D is for Dinghy



What is a dinghy? Officially, according to the dictionary, a dinghy is ‘any small boat designed as a tender or lifeboat, especially a small ship’s boat, rowed, sailed, or driven by a motor.’ A ‘tender’, by the way, is a small craft that ‘tends’ a larger one, that is, used for beer runs, for instance.

That is a fine definition as far as it goes, but dinghies come in all different styles, shapes and colors and that definition has expanded over the years to include most any type of small boat. There are big ones, little ones, hard-sided, inflatables, semi-rigid and hard shell, just to name a few. When the ‘mother ship’ or yacht finds itself close to water too shallow to fully maneuver in, it’s the dinghy that comes to the rescue for the commute to shore for supplies, to get on that little island over there for exploring, or just to do a little fishing away from the maddening crowd. The least expensive are inflatables, though high end inflatables can run into money if you’re not careful. The simplest inflatables are just little life raft looking things that are more easily stowed when they are deflated, but take a long time to inflate, don’t row well at all (ya just kinda pry them along through the water) as for sailing, fergit it.

inflatable dinghy

Their performance can be improved somewhat by the addition of plywood floors that are slid into place and provide a good surface to walk on and increase the rigidity of the hull, but true inflatables are on the low end of the compromise scale.

The next step up is the semi-rigid inflatable. This type has a central rigid portion and provides a good keel for motoring and rowing.

rigid inflatalable dinghy

The next step up from this is the rigid dinghy. These can be made of most any material that is rigid and can formed into a roughly boat shape appearance.

rigid dinghy

They are commonly made of fiberglass or plastic, marine plywood or if you want to get really fancy, wooden dinghies built in traditional fashion.

dinghy from davits

In any case, if the craft is to be used as a tender it needs to have some weight carrying capacity, as a dinghy is used not just for the aforementioned beer runs, but for transporting people and their gear, groceries and occasionally (hopefully very occasionally) used for carrying anchors out to deeper water so the grounded mother ships can be winched free.

Humans being what humans are, we tend to push whatever envelope there be (arrrrr), so dinghies are also used as vessels in themselves apart from the tending duties. Like any small boat they are used for fishing, day sailing and racing, either under power or under sail.

dinghy racing

No matter what your dream of men, ships and the sea may be, a dinghy of some sort is usually not beyond the reach of those of modest means so some fun on the water may be had for a small modicum of money. Just be careful. Enthusiasm for things nautical is rampantly addictive so if you don’t watch out you may end up with the biggest little dinghy in the Navy.




9 thoughts on “D is for Dinghy

  1. J here, stopping by from the #atozchallenge – where I am part of the A to Z Ambassador Team! (I’m a minion/volunteer under Arlee.)
    Great post. I’m looking forward to more. Let me know if I can help you in any blogging way this month.
    Little boat in big water means more work for the captain. Love the topic!

    • I thank you kindly for your attention. I’m trying to respond to the commenters, now that I’m getting more familiar with how this wordpress thing works. Thanks for reading, much appreciated.

  2. Another informative post. I’ll be able to show off my nautical vocab at Sea Scouts by the end of the month, although I still can’t tie a knot. I was pushing the envelope with the tide today and my kayak was grounded. Finally, managed to pry off the dog and then my son came out and gave it a push and then sat on the front and managed to get me back to the boat ramp. Good to see him look after his Mum.

    • It’s always good to have dependable crew to get the mistress of the craft to port. And, shhh, don’t tell anyone, but mostly ya don’t need to know many more knots than a square knot, a bowline and a sheet bend. There are a few I’ve tied I just call whatknots, ’cause folks have looked at them and said ‘what?’ When that happens just smile and say ‘ya gotta know what yer doin’ to tie one of those.’

  3. Beer runs are the FIRST thing thought about with a dinghy??? 😉 🙂 So are the boat that are pulled along behind a Maine Schooner to push them away or to a dock or out small areas a dinghy or a tender?

    • I don’t know about Maine schooners, but for Chesapeake Bay deadrise sailing oyster boats that little boat with the huge engine is called a push boat. There are specific laws regarding dredging for oysters via sail and via power … but for the sailing vessels they use a little push boat to get them in and out of harbor and do the dredging under sail. Besides, I would think that beer runs with a little dinghy tender would be a noble effort! This is not so say that tenders don’t have wonderful capabilities. Just think of the movie ‘Father Goose’ with Cary Grant where his character tows a good-sized yacht with his little tender with the seagull engine …

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