Back in July I posted a entry about wanting to build a dinghy. Things got a little crazy for work and life so projects are sort of put on the back burner. However, the desire (I dare not use the word ‘need’) for a dinghy did not fade. I began looking around for one that is suitable for my purpose. I was looking for something small enough so it wouldn’t look weird to tow behind the boat. That means anything bigger than 8 ft was going to look like a vessel assist tow-job every time it is dragged behind a 22 ft sailboat.
Not wanting to spend a lot of money (~$500), I was relegated to looking at used dinghies. I also wanted a versatile boat so I can row, motor and maybe sail it in protected waters when I had limited time to take out the O’Day. That pretty much narrow me down to small prams, Sabots, Fatty Knees and Walker Bays.
The choice became even clearer when used Fatty Knees were hard to come by in my price range and I wanted something that was low maintenance: The Walker Bay 8.
I really like the look of the lapstrake hull and the composite polypropylene construction. On the Walker Bay website they call it a “specially formulated composite materiall”. I don’t know how special it really is. As my buddy Andre calls it, “It’s made of kayak plastic”.
I found one fairly quick after posting a want-ad on craigslist. A seller in Ventura had one that is not the most pleasing to the eye. Functionally it is perfect but the owner prior to him had used it as a hunting boat and decided to spray paint it camouflage.
I didn’t mind the look and the price was right with oars and a little 2 hp Johnson motor.
The Walker Bay 8 turned out to be the perfect little dinghy for me. It rows fairly easily and it is very light weight. at about 70 lbs. It stores easily next to my O’Day 22 without any issues. I can easily take it out, strap it to the top of my camper shell and take it out for an afternoon in the harbor. The motor ran strong though it is a bit of an older model. It did not come with a sail kit and they run for quite a bit of money new. The keel has a built-in wheel that allows me to wheel it down the launch ramp with ease.
The rowing performance is decent for a boat this size. There is a keel that helps the boat track but since it is only 8 ft long, I have to correct my course from time to time when I row. With only one person in the center seat the balance is perfect when rowing. The carrying capacity is rated at 440 lbs. theoretically I could have a second person on board but I will have to try it out with someone to find the perfect positions to balance the boat.
Motoring was great with the 2 hp Johnson with the only issue being the seating requires me to reach behind to control the steering and throttle. That is pretty typical though with most small dinghies. A tiller extension would help greatly but I have also found that keeping the motor locked in the center position and turn by dipping the oars in the water is a good way to maneuver the boat. It also is quite a bit more fun to do that versus cranky the handle of the motor.
I have looked into stripping the paint off of the boat but it does not seem to want to come off without a fight. I would hate to have to spray another layer of paint on it just to cover up the old flaking paint. It is just delaying the issue to another day. polypropylene seems to do OK with acetone but it is laborious and acetone evaporates to quickly for it to really strip the paint effectively. Looks like I will just have to deal with having an ugly dinghy.
When I eventually plan an overnight trip or a day trip that requires anchorage I will see how she it in tow. It has a built-in bow eye but it doesn’t seem to be too strong. I will probably setup a tow rig that utilizes the oar locks in the equation to take the stress off of the bow eye.
I would have to say I am pretty happy with this purchase and really enjoy getting on the water in between sails even if its just in the harbor admiring other people’s boats. I will hope to find a good deal on a sailing rig and post another entry about its performance under the rag soon…..