Thursday, July 9, 2009

Most boats that have a draft (that is the part of the boat that extends below the water line) over 4 feet carry another smaller boat onboard called a dinghy.  The dinghy is used to get to and from the shore in places that are too shallow for you to anchor.  Usually these dinghies are not much more than an inflatable raft with an engine attached, but they don't need to be fancy.  They are only used to go 100 yards or so....about the distance most boats with a large draft have to park out away from the beach.

The dinghy that came with MAYA is a 10.5 foot hard bottom inflatable with a 15 horsepower engine.  It normally rests on the flybridge deck in a specially designed cradle made to hold the boat while underway.  In order to get it off the boat and into the water, you have to lift it up in the air, position it over the side and gently lower it into the drink.  This is accomplished by use of the davit.  (I know, its another nautical term that has no meaning to us landlubbers.  Personally, I keep a card in my wallet that has the layman's definition of all those words and refer to it often.  Whenever I am talking to an old tar and he starts using a nautical term that I can't remember, I reach in my wallet like I am looking for something and sneak a peak at my cheat sheet.  But I digress.)

The davit is a machine that works like a motorized pulley.  It has a long cable that connects to the dinghy.  You simply attach the cable to the boat, press the button and the motor lifts the dinghy up off the cradle and into the air. Once it is off its cradle, you rotate the dinghy so it is over the side of the boat.  From there you just push another button that lowers it down. How easy is that?

On this trip, one of the things we wanted to accomplish was to try out the dinghy.  We had never used it before and were anxious to give it a go.  The only problem was that we couldn't remember all the tips the previous owners had given us as to the operation of the thing.  Little things like, how to inflate it and where the davit connects were items that weren't coming back to us.  On top of that, the engine hadn't been started in over a year and I had serious doubts about it turning over.  Engines that aren't run often usually don't cooperate without at least a 'one boat unit' investment.   

Anyway, we got to our anchorage early one afternoon and decided to give it a whirl (whirl is a non nautical term).  The dinghy is about ten years old and hadn't been cleaned in a long time.  It was filled up with nasty water and dead bugs but it was no problem for us though.  We have gotten pretty good at cleaning since we bought Maya.  

It only took an hour or so and we had her up to speed and ready for launch.  I had previously bought new spark plugs and fresh gas for the engine in hopes that it might turn over without a lot of fuss, so all we had left to do was drop her in the water and start 'er up.  We were able, through some miracle of fate, to get the dinghy over the side and into the water.  That in itself was a success for us.  If nothing else, we now knew how to get it off the boat and into the water.  The next milestone was to get it around to the swim platform, get in (without killing ourselves) and try out the motor.  I thoughtfully tied her up to the back of the swim platform and after checking for jellyfish, stepped into the dinghy.  I felt a little like Neil Armstrong must of felt when he first stepped on the moon.  So much so that I actually wanted to say a few words.  But it was hot and Kim had that Buzz Aldrin look.... you know, lets keep it moving... so I did it silently.

I am not usually surprised but I was this time.  The engine roared to life on the first pull.  Heck my lawn mower never does that.  It was running!  I was so sure that it wouldn't fire up, I didn't have a plan for what to do next.  Meanwhile, Kim was uniting the lines so I guess that meant I was going boating!

I put her in gear and took it around the patch.  Kim ran in to put on her swimsuit  and do that sunscreen bit, so I knew I had a few minutes to try her out.  What fun!  Even with a little 15 hp motor, the dinghy has a lot of pep.  I zoomed around the anchorage for awhile getting a feel for it.  The beach was only about 200 yards away but I thought I should wait for Kim before heading over that way.

Before long, she was aboard and off we went.  The beach was fantastic and having this little mini boat made us feel like George and Judy Jetson (they always had neat stuff).  We pulled right up onto the sand and got out like we knew what we were doing.  I was a little hesitant turning off the engine as I thought that it might not start again.  Neil and Buzz must have held their breath too when they pushed the button that started the LEM that got them off the moon.  They were 240 million miles from earth.  We were 200 yards from our mother ship but it was a long way to paddle and we had put on enough shows for other boaters in the last few months.  The sight of the two of us operating the oars would have been on YouTube within an hour.

But, it sprang right to life and before we knew it, we were back along side Maya.  30 minutes later, the dinghy was back on the flybridge deck, safely tied down on her cradle.  We can't wait to do it again.

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