Outlier’s Dinghy

Anchored on Lake Martin just west of the Smith Mountain fire tower.

One of the things I love about sailing that I was not expecting to enjoy so much is staying out at anchor.

But anchoring poses some logistical issues, a major one is how to get ashore. In the heat of summer on a calm lake, swimming ashore is feasible. And with a small boat on a lake, you can often anchor very close to shore. But I also like to sail during the colder months. This means I need some craft to act as a dinghy for Outlier. It took some time to figure out a solution.

Here I used the kayak to paddle over a very shallow pass to explore the north end of Wood’s Island not accessible with Outlier.

Lake Dinghy for Outlier

Being a 23 foot boat, Outlier poses a problem selecting a dinghy. Ideally, I wanted something that met the following criteria:

  1. A craft with reasonable capacity to transport multiple people as well as gear and provisions,
  2. something that could be compactly stored without impeding sailing performance,
  3. could be easily deployed,
  4. was reasonably inexpensive and,
  5. Multipurpose, meaning it could be used for recreation.

My first serious consideration was an inflatable stand-up paddleboard (ISUP). The thinking was that a longer one might be able to transport a couple of people – especially a small person like my daughter –, it could be deflated, or stored on racks outside the lifelines, and could be used for recreational purposes. But, after borrowing a couple for our first trip to the coast with Outlier, it seemed that storing outside the lifelines was not really a good option. An ISUP large enough for our purposes, would span most of the deck length. This meant that it would have to be transported deflated, and then inflated at anchor. So, either I had to spend about 20 minutes of vigorous exercise to inflate each one (we were considering getting two), or provide power for an electric pump. Because Outlier has an outboard motor and no alternator, plus only one house battery, this was an issue. A good quality ISUP was also over $1,000. Any craft that required inflation was thus not a good choice for our circumstances.

This left either a very small craft that could fit on deck or one that could be folded. I did not see any way to fit a craft on our small deck, which left us looking for a folding craft. I had seen folding dinghies, such as the port-a-bote, but these are very expensive, and still take up considerable space on a boat the size of Outlier.

Oru Lake at the lake

I eventually settled on an Oru Lake folding kayak. This craft folded to a reasonable size, was light, could be deployed in a few minutes without requiring vigorous effort or electricity, could be used recreationally, and was less expensive than the other options I’d considered. But, while it could transport some gear, and I did get my daughter and myself across a small body of water in the kayak, it is not feasible to transport multiple adults at the same time. My solution is to carry a long piece of small diameter retrieval line, so individuals can row ashore, the kayak can be pulled back to the boat, and another adult could row ashore. This requires being somewhat close to shore, but this is very common on the lake. Not surprisingly, this is not an ideal solution, as is often heard, sailing is all about compromises, and this is what I settled on.