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The Dither over the Dinghy May 5, 2014

Posted by Katherine Harms in Cruising.


Dinghies are life’s blood to cruisers. The big boat takes us for big adventures at sea, but in the daily back and forth for groceries, laundry and church, the dinghy is the family car. Life on a mooring ball requires a dinghy because a step off the boat is a step into the water. We have had some weird experiences with dinghies. In 2011, we made a trip to visit family and left the dinghy tied up behind our boat. When we returned, the outboard had frozen. Not with ice. It was August for goodness sake. Nevertheless, any effort to turn the motor in order to steer the dinghy met with strong resistance. Larry pulled things apart, cleaned, greased, and issued harsh directives, but to little avail. He was able to free the action sufficiently that a strong arm can turn the motor to steer the dinghy. It resists noisily, but we do get where we are going. We have used it this way ever since. Shortly after the first day of spring in 2012, while moored at Marathon, a violent thunderstorm built up during the night and flipped the dinghy upside down with the motor attached. We were asleep when the storm struck, and even though the fury of its onset woke us, the storm was quite brief. When it subsided, we went back to sleep. Only the next morning did we discover the inverted dinghy. That accident required the motor to be thoroughly disassembled. Every tiny part had to be washed in fresh water in order to cleanse it of the salt water. Some of the parts had to be replaced. It was not fun. What with ordering mistakes, shipping delays and general frustration with all things mechanical, the accident delayed our departure from Marathon, planned for the first weather window on or after April 14. We finally departed on May 7. The dinghy has other problems, not related to the outboard. It is a soft-bottom dinghy, and it is designed to have an inner tube between the floor and the bottom of the dinghy that serves to give it a tiny keel. That piece sprang a leak that only grew larger every time Larry tried to fix it, so he finally took it out simply to avoid having to look at it. As a consequence, the bow has zero rise, and we are routinely drenched when motoring into winds from forward. A couple of weeks ago, the transmission on the diesel engine took leave and required major repairs. We discovered this problem in the course of attempting to leave our mooring for the purpose of refilling our water tanks. While the transmission was inoperable, our mooring neighbor lent us two 5-gallon water jugs. Larry made trip after trip to the water refill station at the marina office until he had filled one of our 60-gallon tanks and put another ten gallons in a second tank. That way, if it were pouring down rain when we emptied the full tank, we could wait another day or two to refill our water supply. In the course of making those runs for water, Larry at one point set both of the jugs on the seat of the dinghy. The piece on the end of the seat that fits under the slide that allows us to remove or replace the seat broke off, the jugs tumbled, and that was the end of the dinghy seat. It actually can be repaired, Larry says, but it requires screws he does not have. Until he is done with the transmission problem, it is unlikely the dinghy seat will be replaced. Until this morning, the missing seat was actually not a problem. We usually sit on the wall tubes anyway. With the seat out, we have more room for groceries or shower bags or whatever we are ferrying back and forth. We had not worried much about it. However, this morning, when we were in the dinghy, dressed for church, and right on time, Larry pulled the starter cord, and it simply broke off. He just sat there for a minute, looking bewildered. Then we sighed and put everything back on deck. We would not be going to church. Larry had another repair job. His first thought was that he would probably have some sort of cord aboard which he could use to get the outboard going, but no such luck. We had a strong piece of cord that was a fraction too large in circumference. Everything else we examined was too feeble for the task. Larry would need to go to West Marine for a new cord. Well, so be it, we thought. At least he could row. Then he got into the dinghy and realized that he had no place to sit while rowing, because he needs to go to West Marine for some screws to replace the piece that holds the seat on the dinghy. In the end, he left here, kneeling as he rowed. I just hope he does not have to figure out how to walk on water when he returns. The situation is starting to look dire, and after missing church this morning, we might not be at the top of the list for prayer fulfillment!

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