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Article by Tor Pinney                                                                                                                                        Back to List of Tor's Tips

                  

LIFT IT OR LOSE IT
© 2010 Tor Pinney - All Rights Reserved

Hoisting Your Dinghy Out for the Night

 

These days dinghy theft is a fact of life in many foreign harbors. In a few itís positively rampant. Whether the thieves are poor, moonlighting fishermen or regular professionals, theyíre mainly after the outboard motors, which are easy to resell for big bucks. Stolen dinghies are occasionally found a day or two later, engineless, adrift or ashore. Still, someone might just swipe a dink without a motor if itís an easy mark.

Dinghies sometimes disappear from docks in broad daylight. Locking yours to something solid every time whether or not others are doing it, ideally with chain rather than cable, is the best deterrent. Be sure to also lock the gas tank and especially the outboard.

Most stolen dinks disappear from anchorages late at night, but locking your dinghy astern does little good. The bad guys have cable cutters. Stainless steel chain is the most cut-resistant tether, but even that is not an absolute guarantee. Thatís why prudent cruisers lift their dinghies out of the water overnight in all but the most historically secure ports. In some places itís not even an option. You either lift it or you lose it, period. Itís inconvenient, but much less so than having to replace a dinghy and outboard. 

There are several ways to raise a dinghy for the night, with variations ad infinitum. Itís worthwhile figuring out in advance what works best for you since some arrangements call for a bit of customization and experimentation. Most importantly, the process needs to be as quick and easy as possible so that youíre never tempted to let it slide - because that may well be the night dinghy thieves single you out.

Obviously, if your boat is equipped with sturdy davits youíre all set. Alternatively, some sailors simply hoist their tenders onto the foredeck with a halyard. This necessitates removing and stowing the outboard and then re-deploying it in the morning, an onerous chore to repeat 7 times a week, especially if the motor is larger than a few horsepower. Thatís why most skippers prefer to lift the dinghy and motor together alongside their vessel.

You can hoist the tender alongside a sailboat with a halyard, or with the main boom and sheet. Either way youíll first need to purchase or devise a 3- or 4-point lifting harness and the means for attaching it to the dinghy. This harness can be made up from strong lines, webbing, or stainless steel cables radiating from a beefy central, vertical lifting loop or ring. The harness needs two attachment points aft, spread well apart. These are typically on the transom - thru-bolted eyebolts or padeyes work well Ė but straps that encircle an inflatableís pontoons aft will also serve. Then youíll need at least one harness connection forward. Some larger, hard-bottom inflatables come with forward lifting rings in the sole. If your dinghyís sole wonít support these, then use the port & starboard (or the midship) towing rings on the bow. Wide webbing will spread the stress and chafe across the pontoons better than cable or line. Alternatively you can make up a broad lifting strap that passes entirely beneath the dinghyís bow section. 

click thumbnails to enlarge

However you accomplish the attachments, the key is to position the harnessí lift ring so the raised dinghy sits level athwartships, but with the bow slightly higher than the stern to encourage rainwater to run out through the transom drain. If there is no drain at the center base of your dinkís transom, youíll need to install one. Otherwise an overnight deluge can fill it, adding hundreds of pounds to its weight - a quick way to find the weakest link in your hoisting system. Even an empty dinghy & outboard motor will put a lot of strain on the hoisting gear, so be sure that all the components Ė blocks, straps, lines, lashings and attachment points - are oversized and extra strong.

Finding the optimum position for the central lift ring takes some experimentation, so your harness lines have to be adjustable at least in the beginning. Because the weight of an outboard motor naturally makes the dinghy very stern-heavy, the lifting point needs to be well aft of center to compensate. If youíre using a direct halyard (as opposed to a boom crane), it will lift the dink from a slight angle, not straight up. In that case the lifting ring must be offset athwartships over the dinghy, towards the mother ship a couple of inches. Set up what seems about right, lift your dinghy enough to clear the water, and look at how it sits. If the stern hangs dramatically lower than the bow, lower the boat and reposition the lift ring a little farther aft by adjusting the harness lines. If it hoists bow down, shift the ring forward. Make small adjustments. Youíll be surprised what a difference in balance it makes just moving the ring an inch or two.

To use your boom to raise the dinghy, swing it out more or less perpendicular to the vessel and secure it there with guys fore & aft. Be sure the topping lift is strong and adjusted so that the boom is angled up a bit, ideally bisecting the angle between the vertical lift and the masthead. Once the dinghy is raised, reposition the boom inboard just enough so the dinghy rests gently against hull fenders, stanchions or shrouds to brace it against swinging in a chop or wake. Alternatively you can rig up bow, stern and spring lines.

Itís handy to use the mainsheet to hoist the dink via the boom since itís often already run through multi-purchase blocks to a stout winch. If you put a snap shackle on the sheetís base block youíll be able to transfer it quickly between its usual deck fitting and the dinghy harness lift ring. Note that if the mainsheet is normally positioned well forward of the boomís after end, then the weight of a dinghy & motor may cause undue flexing or bending of that spar. Alleviate this by temporarily moving the topping lift to the same position on the boom Ė a simple lift strap around the boom will be useful here - or by moving the sheet block aft so the two forces are in opposition.

If your boat is equipped with an electric windlass or a large power winch, or even a big genoa sheet winch, consider leading the hoist line, whether mainsheet or halyard, to it using one or two heavy-duty snatch blocks secured to strong deck fittings. Raising a full size dinghy and motor with an undersized winch is hard work!

A boom hoist will hold the dinghy away from the mother ship, but if youíre lifting with a halyard the tender will rise up hard against the vesselís topsides. Protect the finish by removing the dinkís inboard oar and/or any fittings that might scrape, and by hanging a mat or a couple of small fenders against chafe. Then secure the dinkís painter snugly to the nearest cleat forward. Otherwise a blustery squall might lift its bow precariously. Finally, lead the dinghyís cable or chain to a deck fitting and padlock it.

Once youíve worked out a quick & easy system for lifting and locking your dinghy, it becomes an end-of-the-day routine that pays a big dividend. As a fringe benefit it deters bottom growth, but mainly youíll sleep better knowing your precious tender will still be there in the morning.

~ End ~

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