Posted by: nauticalchronicles | January 31, 2012



Not Just a Bunch of Dinghies

As long time boaters we have developed a high regard for safety while at sea aboard our power vessels. We continue to develop skills needed to carefully and safely venture into nature’s vast, constantly changing, unrelenting, unforgiving and unpredictable environment…the sea. We help each other, especially our new boating compatriots, to learn new, safe ways to handle boats. All of our boating friends operate their vessels in a safe, responsible and professional manner; otherwise, they would not be our boating friends. The learning curve needed to safely operate power vessels is not only huge but constantly changing. We consider ourselves responsible power boaters.

Having said this…it seems that when it comes to our dinghies, it’s another matter altogether.

A dinghy, as defined by Encarta Dictionary (English, North America) is a small boat; an inflatable raft usually towed behind or carried on a larger boat. In our experience, most of these rafts come equipped with a small, outboard motor allowing for easy access to ports of call from the larger boat which would be tied to a mooring or at anchor. These rafts, many times, are considered “tenders” to a larger boat.

A Bunch of Dinghies   Getting to shore

Dinghy styles vary dramatically. For example, Louise and I have two dinghies. Our favorite raft is 12’ in length with large inflatable pontoons, a soft bottom and capable of carrying six passengers. It is approved for a 15 horsepower outboard motor and weighs close to 200 pounds. We used to carry it with us on “HalfMine”, as our tender, but recently decided it was too heavy to lift aboard and too awkward to remove the motor, parts and pieces, then stow aboard each time we left the docks. We have since opted for a very small, 8’ inflatable raft which we can always carry on our bow, and a very small, 6 horsepower motor which we can keep stowed below deck; we use it only to get to shore while on a mooring or at anchor.

carrying our dinghy towing our dinghy

The reason, however, that the big dinghy is our favorite is because…it’s more fun. It goes faster, farther and with less resistance to the water (sometimes, in the river, our small dinghy barely moves against the currents and tides). Another characteristic of dinghies is that the learning curve to operate them is maybe ½ hour; 45 minutes tops. The required skill set for operation of “the big boats” is not required for dinghy operation. A certain amount of lackadaisicalness is what commonly appears in dinghy operation.

Acceptable dinghy practices

On particularly warm days, while at anchor or on our moorings, or stuck at the docks in the Merrimack River due to unforeseen circumstances, dinghies become our 1st choice of activity; and the variety of activity is limited only by our imaginations. Here are some of our typical activities:

  • Several years ago, we were introducing our new friends and 1st-time boaters at Cove, Peter and Victoria (not to be confused with Peter and Mary), to our dinghy activity of “actual, natural deviation”. The word “deviation” must have painted a picture of nude boating in their minds as they were inclined not to participate. Later, they told us they were “concerned” about what they may have gotten into by coming to Cove Marina and becoming friendly with “these people”. Their anxieties were eased as they discovered that tying a bunch of dinghies together and floating with the current, up or down river, without power was what we call “actual natural deviation”. Very rarely, if ever, do we bring libations and snacks with us.

A gathering of rafts

  • River sandbars provide the perfect venue for swimming, sunbathing and general camaraderie…and the best way to get to them is by dinghy. We constantly explore the rivers for new sandbars. We generally plant a flag on newly discovered islands, giving them names (New Brownland, Perry’s Pint and Steve’s Naked Landing). We explore them, dominate them and then lose them back to the sea. An annual event in the Ipswich River is “Sandbar Golf”; one year the sandbar was “lost back to the sea” before the last 3 foursomes were able to tee off.

Newbrownland discovered   Sandbar fun

where did the sandbar go

  •  When the seas are nasty, making it difficult to take the big boats out, we are still able to travel from the Merrimack River, via “back river” to the Ipswich River and then via Fox Creek to the Essex River and Hog Island…by dinghy. These can truly be voyages of epic proportions since travel in these back waters is dependent on and restricted to high tides; they cannot be travelled otherwise. Louise and I got stuck back-river at low tide one day, unfortunately at the height of green-head season. Jamie and Whit left one day for Essex; it was two weeks before we saw them again. Last season’s “Award Winning” trip was when Carol and Jim got stuck in Fox Creek with a large crew on board; the stick was so bad, all crew members were required to exit the craft and enter the murky, mucky, gooey  water in order to free the vessel.

Dingy  On a hot day

  • Of course there is the, now famous, Run to the Crescent from Newburyport to Haverhill for dinghies only…ha. “The Run” is now composed of a wide variety of water-craft, most of which are still powered by “small” outboard motors.

Heading up river

  • Exploration of distant ports of call, by dinghy, remains one of our favorite pastimes. Our most memorable dingy excursions were while “the big boat” was tied up at Liberty Landing Marina in New Jersey. One night, after dark we used our tenders to travel up the canal in search of a small Italian restaurant in Jersey City. We found the restaurant ok, had a nice dinner, got lost after leaving the restaurant on foot, and forgot where the dinghies were tied up. We obviously must have found our way back, but as we recall, it was an ordeal. Also, while in Jersey, our last night was so clear and quiet, we decided to take the dinghies out to “look at the stars”; we ended up crossing the Hudson River and exploring the Manhattan shoreline, eventually “bumping into” Chevy Chase’s yacht. Louise was not especially thrilled with the decision to cross the Hudson at night in dinghies.

NYC before 911  Crossing the Hudson

  • And then there are the party boats. We remember one particular incident involving a dinghy and a party boat; I believe it involved Peter, Mary and…The General. As we recall the story, Louise and I were attending a friend’s 50th birthday party on one of the larger party boats operating in the Merrimack River. There were well over 100 partiers aboard dancing to music provided by the DJ, eating catered delicacies (including wings) and, just possibly, entertaining a cold beverage or two. As we were looking out at the passing marinas and town docks, we recognized two of our chums motoring in a rather large, new center console dinghy with a 40 horsepower motor, also new. Of course you know who they were…Peter and The General (this is where The General gets his name). It turns out that Peter borrowed his friend’s new dinghy; all $18,000 worth of it and was cruising the river. He and The General managed to sidle up to our party boat to partake of the fine music, the snacks being tossed down to them and the loud party atmosphere. We remember them as not behaving in a particularly responsible boating fashion; after all they were in a dinghy. The captain of the party boat however WAS acting in a very responsible manner. Peter and The General should have expected the Coast Guard when they arrived in their bright orange Coast Guard RIB. Both Peter and The General were dressed in bathing suits with no shirts and no shoes. Neither had identification. Their dinghy was registered to someone else and was covered in chicken wing bones, some type of red, gooey liquid and various other types of food; to their credit, the coolers on board were empty; how they got emptied we can only guess. They, of course were arrested immediately and taken to the Coast Guard Station in Newburyport. We, however, were not aware of this at the time since we had returned to the entertainment on the top deck of the party boat.

When we returned to our dock after the party on the boat, Peter and The General had not yet returned…and Mary was beside herself. She asked us to go in search of them, fearing something might have happened. We declined since we had no idea where they might be (it’s a big river) and it was dark; we had faith they would return in short order.

By 10:30 PM, we too were getting worried. They finally arrived back at the docks in their bathing suits with no shirts and no shoes, delivered by the local police in the local police cruiser. The dingy (their friend’s NEW dingy) had been impounded by the Coast Guard, chicken wings, red gooey liquid and all. Mary threw what was left of a rather large, over-cooked meat pie at Peter and walked off the docks shouting and screaming, not to return that night.

What we later learned from Peter clarified why it had taken so long for them to “get released”. Peter had told the Coasties that “he was a naval officer” and therefore deserved special recognition in this situation, and that he should immediately be released. Of course, he had no credentials to substantiate this claim. On hearing this claim, his cohort from the raft immediately told the Coasties that if Peter was an officer, he in fact, was a general… and that’s how The General got his name. After these announcements and a quick breathalizer, they were immediately detained in protective custody; they were very lucky to even be released after all that nonsense.

As we’ve said before, we learn a lot about what not to do from Peter and Mary.

Our small, relatively inexpensive dinghies provide us with much of our on-water enjoyment. We are fortunate to have discovered this multi-faceted pastime called boating. The activities appear to be ever-expanding, with new experiences presenting themselves each season. As Wankasheek says, through boating we are able to enjoy the 1st wonder of our world…the Ocean.

As the earth turns toward the sun and the sky regains its warmth (thanks Elyse) we approach our next summer boating season and look forward to new acquaintances, new experiences and new opportunities, as well as continuing our tried and true, past activities.

Captain Robert Brown

First Mate Louise

the little man



  1. sooo much FUN. Looking forward to more escapades this summer!

  2. Another well written story…all I can say is, Poor Mary what a frightful night…wondering if her friends were ok.

    Thanks Capt for making Tuesday’s so much fun! Keep them coming..

  3. lol I love hearing about that story.. But u fail to mention the night u took ur dinghy and was waking everyone up in the middle of the night by ramming into ken and deb , Connie and Kevin boat haha..Goodtimes:)

  4. Let he/she without sin, cast the first oar. 🙂

  5. Love, love, love your stories captain Bob…keep them coming!

  6. Good day! I could have sworn I’ve visited this blog before but after going through a few of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Nonetheless, I’m definitely pleased I found it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back regularly!|

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