As we alluded to in an earlier post, we hold the opinion that no single tender can serve every purpose well. You’ve met Plug Nickel, our big bad tinny. Here’s little Penny, our 125 lb aluminum bottomed RIB.
With her 5 hp Yamaha 2-stroke outboard and wheels, she is the perfect choice when the two (or four) of us want to head onto the beach or putter a short distance around an anchorage to explore or snorkel. And unlike her big heavier sister, she’s rowable.
Her wheels are broad and beefy, desirable in the extremely soft sand on the shores of the Fiji Islands. An ingenious pinless design by Danard Marine in California, their own weight holds them in place when raised, and their buoyancy holds them in place when deployed.
Even with wheels, though, sometimes a little help is appreciated getting her back into the water, especially when enough kava has been consumed by the men that they are wandering around with large flower blossoms stuck behind their ears:
You can buy handy ladders for small tenders in a well stocked marine chandlery or online. A ladder is convenient for climbing out of the water into a dinghy after a snorkel, and Plug Nickel has her own permanent one. But in our rush to get going from New Zealand to Fiji, we neglected to get one for Penny. At our age, we really try to avoid those awkward moments of butt-in-the-air, face on the floor of the dink, legs thrashing uselessly… not to mention, there always seems to be someone around to capture the unflattering image on camera.
But we discovered a perfect solution for this season in the form of Buffalo Nickel’s stainless steel boarding ladder:
A bit ungainly to schlep around. But we found that just randomly hanging the ladder’s hooks on Penny’s attached lifting bridle lines happens to position the ladder in exactly the right spot hanging off the side of the dinghy. Then with the weight of the other person on the far side, one can emerge from the water in a perfectly graceful and dignified fashion.
Getting ourselves launched in a RIB from shore, after nearly 7 years of frequent practice, is still not ready for prime time. But at least we look like we know what we’re doing when we go snorkeling or diving from one of our dinghies.
Our aft deck layout merits a mention, since I believe ours is a unique configuration among FPB 64’s to date.
The more recent ‘Mark II’ FPB design allows for a seating area outboard of the barbecue grill on the starboard side of the aft deck. While another seating area is well and good, our priority was for storage area for a second tender. On our last boat, a trawler, we had no such deck space available. We used a small inflatable tender that could be rolled up and stowed as our beachable dinghy. But the work involved for Stan in inflating it and stowing it, and mounting and unmounting the outboard, did not make for a happy captain.
The folks at SetSail and Circa came up with an imaginative hybrid design for us.
The photo above, taken from the flybridge looking aft, shows the configuration of our tenders on deck. It’s deceptive though… even corpulent Val has no problem at all zipping back and forth to the swim platform from the house, between Penny on the starboard side and the barbecue pedestal.
In the pics above, you can see how Penny is mounted on deck. Cut to fit her are two pieces of hard durable foam which sit atop a bench seat. The stainless frame lying under that foam can be unfolded, upright and outboard, when the dinghy is not there, making a seat back. A hatch on top of the seat base opens the storage area within the seat base. And in fact, the entire seat and base can be detached and removed if we decide to at some point, leaving a flat intact aft deck on that starboard side.
And if we want Penny out of the way to use the aft seat, but not in the water, we can just suspend and tie her outboard of the aft deck from the boom, like you see sailboats do sometimes with their tenders.
The photos above were taken early during our outfitting process. Afterwards, we had an additional hatch door installed in the inboard face of the pedestal base, to allow access even with the dinghy secured in place. This is not only convenient, but important, because within that pedestal storage area our dive compressor hookup is mounted. This allows us to fill our scuba tanks from the deck area, without having to carry them below to the engine room where the compressor resides.
Stan originally intended to stow the outboard mounted backwards as you see above, with the prop facing inside the dinghy. I liked to use the end of that seat to put on shoes or set a bag down. In practice, that has fallen by the wayside. I put my sandals on standing up like a big girl, or sit on the stair to the upper deck.
Unlike 1000 lb Plug Nickel, whose mass engenders so much respect and caution that we feel like we’re docking the space station each time we deploy or retrieve her, Penny is a lightweight.
Deploying and retrieving her is a snap. We use the electric winch to raise her, then just manually lower her in a controlled release around the winch. In calm conditions it could be a one man job, though for safety’s sake we always both participate. But it’s hardly an exaggeration to say that when Buffalo Nickel rolls while we are winching her up or down, if Penny comes flying at your head you can just swat her away with your free hand.
Combined with the short distance needed to travel up or down from deck by either tender compared to the majority of power boats, our dinghy arrangement overall has made for one very, very happy captain.