When you think about all the skills a cruiser needs to know, your mind likely goes to sailing, maintaining and outfitting the cruising boat. But the dinghy? Probably an afterthought.
As it turns out, there’s a lot to know about the little boat that many cruisers equate to their car. American Sailing is releasing a new book, Going Ashore Made Easy, to educate new cruisers and charterers about all things dinghy, including selection, operation, and maintenance.
The book, which is scheduled for release in September 2022, is written by cruising veterans and ASA sailing instructors Andy and Lisa Batchelor. The Batchelors have contributed to four other textbooks for ASA, but this is the first time that dinghies and outboards have taken center stage. “Once we started researching the topic,” Andy says, “we discovered that there is a distinct lack of information out there.” And from their years as sailing and cruising instructors, the Batchelors know that there is definitely a need to cover this topic in depth.
With that in mind, Going Ashore Made Easy was developed to serve as a basis and textbook for the Dinghy and Outboard endorsement for the ASA and the Recreational Powerboating Association. It will also be appreciated by anyone who is in the market for a new dinghy, whether its intended use is as a tender to a cruising boat or as a stand-alone vessel. This essential part of good seamanship is a perfect addition to the ASA’s lineup of certifications and online courses that take sailors from their first time at the tiller to skippering a vessel on an offshore passage.
Going Ashore Made Easy is divided into five topic areas: Evolution of Modern Dinghies, Dinghy Operations, Uses and Activities for Dinghies, Secure Transit and Storage, and Care and Maintenance. Let’s take a quick look at each section.
Evolution of Modern Dinghies
Although some sailors might prefer the simplicity of a small rowing dinghy, cruisers now have an abundance of options for their tenders—including a relative newcomer to the market: carbon-fiber dinghies—and how to propel them. The Batchelors take a comprehensive look at what’s available, weighing costs, benefits and, most important, intended use and storage. “Whether you’re storing the dinghy on deck, on davits or folded up in a locker, these things all need to be thought about beforehand because it will impact your choices,” Lisa notes.
In years past, dinghy propulsion was basically a choice between rowing or a small, two-stroke gasoline outboard. Not so anymore. These days options also include four-stroke engines, electric outboards (“which are great, but consider how you’re going to charge the batteries,” Andy advises) and even propane-powered outboards.
The majority of accidents that occur on charters happen aboard dinghies, so it is crucial that charter guests—and all boaters—know how to safely operate the tender. This section covers the gamut from boarding the boat, mounting and running the outboard, steering, docking, anchoring and running at night, as well as U.S. Coast Guard safety requirements. Also covered are beach landings and launchings, which, Andy notes, even experienced cruisers can struggle with.
Uses and Activities for Dinghies
Your boat’s tender can be used for so much more than just trips ashore. The dinghy can be everything from a reconnaissance boat to check out a harbor entrance before bringing the big boat through to a dive or fishing boat. If something, say a propulsion or steering failure, were to happen to your cruising boat, this section even describes ways to safely and effectively use the dinghy as a towboat.
Secure Transit and Storage
Picture this: You’re ready to head back to the boat after a fun evening in town. You get to the dinghy dock…but your tender isn’t there. Or you’re enjoying a cup of coffee in the cockpit in the morning, and notice that the dinghy is no longer tied up astern. Now what? Where to put the dinghy while you are underway, how to keep it secure on a beach or when tied to the boat or dinghy dock, and how to prevent theft are skills that are frequently overlooked—or worse, learned the hard way. Going Ashore Made Easy covers all of this and more, offering valuable tips and insight for all boaters.
Care and Maintenance
While many of the skills covered in this book can be mastered in time if you use a dinghy frequently, this section, which covers both the boat and the outboard, turns Going Ashore Made Easy into a true reference book. Care and maintenance covers everything cruisers need to know about keeping their dinghy in good working order—and how to troubleshoot when things go wrong. “Years ago, many people had small-engine experience,” Andy says. “Nowadays, that’s not necessarily the case, so we really cover in detail all the parts of outboard engines and how to care for them.”
Based in Los Angeles, the ASA is the world’s largest sailing education organization with more than 400 schools located in 27 countries. Whether you’re ready for your first sailing lesson or want to add to your skillset with, say, a course on marine weather or celestial navigation, the ASA has something for just about every sailor. Visit the company’s website at asa.com to order Going Ashore Made Easy or any of their acclaimed sailing textbooks, take an online course, or find an ASA sailing school near you.