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The realities of dinghy cruising?

Fittster

Member
Joined
16 Dec 2010
Messages
110
During lockdown I’ve been whiling away the time watching dinghy cruising videos on YouTube. The formula for many of these is a chap quickly launches and rigs a large dinghy, has a leisurely sale in an estuary where larger yachts can’t go, spends a relaxing night in a cockpit tent, gets woken by the sounds of nature and then sails back to the launching spot where the boat is recovered in a stress free manner.
As idyllic as this sounds, I do wonder how realistic this is. Let’s say I clutter up my drive with something like a Bayraider, which would seem ideal for dinghy cruising, being relatively light on land but large enough to be comfortable to cruise in and stable thanks to water ballast.

First thing is it needs to be towed to a slip way, now we are probably looking at around 1000Kgs of weight to tow, which should be possible in your average 2.0 litre family saloon but when you get to a slip way are you going to regret not having a 4WD car as your family car is slipping on sand / seaweed as you reverse the boat to the water?

Are they actually many slip ways in the UK where you can launch a large dinghy, with a pontoon where you can tie the boat up while you park the car / trailer?

If you are going to camp overnight in the boat where do you park a car and trailer (I suspect these are thief magnets)?

Once you have the boat in the water can something like a Bayraider/Wanderer/Drascombe (i.e. not something really large) be rigged and be ready to go within a hour if you are on your own?

Is the towing, launching, rigging, recovery actually such a hassle you might as well leave a boat on a mooring?
 

lw395

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16 May 2007
Messages
42,088
I think water ballasted trailer sailers are not 'dinghy cruising'.

A lot of real dinghy cruisers use their boats around a home club most of the time and do a few weekend cruises a year.

You would do well to be clear about exactly what you hope to do, and how much of it. And where. Then the relative hassle and costs of different boats can be assessed.
If you have lots of sailing to local destinations in mind, then a boat based on a mooring is nice, it's different if you intend to cruise different areas of the country, launching in different places each trip.
There is a whole spectrum from an old laser and a tent to camp on the beach, through wayfarers to trailer sailers and beyond.
 

BlowingOldBoots

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5 Aug 2009
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15,932
Location
Scotland.
I have a Wayfarer which I cruise. Raising the mast takes about 15 minutes and bending on sails and getting underway about the same. They are repeatable activities and as such can be made easy to do by practising and preparation. It does take about 30 minutes to get the boat off the road trailer and ready to launch. Preparation is everything to make a quick arrival and launch easy. For security I chain the trailer to the car in addition to having a lockable ball hitch. Some people use wheel clamps and removing the trailer wheels would not be that hard. All the stuff that I don't take cruising with me is kept to a miniumum and goes in the boot space with the boot cover hiding it all. It is not a hassle for the Wayfarer but could be for a bigger boat.

Regarding recovery, a temporary winch on the two hitch makes hauling up easy without risking the car on the slip but I have not used this yet as the Wayfarer can be man handled on its launching trolley.

4x4 Winches : Portable Winches for Towbar : Watling Engineers UK
 

Zagato

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2 Sep 2010
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2,514
Location
Chichester Harbour
I have trailer sailed for quite a few years with different three different Darascombes - Longboat, Coaster and Drifter. I have trailered with others with Shrimpers and BayCruisers etc.

No you don,t need a four wheel drive, even with one tonne boats they are pulled with a Jag saloon, Honda estates, Peugeot estates, and even my front wheel drive SAABs. One guy towed his Shrimper all over Europe with a 1.3 Ford, not recommended and probably not legal. Most of the slips are good, not to steep and with a pontoon but others may need some else to hold the boat while you park up your car and trailer. They have been towed to Scotland to the south coast to Spain to Sweden to inland lakes such as the Broads to the Lake District to the Guildford canal etc etc. Loads of help on launching sites on the Drascombe forum or Facebook pages. LAunching sites are numerous and I have never had or heard of a problem with trailer security.

Took me literally 20 mins to launch my Drascombe boats on arrival at a slip and about 30 to recover from arrival at the slip to driving it away. This is quick however but not uncommon when you have done it a few times. You rig them on the trailer by the way and those times include this. Some boats like a Shrimper will take longer due to the mast lowering and ideally they need a helper. The trailer is also key to successful recovery. Shrimpers can be tricky in a side wind due to the type of trailer they use but Drascombes have a trailer where you just put the bow into the cradle, it bear hugs the boat, straightens it up automatically in a side wind or current and you just winch it up by hand straight up onto the trailer. The older guys used electric winches, no problem. Easily done single handed, bloody nuisance when people offer to help and get in the way and don,t no what they are doing so politely say no thank you. Trailers where you have to dip the wheels are not ideal, flush kits are not as effective as they claim, you really need to change the bearings each year to be safe. Most Drascombe trailers, if not all are designed so you do not have to get your hubs wet. You will see a load of Drascombes at the Ashley Creek sailing club, they could put them on moorings but they launch and recover each time as it is not a problem.

It really depends if you are wanting to travel with your boat to new sailing grounds. If not, shove it on a mooring which would then open your market up to other boats and you won,t have the premium of having to buy a trailer sailer. Many like the social owners associations this is especially true with Drascombes. They have organised rallies all over the UK from Scotland, to inland canals, to Cornwall and even abroad. One main event each year lasts a week and is ideal for families with activities organised being arranged on a "camp site" for the kids also, it's not just for sailing.
 
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blackbeard

Active member
Joined
17 May 2003
Messages
1,001
Location
Hampshire
Lots of variables here.
I have done a lot of dinghy cruising, mainly combined with camping on land, and usually with a sailing club (one which organises events with several boats (including fortnight-long annual camps in the West Country), owns it own boat which are available to members, and which provides opportunities to sail as crew in other people's boats)
Plenty of opportunities to gain experience before you buy a boat.
Try looking at, for instance, web sites of Cody sailing club, or Dinghy Cruising Association (and see what can be done with a Mirror dinghy).
Incidentally I have towed my own boat (GP14) with a Mini and with a Ford Fiesta - no problem, though I haven't (and wouldn't) tried to use a car to tow a boat up a slipway.
If you move to something bigger and heavier than a Wayfarer, this will be a lot different from the sort of dinghy cruising I have known. Drascombes, Shrimpers etc are not dinghies. Nothing against them, but pros and cons will be a bit different.
 

FinesseChris

Member
Joined
3 Sep 2001
Messages
232
Location
Emsworth, boat Dolphin Quay, Emsworth
Plenty of good advice above about boats and launching etc. However we found in several years of trailer-sailing that the biggest problem is parking the car and trailer! OK this is the crowded UK South Coast, but it has to be faced everywhere. I used 25 years ago to find a layby or a quiet street, but now parking restrictions are ubiquitous. Towards the end of our trailing time we used to seek out a marina which, in summer, often has space in the boat park. But that may not be close to the slipway....
 
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DownWest

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25 Dec 2007
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8,659
Location
S.W. France
I have several friends in the DCA and they have had cruises around here (Ils D'Oleron & Ils de Ré) Boats vary but are mostly small and overnighting is under a tent. Not towed by 4x4s, but the likes of Kangoos and mid saloons. The most adventerous one has done cross channel from UK and up to the islands in Holland. They use what looks a bit like an Enterprise, but was purpose built by them back in the 70s. One does use a Mirror with some ingenious bits and a tent.
Several videos on da tube by Roger Barnes, Pres of the DCA, who cruises an Ilur, by Francoise Vivier.
My little Oughtred boat, can be rigged and ready in about 15mins. Around here, there does not seem to be the prob with security of trailers and we have a choice of free launching slips and free parking close by. But, I agree that stashing the car and trailer is the time consuming bit, but not much of a hassle. Just need to secure the boat while one parks the towing rig.

and: Hostellers Sailing Club - Home

Plus:Dinghy Cruising Association
 
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rwoofer

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Joined
1 Apr 2003
Messages
3,342
Location
Surrey
Having just sold my trailer sailer, I'm now looking at buying a Wayfarer or Enterprise as a more practical alternative. I assumed that if you speak nicely to dinghy sailing clubs that they would let you launch and store your trailer there, since that is what has to happen at open events. Do people have different experiences?
 

zoidberg

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12 Nov 2016
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3,622
You could, of course, go 'radical' and use a modified inflatable catamaran such as the Catapult. This demounts and stores mainly on the roof-rack. Gear and wine goes in drybags, crew in drysuits. Pull the boat ashore, then B&B or camp at the end of the day.... or bivouac on the trampoline with a simple mozzie net!

The boat goes wherever an estate car can go. No need for a trailer.

That has worked around the Scottish Inner Isles, Lofoten, Baltic North and South, and round Corsica. Like all dinghy-camping, it requires a certain flexible set of mind.
 

Kelpie

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15 May 2005
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5,414
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Loch Snizort, Isle of Skye
I've never seen or used a slipway that had a pontoon beside it. Sounds like luxury.
For a fairly small boat you can just lift the bow and partly haul out onto the slip while you go and move the car. Obviously it's best to tie on to something but not always possible. For a couple of minutes it will be fine.

Boat size isn't everything, though. I've had more trouble recovering a Wayfarer than larger boats where the latter had properly set up trailers with winches.
 
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Motor_Sailor

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21 Jan 2017
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Norfolk
You're right to consider all aspects of dinghy cruising as there are lots of variations. My experience ranges from a RNSA 14 / Heron / Albacore progression as a youth, through lots of (frustrating) years with various Drascombes and on to 28ft ship's sailing cutters in the wake of Capt Vancouver. Technically they all fall under the banner of 'open boat' or dinghy cruising, but they are as different as chalk and cheese.

You've thought about launching and recovery on the slipway (and the comments about a bigger boat with the right trailer and winch can be easiest are true), but what about going ashore during the cruise? Where are you planning to cruise? Tidal range? Docks, pontoons, beaches, rocky shore? Smaller dinghies can land on beaches and be pulled up, but the Drascombe in Scotland was usually anchored off, and then you need a dinghy to go ashore from your dinghy?

What about when the wind dies? Outboard or oars? Drascombe's winning feature is their outboard stowage, which is just as well as the lugger/ longboat are both heavy rows for any distance into a headwind. Some better sailing dinghies (GP etc) often dont have their rowing options properly sorted, but they do sail in much lighter airs. Outboard engines hanging off the back of anything are an abomination.

Then there's what happens when it all gets a bit extreme and the wind really pipes up. My Drascombe Lugger and Longboat both had toe straps, cushioned gunnell and carbon wishbone boom to hold the main clue out, but there still came a time when with two people, you couldn't develop enough righting moment, to allow the sails to develop enough drive to overcome the wind resistance of the hull. You just couldn't get it to make to windward, even in flattish water in a real blow. Two of us could sail a GP to windward in a much greater wind strength than the Drascombe. And then what about turning them over or being swamped? The original Drascombes were a pig even after you had modified the centreboard case and the engine never did well. Smaller, more modern cruising dinghies self drain and go again.

I think dinghy cruising separates into two camps - keep it light, small, row-able and simple and you stay in league with sea kayaks and cycle tourers. It all works well. But get too big and heavy (and Wayfarers are on the tipping point for me) and you end up with a little 'yacht'. If you're going to do that, my advice would be to get a little yacht - even one that you can take home on a trailer, but don't pretend it's dinghy cruising. I would opt in this instance for something like a Parker 21.
 

Kelpie

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Loch Snizort, Isle of Skye
Good post. Agree that a Wayfarer is about as big as dinghy can get before you enter the realm of yacht-scale solutions to problems.
Two burly guys will handle a Wayfarer with relative ease both on and off the water, but SWMBO and I have ended up adding a Wanderer as we find it that bit more manageable. The compromise is that it makes the sea feel bigger- you get wetter, and we never contemplate the bigger trips that we dreamt of (although never did) with the Wayfarer.
 

NormanS

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10 Nov 2008
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7,606
If you want to cruise in a sailing dinghy, you'll find a way of doing it. If you spend your time thinking of things stopping you, you won't.
 

DJE

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21 Jun 2004
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6,994
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Fareham
A Wayfarer suited us very well when we were fit 20-somethings. Even managed to store the outboard motor below deck. Soon found that it wasn't a good idea to have the gas bottle stowed close to the compass!

Wayfarer1984.jpg

Wayfarer Newtown.jpg
 

Refueler

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13 Sep 2008
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9,295
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Far away from hooray henrys
Blimey ... I read the Opening post and I wonder how we ever did it before Land Cruisers for towing / slippery slipways ... water ballasted hull .... electric 12v winches ...

GP14's .... Wayfarers ..... Herons ... Gulls ..... Mirrors .... RNSA's ...... Cadets ..... literally any dinghy that you can put a tent over ... few cushions and a sleeping bag ... can be dinghy cruised and WERE !

As a lad - I knew people who sailed Wayfarers across to France ... my Ex Wife preferred a Wayfarer to the Snapdragon 23 we had !!
 

zoidberg

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12 Nov 2016
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3,622
Make sure it’s rightable after a capsize and all your equipment stays in place
Interestingly, the Catapult catamaran had an effective system for 'managed righting', which worked.... although I'm none too sure should we have gorn over with the weight of cruising gear we lugged. That was all clipped on in 'drybags' - and so were we - so all the camping gear, food, wine bottles, etc, could have been unclipped from the trampoline.

NormanS ( #15 ) is quite right.....

One of the compromises necessary in 'conventional' dinghy cruising is that, because the boat is usually so heavy and the shoreline often inhospitable one is committed to sleeping on the floors. That is a limitation which led us to the Catapult, which is light enough to be hauled up anywhere you can get ashore on your own feet. Two of us have carried it to avoiud dragging over snags and tree splinters. It just is hauled up behind you, above the tideline, and tied to a tree. Then you put up your tent.... and it can blow a hooligan in the night - all is safe and sound. But if you want to anchor off, of course you can.

BTW, I've just remembered I have 4 or 5 tough inflatable/deflatable Italian rollers somewhere which made launching and hauling-up a whole lot easier. I'm sure that idea would be helpful on other boats....
 
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lw395

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Joined
16 May 2007
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42,088
You could, of course, go 'radical' and use a modified inflatable catamaran such as the Catapult. This demounts and stores mainly on the roof-rack. Gear and wine goes in drybags, crew in drysuits. Pull the boat ashore, then B&B or camp at the end of the day.... or bivouac on the trampoline with a simple mozzie net!

The boat goes wherever an estate car can go. No need for a trailer.

That has worked around the Scottish Inner Isles, Lofoten, Baltic North and South, and round Corsica. Like all dinghy-camping, it requires a certain flexible set of mind.
I nearly bought a Dart 15 for this purpose.

If you want to go places, a certain turn of speed can help!
 
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