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I don’t know about you but I have a hard time trusting a heavy, expensive item like our new outboard engine to a small plastic buckle. Here is the scoop… we are still struggling with finding a method to deal with our new dinghy and engine. Although we love both of them, we have been unable to get them to sit high enough and securely on our davits. I did build a rack on the rail to carry the engine and with it removed, we can get the dinghy much more secure. The trick is getting the outboard up onto the rail.

We see many boats that have small cranes on the stern used almost exclusively for this task. We do not have one (yet). We have also read of others who use the boom for this task and having tried that yesterday, it may just work for us. The point of this post is though in order to lift the outboard, one needs a “lifting harness” of sorts to attach the crane to the outboard.

Just before we left Florida, we anticipated this problem and purchased a Davis Motor Caddy from West Marine (it was there right beside all of the pink pirate flags). Although I have no real reason to doubt its strength, I just can’t get myself to trust it as the main connection point is a little plastic buckle. You know the same kind that you see on a child’s gym bag! Anyway, I trust my knot tying way more than that buckle so using the Motor Caddy as a pattern, we made our own harness using some tubular and flat nylon webbing that we carry on board. This stuff is super strong and I know my knots will NOT suddenly snap.

For the record, this item was rated 4.5 out of 5 stars on a website I found. Not for me though.

The ends of the webbing need to be cleaned up a bit, and I can’t remove it easily like the other one. It won’t break though, I am confident of that!

Our main task yesterday was to find some fuel and as such, we made an impromptu plan to sail to Sampson Cay. The wind was in a favorable direction and the sail was perfect. Carting all of our Jerry Cans to the fuel dock wasn’t a lot of fun but that’s the price of admission I guess. By the way… the gas was 5.19 per gallon!!! THAT is some awesome motivation to sail instead of motoring. Also, they charge an extra 5% if you use your credit card. Good thing they’re not in North America because that is specifically against the credit card companies rules as stated in their merchant agreement. They don’t seem to care here though as I have heard it’s common practice. I guess we’ll come prepared to pay cash next time.


  1. Hi Mike and Rebecca,

    I use a bowline knot on a line tied to the handle. The line is then looped around my outboard in a way that it forms it’s own harness, and one person pulls it up onto the rail, while the other is in the dinghy lifting and guiding.

    I see you have a snap shackle attaching your harness to your block. Be careful with that. I had a similar arrangement a few years ago and while lifting a 15hp yamaha up the shackle opened on its own and I watched in dismay as the engine plunged into the water and sank 10 feet down. Luckily I was able to get it out of the murky Potomac by fishing with a grappling hook. Being a 2-stroke, it started right up after a good carb cleaning and rinsing of all interior and exterior surfaces with fresh water. Ever since then I don’t trust snap shackles much, and I certainly will never go aloft trusting one!


    • Hey Brett

      I am 100% with you on the snap shackle thing. Never trust it going aloft!

      After much debate about that weakness in my system, I figured that we trust that shackle every day that we sail, holding our main sheet to the traveler. If it goes there we’re in a lot of trouble too. I may look for an alternative.

      • The snap shackle thing is okay, but I found OCD was a good thing when it came to lifting and lowering the dink and/or engine. Why? Because I developed a routine and I check through it each and every time. Our snap shackle has a knurled threaded ring that is one part of a two part “system” holds the pin in. Part of my set up is to check that ring. Another part is to ensure that the snap shackle is correctly seated (developed after I had a shackle let go on another boat).

        Fair Winds,

  2. Mike…Your davit system does not allow for the motor to remain on the dinghy and be hoisted up and stored in that position?

    • Yes and no. We can lift it up but can’t get it high enough. The lower unit of the outboard is barely 6 inches out of the water. In any kind of seas that doesn’t work. This is a combination of high attachment points on the dinghy, the height of the block and tackle to lift it (I think that’s what you call it), the width of the dinghy relative to the width between our transoms, etc.

  3. With thanks to Toast, this is my favorite engine lift solution:

    • It took me a while to figure that out from the pic but it looks good. Very clever. It would be a “bit” easier than doing what we are doing now but I’m not sure the effort of building it and then rigging it each time we need to use it would be worth the effort.

  4. Hi Mike and Rebecca,

    First, love the site. There are many of us living vicariously through you this winter. Pictures and vids are awesome. What camera do you use?

    Second, I’m using a similar strap on a 9.9 Merc 2 stroke for two years and haven’t had a problem, but i’m nervous every time I lift it. Think I like your system better. Speaking of lift, I use a St Croix craine and love it. Easy to break down and stow or move if need be, and easy to install. Just remember to use a backing plate on the bottom bracket. Here’s the link.

  5. Mike,

    Just some quick comments…. 1) Get rid of some of those knots by having Rebecca do some fancy sewing. Just copy the one your bought. 2) For the dingy, you are on the right track; you need to add some attachment points at a lower point in the dingy so you can raise it higher up on the davits. 3) On the davit that you attach the stern of your dingy add second block and tackle giving you one for the bow and one for each stern qtr. With this configuration you use all three blocks and tackles to raise the dingy, but you then tighten the outer (new) block and tackle on the dingy’s stern pulling the dingy in tight against ZTC’s Stern. It is a bit awkward using three lines to hoist but it keeps the dingy up high and tight. 4) You are right about the plastic buckles…. A noticed the other day that one of ours was broken and I feel it was from too much sun.



    • Hi Mark

      I’m not so sure Rebecca or I would trust her sewing as much as my knots (on that webbing). It looks a bit cumbersome but it is strong. I promise to tidy it up somehow.

      As for the davits, I have tried that, using some spare blocks that I have and I think it could work. I think I would need to move the attachment points lower too though. A work in progress for sure.

      Re: plastic buckles in the sun, not good!

  6. Mike,

    Now a question… How do you use the boom as a crane when it doesn’t extend out past the stern ?


  7. Agree with all the comments regarding the snapshackle – though we use it to haul up our dinghy engine. We probably should use a backup line attached.

    We use our boom to haul up the dinghy engine (we’ve got a ketch so the mizzen boom is pressed into use.) We also connect the halyard to the far end of the boom – like an adjustable topping lift – to raise the end of the boom high enough to clear the life line and to position the end of the boom directly over the engine mount on the stern rail. It can be done by one person, but it’s a lot easier with two.

    I wouldn’t trust the dinghy davits with the added weight of an 80 lb. outboard hanging on the back when there is any kind of wave action. When we are out in any kind of weather, we even put the dinghy on the foredeck and lash it down. I don’t know if you have that option with a catamaran, but I don’t want anything hanging off the back of the boat when we’re coping with 10 or 12 foot seas.

    • Hi Larry

      The last 2 times we did this we ran the carabiner through the top portion of that shackle now, bypassing the “snap” part of it so that potential problem is now gone.

      We use the topping lift to raise the boom up high. It is still a 2 person job the way we are doing it now though.

      As for the davits, it is definitely cause for concern in rough weather. The worst part of that is, you never know when rough weather will occur!!!!

  8. Oh, and BTW we also have the strap with the plastic buckles. Never had a problem and never talked to anyone who has.

    A canvas cover for the dinghy engine when it’s not in use will help protect the plastic buckles from the sun’s UV. If you can’t find or make a custom cover, sometimes you can find a big laundry bag which will fit.

  9. I don’t know how they get away with selling those things?! We did the exact same thing you did… bought the Davis… opened it and laughed and kicked ourselves… and rigged our own.

  10. Been using that same Davis lifting harness for 6 years
    first with a 6HP then a 10. Works just fine the buckles really are not under load. So if you end up not liking your handiwork you can go back there. I appreciate your struggle here though. We are still searching for a solution to the same issues with dink and engine. So I watch with interest.

    • The buckle may not be under a LOT of load, but they do hold it together. It the buckle fails it will not stay together. As I said though, the harness gets good reviews (like yours!) so this may just be my paranoia with our new, expensive engine. 🙂

  11. And that plastic buckle will be much weaker after a year in the tropical sun. Well played.


  12. I have to “U” bolts, one on each side of engine, near the rear. I have a line to each (tied in a bowline) and a third line to the handle on the front. I then use the block a tackle to lift the outboard. I’ll send you a photo if I can find one. We are really enjoying your exploits. Wish we were there in our boat as well.

  13. Thanks for the visuals to help understand.

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