We wasted a lot of time trying to find a serious problem, when the real problem only took five minutes to solve!

Dinghy Getting Heavier?

Dave thought he was losing it. “It” being his strength. He’s always been a strong guy and it really bothered him.

Every day, it was getting tougher and tougher for him to raise the dinghy on the davits.

  • Should we take the motor off separately every night? Well, that’s not why we have davits.
  • Should we change the blocks and lines to have more purchase? Maybe — I mean, he can lift the dinghy as is, but there’s no way I could in an emergency.
  • Are our davits just poorly designed? Well, the same ones are on most other Geminis, and the owner’s group doesn’t have people complaining . . .

A few days later, and totally unrelatedly, Dave complained about having to bail out the dinghy . . . for the third time that day. Just going from our boat to shore we’d have a little water in the bottom.

That evening, Dave pulled the “second” drain plug once the dinghy was up on the davits (the plug that drains the area between the inner and outer hulls). Water gushed out for several minutes — Dave guessed at least 7 or 8 gallons, or 55 to 60 pounds of water. I guessed closer to 10 gallons.

Well, now we knew why the dinghy had been harder to hoist. Maybe Dave wasn’t losing it.

We began looking for a crack in the hull. Didn’t find one. Could it be rain and dew getting in through the screw holes for the gas tank tie downs? That would actually be a pretty easy repair.

Or we knew we had a very slow leak in one tube. Could water be getting into the tube? That would be a tougher repair, especially as we need our dinghy every day.

PadeyeBut suddenly I noticed that when I pulled on the dinghy painter, the padeye wiggled.

The back side of the padeye was in the bow compartment of the dinghy, where we store the life jackets. And when we opened it, the life jackets were soaking. I stuck my tongue to one and yep, salt water.

We went to tighten up the nuts on the padeye and Dave discovered that there were just regular nuts on the back. No lockwashers or locknuts. Not even a washer of any type, let alone a backing plate. Out came the hardware box and we found washers and locknuts that would fit and tightened everything down. Super-easy 5 minute repair!

We still get a trickle of water in. We need to add sealant to the fitting, but need to have a day where we don’t need the dinghy in order for it to cure. It may wait until we haul the boat for summer storage — we can live with draining a cup of water every few days.

And the dinghy is much, much easier to hoist. Dave does it with ease. He hasn’t lost a thing. In fact, he’s probably gaining strength just from all the “boat chores” that involve lifting and pulling.

The lesson? If it seems like you’re getting weaker for no reason, maybe the dinghy is gaining weight. If it’s double-hulled, pull that second drain plug and see if you’re carrying around a bunch of extra water.

And if you are, there can be several different causes. But be sure to check the padeye and other hardware — we wasted a lot of time looking for a hull crack, and this was so simple to fix (and didn’t require the dinghy to even be out of the water).

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  • Sue
    Posted at 02 February 2015 Reply

    Thanks for the advice. Didn’t think of that one. Will check it out. We suspect there is water in there. Glad Dave isn’t losing his strength.

  • Beth Burlingame
    Posted at 02 February 2015 Reply

    If you use butyl tape, you won’t have to wait for curing. I’m pretty sure compass marine did this with a dinghy and it has held up for many years and counting.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 02 February 2015 Reply

      Funny, but just this morning I wondered about using butyl tape. I’ll have to get some!

  • Jessica Heinicke
    Posted at 02 February 2015 Reply

    If you haven’t already tried it, try using a SUP board (stand up paddle). Paddling is a fun and easy water sport and makes you less reliant on the dinghy. Then if you ever need repairs to the dinghy, you can use your SUP board to get to shore!

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 02 February 2015 Reply

      We do have a SUP and I love it. Unfortunately, when it’s blowing 20+, it’s tough to go where you want. Also hard to take much stuff with you!

      • dave calhoun
        Posted at 09 February 2015 Reply

        … and there’s no place for a BBQ!

  • ChrisW
    Posted at 02 February 2015 Reply

    We had a similar problem that led to deck issues around the davit bases. When we drained the space between the dinghy hull and liner and weighed it on a trophy fish scale it was still almost 11# heavier than when new.

    Yes we weighed it when new mostly just because we could — it was 6 lb heavier than advertised at 136#!. The 11# are water absorbed into the uncoated fiberglass matrix between the hulls and unsealed transom liner.

    As a result of all this we bought an aluminum RIB the same size which weighed in at 78# and hasn’t changed weight since. It also planes faster and allows us heavier loads on slower trips. And no more davit flexing.

  • Frances Wu
    Posted at 03 February 2015 Reply

    Maybe the dinghy was just eating too many doughnuts:)

  • Robert Sayles
    Posted at 13 February 2015 Reply

    Hi Carolyn, I would like to hear some comments on how to keep your numbers on an inflatable. Mine is a roll up so some come off every time I roll it up.

  • Kathy Orr
    Posted at 26 April 2016 Reply

    We’ve had the exact same problem! We’ll have to check that pad eye. Thanks!

  • Jimmy Alves
    Posted at 26 April 2016 Reply

    I dropped mine off for service

  • Joe Sprouse
    Posted at 26 April 2016 Reply

    Life caulk polysulfide can be applied when surfaces are wet. Cures with moisture. I sealed a chain plate in the rain. No problem.

  • Karen Hansen
    Posted at 15 November 2016 Reply

    Many cruisers do not realize the bow eye is not for towing. The rings on either side of the bow are the points you should tow from. The bow eye is for securing to a dock.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 15 November 2016 Reply

      Agreed! But if you buy a used dinghy, you have no idea how it was used in the past. And even if you bought it new, after a number of years of the typical hard use that full-time cruisers give dinghies, it may have been at docks, etc., in enough waves to have loosened the bow eye a bit.

      • Karen Hansen
        Posted at 16 November 2016 Reply

        Agreed! Even though our dinghy was purchased new and never towed by the eye bolt it did require caulking after several years.
        I commented on the proper towing points merely as an FYI having seen many dinghies being towed by that attachment point rather than the tow rings.

  • Montana Inkfish
    Posted at 21 August 2017 Reply

    It’s almost always easy when you have the answer. (Almost)

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