Thursday, 11 April 2019

In Search of the Perfect Yacht Tender

Since we began cruising we’ve worked our way through most of the tender options sailors have to choose from. The first boat we crewed on had very old Avon inflatable that was well past its use by date and required constant pumping. In short it was awful. The second boat had a sailing dinghy as a tender which was a lot of fun but storing the sail and mast would be an issue on many boats. Our boat in the Mediterranean, Alcheringa came with a small, soft bottomed roll up inflatable. Nice and light, reasonably inexpensive but limited in performance. 

Alcheringa's dinghy was light and compact but limited.

When we returned to Australia and purchased Our Dreamtime, she came with an aged Aquapro aluminum hulled rib. Rather than spend money on a new tender, we elected to do a refurb job on it. See Breathing new life into our aging dinghy. It then served us well until it suffered terminal damage when we misjudged the current in the Burnett River and squashed her against a pylon while on the davits bursting an air chamber. She did a good job of protecting the stern of the yacht so didn’t give her life in vain.

After an extensive refurb, our Aquapro RIB sacrificed itself on the davits when wedged between a pylon and the stern as the river current caught us by surprise in Port of Bundaberg marina.

Subsequently, we found ourselves in urgent need of a new tender and headed to ebay from where we purchased a Chinese PVC 3 metre, air hull, inflatable with aluminum floor inserts. At $800 it was the cheapest thing we could find. Initially it was great apart from actually being surprisingly heavy. However, just 12 months in Australian tropical conditions and every seam began to come unglued and, despite our best efforts at repairs, we gave up and dumped it.

Our Chinese PVC replacement was cheap but only lasted one season before falling to bits. It was also surprisingly heavy.

We were on the dinghy hunt again but were determined to come up with a more permanent solution. The price of new, hypalon ribs was enough to scare the pants of us so we began searching the second hand market. That’s where we spotted a 3 metre tinnie (Australian slang for aluminum dinghy) complete with 8HP Yamaha outboard for just $400. We can’t resist a bargain and snapped it up. The Yamaha was a long shaft version which had been mounted with a transom extension. It was pretty awkward so we sold it for $300 which means our tinnie actually only cost us $100.

Our $400 bargain dinghy. Note the long shaft Yamaha with transom extension. 
We soon discovered a couple of downsides to a tinnie as a yacht tender. Firstly they are hard and, even after running some plastic tubing round the gunnels, we were constantly worried about damaging Our Dreamtime’s painted hull every time they nudged each other. Another issue is the tinnie had no inbuilt buoyancy so if filled with water would sink. Add in that its stability was so bad you virtually had to part your hair in the middle or risk listing or even capsizing.

That’s when we discovered a thing called a Kapten Boat Collar on Google. Everything we read and the Youtube videos we watched convinced us the boat collar might be our answer. They are manufactured by a small family company in the town of Nambour about 100 kilometres or so north of Brisbane. Check them out .HERE As the dinghy itself owed us so little, we decided to cough up the money and try one of these collars on it. One for our size dinghy costs under $900 plus fitting.  However, we were assured installation is reasonably simple with over 70% being done by customers rather than company so we decided to save money and do it ourselves.

Here’s how its done.
Click on the image to watch the video on YouTube on how we installed our Kapten Boat Collar.

Our second hand dinghy with boat collar is the best yacht tender we have had so far and all for under $1,000.

We had intended to trim the overhang at the stern but changed our minds and decided to leave it to provide both additional flotation and extra bumper factor to protect our yachts hull. 

We added a new 9.9hp Mercury to complete what we have found to be an excellent tender combo.

What about the results. The difference is unbelievable. The dinghy is now completely stable in all conditions and unsinkable. You can literally stand on its gunnel without a problem. It’s now also possible to climb into the dinghy from the water which will be fantastic when snorkeling. The dinghy planes very easily and really gets along with it's new 9.9hp outboard. In fact it easily matches the performance we managed in our inflatables with a 15hp engine. The collar is also a brilliant alround fender when the dinghy is alongside the yacht. We are convinced we have now found the perfect yacht tender set up to suit our needs at last. It might not be for everyone but we love it.

We'd love to hear from you in the comments what type of tender you've found suits your needs.


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  1. Always loved our tinnies, but like you say, you have to have a good rubber around it for hull protection. We also like them, as generally, the occupants do not get wet and splashed. We had to hunt hard when we bought our newest one to find a new tinnie that had a high enough bow. The boat collar sounds like an ideal solution. I wonder how long they will stand up to the sun?

    1. Thanks for the comment Catherine. Only time will tell regarding the sun but we're hoping the collar lasts as well as it performs.

  2. How much punishment can this boat collar take?

    1. Our Boat Collar is now over 12 months old and so far so good. It has stood up to everything we've dished up. Our last inflatable had fallen apart in less time. We couldn't be happier with our tinnie and collar.


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