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Dealing with Dinghies

Dealing with Dinghies
by Lou Patterson

Although a degree in marine engineering is not necessary, it seems that operating your charter dinghy can sometimes be the biggest headache of your sailing vacation.

The majority of service calls made to charter yachts concern problems that guests are having with their dinghies. For the most part, these problems are easily avoidable.

Listed below are a few questions to ask, items to look for and things you should know regarding the use of your dinghy before you leave the dock:
•Be sure to request a dinghy demonstration before you depart. (A demo should be included in a proper boat briefi ng).

•Check that the fuel tank is full and proper ly vented. (Is your engine a two-stroke or four-stroke? If it is a two-stroke, what is the gas/oil mix ratio?) Make certain that both ends of the gas fuel line are attached tightly. If they are not clipped properly to both the engine and the fuel tank, your engine will not start. (This is the most common problem reported by charter guests).

•Look to see that your dinghy is equipped with an anchor, a set of oars and an inflating pump. As most dinghies do not come equipped with a bailer, you can easily make one by cutting the flat bottom off an empty one-gallon water jug. Also, check to see if the engine has a kill switch with detachable key.

•If planning to use y our dinghy at night, make sure to take along a strong light. (In US waters, it is mandatory that you operate your dinghy at night with a 360-degree white light as well as carry an appropriate number of life vests on board.)


•Never cast off your dinghy from the dock or your vessel before you have star ted the engine and made sure it is running properly. The last person to enter the dinghy brings the painter (dinghy bow line) with him. The first person to leave the dinghy takes the painter with him.

•When maneuvering to a slip, anchoring, or taking a mooring ball always shor ten your painter. The last thing you want is to have your dinghy bow line go under the stern of your boat and wrap around your prop.

Please remember, your dinghy is not a toy! Drive it responsibly. Look out for people swimming or snorkeling, mooring balls, anchor lines, rocks and reefs in shallow areas and other boaters. Be safe and have fun.

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