Row, Row, Row your boat

For a sailing family, we row...a lot! Most sailboats have a dingy that serves as their car to take them from their floating home to their destination on shore. We do not have a dingy, This is partly by circumstance and partly by choice.

We knew when we bought Renegade, the dingy "was at the end of its useful life". We used it a couple of times when we first got here and then quickly decided that it was more trouble than it is worth. The inflatable dingy would not hold air and the engine was a total POS. (this could be a post on its own, so trust me when I say the dingy and outboard together were worthless). So we towed the dingy around for the first month or so, all the while talking about what to do with it.

One day on our way back to the marina, we finally decided to dump it in the dumpster when we arrived. The day that we made that decision we were having a beautiful day of sailing, 15-20 knots on the beam and booking down the rhumb line back to port. Off in the distance I could see a line of clouds heading our way. Brian and I discussed whether or not we would beat the squall and decided to stay our course. We watched the squall approach and in a half and hour, the winds went from 20 to 25 to 30 to 35, all within about 2 minutes. We turned into the wind and quickly reduced our sail area to a minimum. When we got back on our course, we looked behind us and to our horror the cables that connect the dingy to the davits were in the process of failure. First one cable broke. Brian asked me to grab the bolt cutters and as I returned to the deck with bolt cutters in hand, the second cable broke. The dingy immediately turned upside down with the weight of the outboard and was now being held to the boat with a two lines, dragging behind us upside down. The dingy was quickly sinking while we were trying to manage Renegade in 35+ knots of wind and now torrential rain. Renegade was well heeled over, a first for both girls, who looked absolutely terrified. I felt bad for not being able to go to them and provide comfort but the sinking dingy was threatening to break the davits. I yelled to them to go below, now, please! Next, I grabbed a knife and started cutting the lines. I got through one line and sliced into my hand when the boat put tension on the second line which was now out of my reach. Brian traded positions with me and I took the helm while he cut the final line. That was it the dingy was free. We watched it floating behind us as we sailed away. Now to deal with the squall and the girls. We stayed engulfed in the high winds, choppy seas, and heavy rain for the next 3 hours, until the squall passed and we made it to port. We were all so happy to be back snug in a a safe place. Except now we were completely dingy-less.

So now, when we need to get from the boat to the shore, we row or paddle. Luckily we have two kayaks and two SUPs, which get a LOT of use. We take the kayaks to the surf breaks by towing our surfboards and anchor the kayak to the reef, we take the kayaks spearfishing and attach a float line to it and fill it with fish, we use the kayaks to transport groceries and laundry and anything that we need to get to the boat. The Kayaks and SUPs also give the girls a lot of freedom to get off of the boat when they want and take themselves someplace.We get a lot of offers from other cruisers to help transport us or our "stuff" from place to place. We almost always decline and say that we are happy for the time spent paddling.




Like everything there are pros and cons to all of the rowing. The pros are that we are all getting really strong shoulders, we don't have to maintain an outboard engine or purchase gas, we don't have to haul a dingy up and down the davits or on deck. Not having a dingy makes life simple in many ways. The down sides are most obvious when it is really windy or raining, or when we are anchored far off shore, its kind of a pain in the ass to be paddling. Paddling also has its limitations in terms of the distances that we travel away from Renegade. We have easily covered several miles in a day, but with a dingy we would cover 2-3 times that distance.

What are we doing about out dingy situation? Our options are a brand new dingy or used dingy. We can not justify the cost to purchase a new dingy here in Fiji. The boat cost coupled with the import and shipping costs are exorbitant. Since we arrived in Fiji during the off season, there have not been a lot of used boat options available to us as the numbers of cruising boats has been very limited. We have asked around to boaters, Facebook buy/sell pages, posted notices at marinas, called charter companies, etc. Now that the cruising season is kicking into high gear, new boats are arriving every day. We have located a couple of dingy options and we hope to have one of our own in a couple of weeks. It is a little bittersweet, as we have all adjusted to life without a dingy. For now we will continue to paddle ourselves into shore while we sing, row row row your boat.

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