We recently made a financial investment in our fun factor.
After 6 years with our beloved Achilles, Momentum (All Thrust, No Vector), and our 3.5 HP 4-stroke engine, we decided that Estrellita 5.10b was getting a new car. In fact, we were so keen on getting a new car and new-to-us used dive gear (more on that later) that we reserved the dinghy in Tahiti and sailed from the Tuamotus to pick up the gear, stow/install/test it, buy provisions and then return to the Tuamotus.
Of course, like all boat projects, it wasn’t that simple. The reserved 8’ dinghy was sold to someone else on accident, a new larger dinghy was offered to us at the same cost, the first dinghy was damaged on arrival and immediately replaced, the new larger dinghy needed a larger motor than we intended and ultimately we ended up with a 9 foot dinghy and a 15 HP 2-stroke Mercury. In short, it was a total gong show.
Yeegads, switching from 8 feet with an inflatable floor and 3.5 raging horses to a 9 foot with a fiberglass floor and 15 horses…we have seriously upgraded. I think that driving the new dinghy is going to be more dangerous for me than crossing oceans. It is FAST.
Strangely enough, between various discounts, the dinghy and engine were approximately the same cost as we would have paid in North America.
Why did we want a new dinghy and outboard? We have been quite happy with our little putt-putt dinghy/engine, particularly in BC, CA and Mexico. However, over the years we came to find that (*for us*):
- Our wee engine was not as reliable which meant we were more nervous about long dinghy rides to snorkel reefs in the middle of the lagoon or to snorkel passes in atolls.
- Our wee engine and inflatable floor did not plane and so long dinghy rides to snorkel reefs were more painful.
- Being close to the water in a shallow dinghy meant consistently wet dinghy rides…almost always, no matter the conditions. We joked about the soaking and dealt with splashing then but now that we are mostly dry on arrival we are really, really happy we made the change and wish we had made it sooner.
- We put holes in the inflatable floor. Over, and over, and over. We just aren’t very careful people really. The patches became so numerous that the inflatable floor stopped holding air for long periods of time. We had to pump the floor every day. If we hadn’t replaced the dinghy we would have needed to replace the floor.
With the new dinghy and outboard the two of us can plane with our new-to-us dive gear, get our kiting gear to the kiting spot, move large loads of water or groceries or diesel and we can zip over to happy hour quickly and stay dry. Importantly for me, we can also more safely enjoy passes and reefs in the lagoon.
Gear review: In general we are extremely impressed with the durability our old fairly basic Achilles. The pontoons were still like new after 6 years, the last several in the tropics. The webbing rotted off the pontoons but the hypalon was an excellent investment. We definitely went hypalon again. Although we had eventual problems with the inflatable floor they were expected problems with choosing that material. We can store our current fiberglass floor/inflatable pontoon dinghy behind the mast and ahead of the dodger on passage which means we keep a clean foredeck in the ocean. Our 3.5 Nissan outboard was about as reliable as you expect a small outboard to be – meaning it was a constant source of minor pains in the arse. We have been told (and hope) that the larger engines are more reliable and are thus only an occasional source of pains in the arse. We’ll see…
Our old dinghy Momentum on the front of her new home, a sistership, Nauticam – a Wauquiez Gladiateur 33.