intended). With some local references (and my winning personality) would you ever take a stranger on? I'm thinking the Caribbean or something like that.
What I'd recommend is to try to meet up with some delivery captains in your area and ask to go along with them as helpers for shorter term deliveries to build your resume a bit.

There are crew wanted/crew available message boards ranging from thumbtacked notices at marinas all the way up to full-fledged internet models--look around and see how you can put your information on there. To be good crew, you'll mostly need that aforementioned winning personality, flexibility, humility, tidiness, and some minor cooking skills.

Good luck with it, I've known a few folks who have had great times working as crew, and even the terrible times made for great stories later.

As to the OP, we've had sailboats and trawlers, and never wanted to inch up above the 35 foot zone. Easier to manage smaller boats, always.
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Old 07-24-2014, 06:38 PM   #14
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Oh dear...
Such memories...

College... sailing team... for two years... frostbite sailing on the (MIT) Tech Dinghies..
Same here, college sailing team for four years abeit a bit warmer...U of Hawaii. If you can believe it they awarded us scholarships and letters.

I hung out at the Waikiki Yacht Club crewing on a Newport 41 for the weekend races. The good life. <sigh>
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Old 07-24-2014, 07:42 PM   #15
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I have a Dana, love her, have crossed the atlantic in her with no problem. She is a very well mannered craft, has looked after me very well.

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Wow, would love to see some picks of the boat and here more about the Atlantic crossing.

They are pricey boats on a $ per waterline foot basis but seems to be great value if you look at quality, capabilities and resale value.
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Old 07-24-2014, 08:46 PM   #16
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I hung out at the Waikiki Yacht Club crewing on a Newport 41 for the weekend races. The good life. <sigh>
We just finished a vacation where we hung out at the Hale Koa for the last four days of it, watching the boats come and go...
There are not that many sailing opportunities for the visitor on Oahu. 'Bout the only one I found was at the marina at the Marine Corps Air Station at Kaneohe Bay, and I missed the opportunity to do the checkout. THAT'S a beautiful place to sail...
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Old 07-26-2014, 09:04 AM   #17
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Here's a nice dinghy cruising photo:

Complete trip narrative is at Newfoundland Cruise. I've cruised around Labrador, and circumnavigated Newfoundland, though not in a dinghy. Like Hawaii, a beautiful place to sail.

weshallsee123, I am unfamiliar with Danas, but from what I can see on the 'net they look very nice!

Are you a member of the OCC? Good bunch of people.

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One of my dreams is to work on a sailboat for room and board, no real compensation besides the experience. I just want to learn the ropes (pun intended).
May be of some guidance: Hitch-Hiking on a Yacht.
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Old 07-26-2014, 04:55 PM   #18
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May be of some guidance: Hitch-Hiking on a Yacht.
Awesome article! Learned a lot from the article and the comments. Thanks.
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Old 07-27-2014, 01:00 AM   #19
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Awesome article! Learned a lot from the article and the comments. Thanks.
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Old 07-28-2014, 03:50 PM   #20
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retirementguy1, here are a few things you can do to improve your attractiveness as potential volunteer crew:
  1. take some elementary sailing courses, so at least you will know the different parts of a boat, the buoyage system, etc. ASA 101/103/104/105, or the US Sailing equivalents, would be suitable. RYA Day Skipper, both theory and practical (tidal), would be better still;
  2. if you don't already know how to regularly cook full meals for four people in a tiny kitchen, learn;
  3. similarly, if you are not a handyman, learn as much as possible about electrical repairs, diesel engine repairs, and fibreglass repairs. Older yachts (and too many new ones) have ongoing maintenance issues: cracked chainplates, leaking decks, balky radars, malfunctioning watermakers, the list is almost endless (indeed, this is a major reason why dinghy cruising is so attractive … the KISS principle applies!)
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