Email This Page to a FriendGUIDE TO FINDING THE WORLD’S BEST DINGHY
May 18, 2017
CLICK TO EXPLORE THE BOATS IN EACH CATEGORY!
(Click on each boat name in the charts to get more details and photos)
MORE ABOUT THE GUIDE & HOW TO NAVIGATE IT
It was a long winter around the boathouse, and this gave us time to bring up topics like: "What is the world's best dinghy?" When we got going on this topic, naturally we had our differences, and the discussion of tradeoffs and compromises lasted pretty much all evening. Or at least until the beer ran out.
Most of the time, dinghies are an afterthought and don't get the heavy thinking they deserve. And the variables are endless: fiberglass, traditional plank-on-frame, plywood, inflatable. Then there are other things like rowability, towability, and car-topability to consider. And it goes on-and-on.
We talked through all the best dinghy designs we knew about, and we wondered how many more good dinghies might be out there that were not on our radar. This last thought prompted an all-out search for boats that were regularly considered the very best dinghies, and we gathered information about them into one listing where each of their features could be considered.
If we could create a comprehensive list, we dreamed, it might be the perfect tool to help boaters everywhere quickly find the best dinghy for their own needs. Since Off Center Harbor does not accept advertising, we could create this valuable tool without the distraction of advertising or editorial bias from commercial interests.
THE EXPERIENCE OF OCH GUIDES
We did not want to rely solely on our own opinions, so we called on the experience of OCH Guides. They're each writing a new Guide Post entitled "My Favorite Dinghy, and Why"
THE IMPORTANCE OF ROWING
One thing we ALL agreed on is that rowability is kind of a big deal. As longtime cruisers we often get up early to row around the anchorage before the sea breeze kicks up. It's good exercise and it can silently carry us into the magic corners of coves and inlets that we go out to see in the first place. Over the years, we have also seen good rowing boats teach our children and grandchildren crucial lessons in seamanship and independent responsibility. Rowing around also keeps them busy before supper is on the table.
Rubber inflatable dinghies are for outboard motors, not oars, and nobody wanted to talk about them. So rubber inflatables were out, while everything else was fair game. It's our boathouse, after all.
THE TABLES & RATINGS
The spreadsheets we had created for comparing features eventually turned into clickable tables that are sortable by a dinghy’s characteristics that matter most. We divided the boats into four categories depending on what they’re made of, and included eight to ten boats in each. Meanwhile, our loose opinions narrowed into a more thoughtful rating system. We have not yet tested every boat, but erred on the side of having a comprehensive list to explore, rather than a handful of boats we had tested. The entire affair, we admit, is not yet perfect and holds some bias, so that's where you come in.
PLEASE WEIGH IN
This Dinghy Guide is a work-in-process, and there may be good boats we missed. We expect to hear about these from OCH members. There may be other members who have had deep experience with boats already on our list. Their comments will help fine tune our ratings and commentary. In fact, we hope the comments section at the bottom of each dinghy’s page will turn out to be more valuable than what we have initially written. So please, do weigh in with your comments.
OFF CENTER FACTOR
We have carefully stayed away from "winners" and "losers", or even an overall rating. The criteria for "best" is just way too use-oriented and personal for such final conclusions. After all, a "dinghy" can range from a capacious tender for an 80-foot yacht to a small boat for a family on a tight budget, so how can one dinghy ever be the overall “best”?
That said, we couldn't resist conveying our own sensibilities to the tactile and aesthetic experiences that come from owning, rowing and sailing a small boat. For us, it goes way beyond the purely practical: we should enjoy looking at it, running our hand over it, and even building or maintaining it. And we've learned that nice-looking boats tend to gather people around for good conversation. Surely that must be ranked as an essential element of a good dinghy. In short, how much do we at OCH love this boat on all these levels? We called this a boat's "Off Center Factor."
A BREAD-CRUMB TRAIL
This Dinghy Guide is designed to provide a bread-crumb trail that Off Center Harbor members can use to go from a spark of inspiration, to actually purchasing a boat, to a real experience on the water in whatever boat you decide is best for you. We hope you become totally immersed in the pleasure of deciding.. Sometimes dreaming about boats can be almost as good as rowing or sailing them.
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