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For those of us who live at anchor, the dinghy, also referred to as a tender, takes the roll of the family car. It is our only method for getting to and from shore* and because of its important role, we tend to look after it pretty carefully.

As I was making a minor repair on our inflatable yesterday, reattaching a bit of the rub rail that had come unglued, I took note of the various objects that were inside it. The following is a list of the items that essentially live permanently in our dinghy, removed only when we are making a passage.

  • Fuel Tank – with external fuel filter inline between it and the engine
  • Oars – telescopic aluminum type
  • Anchor – a small anchor with 6′ of chain and 30′ or so of line
  • Piston Pump – for bailing out water
  • Chain – 12′ of 10mm stainless steel chain to secure the dinghy once at shore
  • Lock – a super strong Kryptonite one to secure the chain
  • Flip Flops – It is really annoying to get to shore only to realize that you don’t have shoes with you

We also almost always carry a handheld VHF radio with us when we leave the boat but we don’t leave that item permanently sitting in the dinghy. If we think there’s even a chance that we’ll be out after dark, we also bring a flashlight with us.

What don’t you see on that list? Life jackets and a sound signaling device. Those of you cruising in areas where the Coast Guard officers actually care about things like that might want to include those items as well.

*We do now have a kayak which could get one of us to shore. Using it to get both of us from the boat to land might be a bit more challenging. 🙂


  1. Sounds about right, Mike…. except for the life jackets and whistle. I would not consider those to be optional, Coast Guard inspection or not.

    Sunset Chaser is only about twice the size of a dinghy. Our family’s runabout is twice that size again. We strictly enforce lifejacket use in both boats when underway.

    Every significant boating accident I’ve heard about in my usual cruising grounds in the last ten years has involved a vessel under17 feet. The risk of being injured in a collision (drunk jet-skiers anyone?), caught in dangerous weather or thrown overboard is far greater in a small, fast boat than in a big, slow one.

    Our risk analysis for our boats revealed that almost any scenario that ended with us in the water would develop so quickly that any mad-scramble-for-lifejackets drill would be too late. So they’re worn all the time in our small fast boats. (In larger, slower boats, there’s usually plenty of warning before- and more time to react after- an incident.)

    • I hear you. Understand that the percentage of people who wear life jackets in their tenders down here runs about 0.01%, or perhaps less, and this includes kids. Very few people are heading out into open water. If we were doing so we would consider bringing them along, and water to drink! The problem with leaving items in the dinghy is that everything is at risk of being stolen. Because of this we only leave the essentials in there. Note that even our fuel tank is locked to the boat. One other difference is the temperature of the water. Hypothermia is a MUCH greater risk for you than it is for us.

  2. Hey Mike, I keep a Swiss Army multi-tool in the pocket of the bench sit cover. It has proven essential on a couple of occasions.

  3. I was astounded that we had almost $1,000 worth of gear in our dink locker when it was stolen. We also carry flares in the dink for additional safety in case motor quits or other issues. Sharon aboard Finally Fun

  4. AT LAST!

    A good Rebecca in bikini on boat picture! I was beginning to think you had lost your way with your blog. (Tongue firmly in cheek.)

    I have learnt from your lock and chain routine and now do the same when I go somewhere that I can’t trust/control.

    Matt Marsh’s comments on safety ring a bell. I read somewhere relevant that 70+% of personal accidents that occur involve the dinghy. And 90+% of fatalities are associated with getting to/from shore.


  5. Sound device:
    Jessica used a cheap Maryland DNR gimme whistle to alert me that the engine wouldn’t start. She was several miles away on a beach, so of course I couldn’t hear it, but every dog within 5 miles did! The cacophony of barking made me curious, since she was a little late and I did know she had a whistle. I looked around with the binoculars and spotted 2 kids waving arms a short distance from the beach. I blew my horn, to acknowledge what I’d seen, she rowed out a short distance, and I moved the cat over to pick her up. So a horn is now permanent and is used for non-emergency signalling. Sure, we could use the hand held VHF, but this works too.

    Milk crate under the bench (on it’s side, with netting part way up):
    Holds all the small stuff and keeps it from running around. Also supports the seat, taking strain off the side tubes. Found it somewhere.

    Tiller extension:
    Just a length of tubing with athletic tape on the end. It allows me to sit forward on the bench, better balanced and planing better. Very useful when there is only one person on board.

    Yeah, the CG is alive and well. Been stopped for that, fishing permit and Jessica’s operation permit (we keep those in a zip-loc bag cable-tied to the milk crate). But I’ll admit the PFDs are shoved on either side of the milk crate.

    Deadman switch:
    Though I’ll admit I’m not great about using it, I do when I plan to cross something very rough solo. Getting thrown from a fast dingy is certainly possible, and there is a very fast turning prop back there. I feel this is more important than the PFDs. But just how much sense do the ignition deadman switches make on the PDQ!

    I’m sorry: dead person. Did you know that UNC now has “first year” students, not freshmen?

  6. Where was this photo taken, the backdrop is stunning; as is the foreground, as always.

  7. Definetly pfd’s. don’t leave home without them. Also a longer anchor rode. Something compatible with the depths in the Carib. If you leave the mother ship on the dinghy and the motor dies it would be a long drift to the next point of land. With a longer anchor rode you could at least stay put in one place until you fix the motor or someone is there to help.

  8. Mike, according to your picture, you have all you need, a boat and a babe! All else is extraneous stuff.

  9. Hi Mike,

    I would suggest, instead of a “Piston Pump – for bailing out water”, I would just simply carry a plastic container for bailing the water out by hand. I made one from a gel shower bottle, decent size with a handle that I tied with a rope to the transom of the dinghy. Worked beautifully and never got stolen. ; )


  10. Now you’ve done it. All the life jacket Nazis are going to be out for your hide. These zealots will only be happy when they force us all into foam rubber suits that must be donned when leaving the house in the morning. I ran into one of them last week, it wasn’t pretty. There was no convincing the zealot that in fact some of us do have the sense to wear a PFD when necessary without the nanny state telling us to wear one every second of our lives.

    • hehe… funny. What would be even more funny though is if everyone did have to wear a survival suit. Have you ever tried to move in one of those? It ain’t easy!

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