Hard dinks, nesting dinks, and why we like them


So I asked about dinghys of at That Other Forum and was subject to a lengthy reading from the Book of RIBs on how the One True Way is for me to get a 10' aluminum bottomed deflatable with a 15 HP Yamaha Enduro, and hoist these two pieces of kit every night to the foredeck and the rail, respectively, locking them with cables to ensure their continued presence on the morrow.  Sermon then followed on how I would understand once I got Out There in the Bahamas and southern Florida, because I would then want to leave my big boat at anchor 7 miles away from shore and haul a load of laundry and gin hither and yon at 15 knots with the dink.

I see a number of problems with this line of reasoning:

  1. I actually like to sail; my vision of cruising does not include leaving the big boat on the hook for weeks at a time in one spot.
  2. Docking the big boat once in a while on, say, laundry/grocery day doesn't seem to me like it's necessarily a bad thing
  3. There is very little to like about deflatables other than ease of storage
  4. I am actually OK with rowing a reasonable distance every day
  5. While the RIB+15hp approach may make sense in Florida and the Bahamas, other areas of interest to me don't have the shallow flats and shallow inlets these areas have, at least, not to the same extent  (Great Lakes, East Coast, inland rivers, balance of the Caribbean)
  6. Having a dink that is fun to sail wouldn't be a bad thing
  7. Having a dink that moves through the water well enough that a trolling motor or 2.5 hp gasser can push it would be a good thing

I presently have a 25' plastic basket case of a boat from 1975 that I am hoping to upgrade to, say, a Valiant 40 with blisters or something

I took a serious look at the PT-11 and Danny Greene's Chameleon, both nesting designs, and have sort of shelved them out of concerns about sufficiency of capacity and ability to handle rough water.  Also have looked at the trinka, fatty knees, plans for GV11 and others.  For that matter a cheap 12' aluminum utility hull would be an aesthetic improvement over a RIB and would row better.

Looked at the Porta Bote and don't think it's right for us.

It seems to me that many of the 8-10' hard dinks are too small for serious use from a capacity and seaworthiness standpoint.

I note that many of you have hard dinks of one kind or another, and that there is a greater acceptance of towing.  I'd appreciate any advice on designs or commercially available dinks to look at, real-world capacity, seaworthiness, what fits on the foredeck, where and when it is possible to tow, etc.

I like to scuba dive and Lake Superior has rocks, which make it that much harder to find something suitable, I guess.



Super Anarchist
I will continue to sing the praises of that not-cool but supremely practical minivan of the dinghy world: the Walker Bay 10' RID.

Great at nothing but good at everything. It has massive volume compared to a big-tube inflatable of the same length. Its tubes are relatively unobtrusive but greatly increase the weight carrying capacity. It will happy continue to float even if you flatten both tubes. It rows reasonably well. It sails reasonably well. It goes reasonably well with a 2.5 horse four-stroke that you can carry with one hand. Said 2.5 horse motor will go for days on a gallon of gas. You can find one on Craigslist for $1000 or less and if you're patient, you can get oars and a sailing rig for that price.

Annoyances but not deal killers: the ride's a little wet in the bow in any kind of chop. It wants weight forward so you'll need a tiller extension on your outboard. It weighs about 110lbs dry. If you're making better than 4 kts, you're flying.

Note: none of this applies to the Walker Bay 8' boat, which is good at almost nothing. 

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Fah Kiew Tu

Curmudgeon, First Rank
Tasmania, Australia
So, an old valiant 40 has around 8’ of cabin top space forward of the mast.

what sort of length is acceptable before you need a nester?
Doesn't that pretty much depend on how much stuff/people you want/need to carry in a single trip? And how far?

Friends have a Fatty Knees and it suits them perfectly. I have a Chameleon and think the freeboard is a bit low. One up you really need a tiller extension for the outboard, too. Also got an 8' tinny that's way more stable than the Chameleon but I haven't tried fitting it to the cabin top yet - measurements say it *should* fit. If not and I still want it there I'll cut 150mm off of the pointy bit and weld a bit of flat plate there.




Super Anarchist
Edgewater, MD
Ooohh, timely topic.  I was going to open a similar thread but I was searching around first, to make sure I wasn't duplicating. Since we're all here anyway...

After fooling around with various inflatables (but no RIBs), I've decided that I *really* prefer a hard dinghy. 

My observations:  The "pros" of an inflatable are boarding stability, flotation and stowability* (*doesn't apply to RIBs). The cons are-  doesn't row worth a shit (oarlocks are often sub-standard, oars are vestigial and nearly useless), eventually degrades and develops air leaks, often ships water while towing in rough weather.  Lack of internal volume.

My spousal unit and I are not the most graceful people so the initial instability of a hard dinghy while boarding and exiting were a concern. Boarding from a bobbing stern ladder is just a big "Nope!"  So what to do?  A friend offered me his Dyer Dhow 9' dinghy.  That was the answer.

The Dhow has a broader, flatter bottom than many dinghies its size, giving it good boarding stability which is the biggest "pro." The blunt, round bow deflects water in a pretty rough chop so it tows very dry. It has a capacity of 650 lbs.  Lots of internal volume. It sails well, rows wonderfully, speedy with little effort. A 35lb. thrust trolling motor or Torqueedo is very fast with low current draw.  The Dhow has integral flotation foam in the thwarts.  The sailing rig mast collapses into two pieces and stows in my q-berth with little effort. The boat itself is attractive. 

The cons of the Dhow are- weight (106 lbs), stowability (doesn't deflate), boarding stability still not as high as an inflatable, can be swamped and sink or nearly sink. Not self-bailing.

My T-33 has 10 feet between the stem and the mast, so I can stow it on deck but I haven't actually done it yet.  My wife was skeptical at first, unhappy with the boarding stability...until one night when she ungracefully tumbled into the boat from a high wall. When the Dhow didn't dump her into the water, she was greatly reassured and now sings its praises.  We rig a ladder amidships at the axis of the boat's motion so boarding and exiting are much safer and easier.

Like @2airishuman,  I've noticed that the One True Way while Big Time Cruising appears to be an inflatable, preferably a RIB...until I found the How to Sail Oceans guy on YouBoob:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTmJcC_Yw3IL7Bvtf_7nTLw

He built two prams (both ran over and destroyed by power boats) and subsequently bought a Fatty Knees. The guy has circumnavigated in an engineless, gaff rigged cutter and rows hard dinghies pretty much exclusively.  Now, he bounces back and forth between the East Coast and the Caribbean, using a hard dinghy.  So it can be done and it's not crazy.

I think one important trick to cruising with a hard dink is to develop a trustworthy, convenient hoisting rig that makes the boat quick and easy to stow on deck.  If the recovery rig is easy to use, you're less likely to be lazy and leave the boat in the water. I think it's more important to stow a hard boat out of the water than an inflatable, especially while sailing any significant distance in open water.  Once a hard dink is swamped, recovery is difficult and hard on the hull and towing hardware.  I also think the aspiring cruiser should take a hard look at the dinghy and be willing to make modifications that make it tougher, safer, easier to recover, etc.

Yeah, I think there are some real advantages to a hard tender if you're willing to deal with the inconveniences.

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olaf hart

Super Anarchist
We managed to fit a Minto on the foredeck of a Tartan 30 with no problems, towed it in enclosed waters easily as well.

Didnt bother with a motor, but we did change the standard oars for scooped blades.

It would meet all the OP’s issues except stability and beam, didn’t really bother us though..



olaf hart

Super Anarchist
Back here in Tassie we always use the ubiquitous Purdon 10 dinghy, it is very stable but still rows well, we still don’t bother with an outboard here as we have excellent spoon bladed oars.

just trying out a small electric trolling motor in this pic



Kris Cringle

Super Anarchist
I'll only say, are you sure you're going off shore enough to have to stow the dink often? 99% (my guess by observation) of boats along the coast tow their dinghy. Maybe get a stowable inflatable when you're off shore enough to need it? 

I've towed dinghy's for decades from Canada to the Exumas, because we the dinghy's were too big to stow on deck. They (prams) towed very, very well and I never lost one (I was always resigned to cast a dink that was a problem, off). 

If we were blue water sailors, I'd have to find a different way. But along the coast we've been very happy with a hard dinghy. We like to row, - love actually at most times and want the excercise(sailing is sedentary).

We had a noisy stinky oily little outboard for a bit in the Bahamas that cured us of ever wanting to deal with one again. We ended up rowing more in the Bahamas, two trips from New England in fact, because we preferred the rowing. 

We still get a kick out of sailing our 9'6" Nutshell Pram that I built over 20 years ago to replace an 8' pram that became too small (we added kids and dogs). 

These days, I especially appreciate the simplicity of our hard dinghy. There are so many systems to maintain on a coastal cruiser, a nice rowing dinghy with two stout oars is such a simple reliable system. Like an ice box (which I also appreciate).

No bingo wings on my wife (or me). 

Rowing P dogs balanced (1 of 1).jpg


Steam Flyer

Super Anarchist
Eastern NC
"A lengthy reading from The Book Of RIBs" yep good stuff. Most of those people are engaged in a battle to be cruisier-than-thou and are pathologic conformists also.

I drove around in a big RIB to be a sailing coach, but as others have said, the disadvantages of a deflatable are numerous.

View attachment 136148

This isn't really The Perfect Dinghy for anybody but me and the dog. It's 9' LOA but really more like a pram with a pointy (well, pointy-ish) bow grafted on. The dog weighed 70 lbs, twice as much as the dinghy, and obviously had no boat sense, so high initial stability was a high criteria for the design. This came in very handy, getting in/out under awkward circumstances, kedging out an anchor, etc etc. It also rows very very well, although just to find out how it behaved I put a 2 hp outboard on it once.

It's a major PITA to design and build your own, though. In fact if these http://biekerboats.com/project/nesting-dinghy/  had been available, I'd have done one of these in a heartbeat (I still might, although the lapstrake look is priceless).

I got the same ranting from almost every "serious cruiser" we met out cruising, some of whom tried to claim it was actually dangerous to not have a 10~11' RIB with an outboard blah blah blah. Ignore them. Most are actually good folk, and could even be friends if you overlook this little foible.

FB- Doug



Super Anarchist
Edgewater, MD
@Kris Cringle  What are "bingo wings?"

Sure, I'd tow a dinghy along the coast with a good forecast and reasonable opportunities to duck out.  I don't think I'd risk it sailing to the Bahamas and points further south from the east coast.  Once in the Bahamas, etc. I might revert to towing it.  I never put the Dyer on deck in the Chesapeake.

I love the prams but they lack the capacity I need. I like the CLC 10 foot Tenderly but the Dyer still carries more.  I love the CLC Passagemaker. That fits the bill but I'd have to get the nesting version to fit it on deck.  The Dyer Dhow is the only boat I'm seeing that gives me over 600lbs. in a 9 foot sack.



@Kris Cringle  What are "bingo wings?" [I had to google it because I thought the picture showed two dogs hanging ourboard of the dink, like wings, and thought perhaps the dogs were named Bingo1 and Bingo2.]. 

According to Urban Dictionary, "...bingo wings unknown the flabby fatty skin which hangs down between ones elbow and shoulder. most obvious examples are older women who have not learnt that holding a feltip pen at a bingo hall does not constitute exercise..."



Lower Loslobia
I grew up with Dyer dhows - great boats.

I'm surprised you think the PT11 has insufficient capacity or can't handle rough conditions.  What do you plan to carry?  How rough is rough? I've had no issues rowing long distances into chop and wind with groceries, jerry-cans and laundry.  However, I can see an issue if you had a large pet, a hard dinghy might not be a good choice.  It also fits perfectly under my boom. 


It's also light enough to carry up a beach - though here we didn't have far to go. 




Super Anarchist
Even if I could afford it, I wouldn't want a PT11 as a cruising dinghy. Too pretty. I'd be worried about nicking it up, scraping the bottom, etc. I have no qualms about abusing my Walker Bay and I like that it's an appliance, not a work of art. 



Super Anarchist
I designed the GV10 and GV11 for bateau. The 11' is enormous and too big for most people as a dinghy. We had a GV10 for a few years on our cat before it was stolen in Australia.

Then it was replaced with a RIB - because lived on a pile mooring in the Brisbane River and we needed a replacement RIGHT NOW today. We lived with the RIB for several more years of cruising.

On our previous boat we had a bateau FB11 nesting dinghy (inspired by Danny Greene's Chameleon). We had it for 8 years (4 cruising/4 living aboard but used for commuting to work)

So I think I have a good understanding of the pros and cons of both types of dinghies for extended cruising.

  • Docking the big boat once in a while on, say, laundry/grocery day doesn't seem to me like it's necessarily a bad thing
                     > yeah but sometimes where you go that just isn't an option
  • There is very little to like about deflatables other than ease of storage
                    > few really deflate their deflatables. Most store them inflated on the foredeck or in davits
  • I am actually OK with rowing a reasonable distance every day
                    > Good for you. A hard dinghy sounds like what you need
  • Having a dink that is fun to sail wouldn't be a bad thing
                   >  unless it's fast & easy to rig it will be used very infrequently IMO
  • Having a dink that moves through the water well enough that a trolling motor or 2.5 hp gasser can push it would be a good thing
                   > any dinghy will do this, hard or inflatable
Thoughts on all my dinghys:


- super compact when nested

- great for 2 largish adults + groceries, not so great for 3 (not quite enough freeboard)

- sailed OK with a Sabot rig (slightly faster than an Opti/Sabot/El Toro) but hull twist limited performance

- very seaworthy. Rowed it in >25 knots of wind to carry out a kedge anchor and have been in big seas with it

- hard to get into with scuba gear. But we were young and agile and made it work

- durable and easy to fix

- light enough to easily carry or drag up a beach

- 3.5 HP motor we eventually added after several years for longer trips was plenty


- huge capacity (4-6 adults)

- planing hull so not designed as a row boat

- never going to sail well

- but it rowed OK with 7-1/2' long carbon sweeps I got a deal on

- very stable (could stand on one side and pee over the side)

- great for scuba expeditions with 2 or 3 (just plane with 3 adults + scuba gear + 15 HP)

- very beamy so not good for stowing on foredeck

- would have made a better lifeboat because it was so roomy

- with decent gunwhale fendering it wasn't too unfriendly

- durable and easy to fix

RIB (AB I think)

- stable

- better ride in rough chop than GV10 because tubes deform and cushion the ride

- poor at rowing

- wet bum from sitting on tubes

- big tubes are better than small tubes

- fiberglass bottom easy to fix, tubes kept getting leaks

- nice to mothership topsides

- best for scuba diving


Jud - s/v Sputnik

Super Anarchist
Take a look at B&B Yacht designs - lots of hard dinghy options, and an active builders’s forum online (and advice also available from the designer).


I’ve never built one, but have been planning to for a long while (will this winter)...I know that for a hard dinghy (perhaps along with with a simple roll up inflatable, for scuba, carrying big stuff??), I’d go with either the Two-Paw 8 or Two-Paw 9 (both nesting).  The 9 is preferable, but can only fit on our deck, aft of mast, if a deck-mounted storage box that I built isn’t there (I.e., is not mounted).  (This box is extremely handy for carrying wetsuit, crab trap, etc., given limited storage in our 33’ boat, so would most likely be mounted on deck for an extended cruise...which is precisely when you’d want a large-capacity dinghy!)

Which I think leaves me with basically only one good hard dinghy choice, a Two-Paw 8, since its nested dimensions (specifically nested length) will work perfectly on our deck aft of mast).  It’s also not super heavy, esp. if built w/ 3mm ply (I think) and no fibreglass, which the designer told me wasn’t that necessary (he’s had his, made of thin, un-glassed ply, for decades, he said).  I’d likely raise the gunwhale a bit (I believe there’s good info on the forum about how people have done this). 

In short, compromises... :)

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