Choosing an inflatable tender to bring cruising is not a decision to take lightly — the boat will be your gear and provisions hauler, not to mention your ticket to shore leave and exploring landfalls. At the recent fall boat shows, I had the opportunity to check out what’s new from several boat manufacturers, and to ask the experts for their tips for cruisers making their dinghy decision.
“The way to begin when selecting a dinghy is to understand your needs and limitations,” says Ken Morse, marketing manager for Defender (defender.com), a major retailer for inflatable boats. Assuming you’ll be taking the tender cruising (not just using it locally to go, say, back and forth to a mooring), important considerations include expected crew size and physical ability, your cruising style, the type of outboard engine you want and, perhaps most important, how you plan to stow the boat. In general, you need to decide what size boat, what type of fabric, what type of floor and what additional features you might like, and depending on your budget, compromise in a few of these areas.