A simple fact of cruising: There is no such thing as the perfect dinghy.

Easy to row, Easy to stow, Easy to afford… unfortunately there is no dinghy that can do it all.

Inflatables are the way most folks swing – but then most folks use petrol-powered engines to move them.

inflatable dinghy

A good inflatable dinghy will probably have a hard bottom frame (RIB), which means they don’t stow so small anymore. And ask anyone with one – they are dogs to row. Price wise, they start at about US$1000.

What about a fully inflatable kayak? They roll up nice and small, are relatively cheap ($600 or so) and because they sit on top of the water, paddle great. “Ramble”, the 36 ft yawl I sailed on used “the Banana” exclusively, and it worked well.

the banana

However, with four crew, two bikes and a cat, we wanted something a little bigger. Something we could chuck an anchor in to row out, something the four of us could go to shore in together, something that would fit nicely and not cost an arm and a leg.

So, did we want a hard dinghy? I searched and searched for something that would work. Not too expensive, big enough to fit us, sturdy, not tippy. At one point, Mum and Peter helped me load an 8ft tender onto Portal, to see where she’d fit. It was simple: She wouldn’t. There was just nowhere a hard dinghy would go, even one only 8ft long. Because of our club-footed boom for the stay’sl, the only space left was under the main boom, and that space amounted to about 6ft.

Enter: LUCKEY. While browsing Craigslist posts for the 100th time, I saw a familiar listing about a nesting dinghy. Built in two parts, one nestles inside the other and connects with four bolts. As one piece, it was 10ft long (wow the space!), but nested, only 5ft. At Mum’s encouragement, I emailed the owner and organised a meet up. Needless to say, it was exactly what we were looking for. She was light enough for two of us to carry, big enough for four of us  (and bikes!), small enough to fit under the boom, and best of all – Beautiful! On top of all that, she was cheap! $500 later, we were the proud owners. The seller was a charming painter guy living in a funky LA warehouse, and he helped bring her over to Portal.

Luckey Nested

So how has she lived up to it?

Luckey is by far one of the best pieces of gear we have on-board. She rows like a dream, even with a full load, and we love her beautiful lines floating next to Portal. It takes about 20mins to nest or un-nest her, which does sometimes take energy we don’t have, but the upside is she fits snuggly beneath our boom, out of the way, safe and sound. The only trouble we’ve had since leaving is her somewhat delicate nature. She is a beautiful craft (able to be sailed) and probably not meant for the abuse we put her through. Her wooden trim has been slightly damaged from bangs here and there, and one of the fibreglass chambers has a dint. Both are repairable; my main gripe about her hard hull is not the damage to herself, so much as the damage to other boats. She knocks away at Portal constantly, unless we lash her down with two fenders between, and when we visit friends we have to do the same. We are still designing an appropriate fender/bash guard, something that will maintain her pretty appearance.

Portal and Luckey

We’ve towed her, rowed her miles, stowed her, hauled a lot with her, and she has stood the test so far. She fits Portal perfectly, and is always the prettiest boat on the dinghy dock. She turns heads when we row her ashore, and is virtually theft proof since she has no valuable outboard. She may not be the perfect dinghy, but she’s as close as it gets! She’s the Key to our Portal, and we love her!

Portal to Tahiti   Luckey in Cabo


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