It’s been six years since I last wrote about this annoying, slightly embarrassing little survivor of a dinghy. I lamented back then, in an article on the virtues of hard dinghies that can be rowed (as opposed to the ubiquitous blow-up kind with outboards) that the damn thing, since 1976, had refused to be stolen, or break free under tow, or desert me or my family, period. It remains obstinately loyal today.
I would rather have a sweet pulling boat like a Whitehall or an Eastport pram or a dory. Or I should try my hand at building one of those admirable Chesapeake Bay Light Craft. But the dinghy and I are both cheap, and because it has carried me or accompanied me over many a nautical mile for 40 years now, I seem to have slowly developed a soft spot in my heart for it.
Aside from the advantage of being worth next to nothing, it only weighs a few score pounds and I can still carry it on my back. It’s easy to haul on board and slide overboard (I use a doormat on the gunnel). It tows well. It rows fine with one person and a decent pair of oars. It rows OK with three people or with two people and a load of gear in the bow. With two people and no gear it’s a horrid dog. I’d put in another set of oarlocks for the bow seat, but to keep any sort of stability I would have to sit in the stern and my wife would always have to row. There’s boat stability and there’s marriage stability, and I know which is which.
No, this ride is already pimped enough. Four years ago I repainted the topsides, and added Gunnel Guard all around. Gunnel Guard is a great product, but must be about the most expensive by-the-foot boat gear in the world, except maybe stainless steel anchor chain (which is better for showing off than it is for anchoring). Two years ago I taped off the bottom around the resting waterline and put on four coats of epoxy impregnated with a kilo of copper powder left over from a separate Coppercoat project. Then I renewed the topsides paint again.
All that made the outside of the dinghy look pretty good. But then the inside seemed even more disgraceful than usual. So last year I repainted the interior and thwarts. Big improvement! Then the oars appeared tattered and sad, so I sanded them down, revarnished them, and added leathers and buttons. Then the 1976 bronze bow ring looked a bit thin and elongated, so I put in a new stainless towing eye above it. And then the old nylon painter seemed gray and drab, so I spliced a new one onto the towing eye.
I rowed quite a bit this past summer. It was a lot of fun, as it always has been — maybe even more fun now that the dinghy is looking so sharp. Sharp, I mean, for an ungainly little tub that won’t disappear. It’s leaning up against the shed today, ready for winter, and now that I’m looking at it, I’m thinking… maybe I should go ahead and put in those bow oarlocks, just in case I have to ferry around some portly dignitary next summer. You never know.