A good friend of ours, Bruce on Different Drummer, heard me bitching about how wet my dinghy is. He commented that we were ahead of the curve. When I asked him what he met, he said we had a year two dinghy even though it was our first year out.
Apparently, the majority of cruisers start out with their weekend dinghy. You know, that one that is about a half step up from a pool toy? The one the folds up into a 15 square inch bag and fits in the lazarette with no problem? Yeah, thats the one with it's 1/2 horse power outboard that looks more like a kitchen mixer than a real outboard.
That dinghy is about as useful out here as the ferret is doing the dishes. Lots of water, everything wet and not much to show for it.
Next comes the second year dinghy. The one that is a full 9 feet long, with a drop in rigid floor. Most sport a 4 to 8 horse power outboard. These dinghies would have been considered Mercedes back in your home cruising ground, but out here they are barely adequate.
I mean don't get me wrong, if thats as big as you can carry, or all you can afford, then you have to make do with what you have. Ours has been mostly adequate, except when the wind is over 10 knots, or we have to go more than 1 mile to reach our destination.
Bruce's explanation was that eventually, every long term cruiser will get to a year three dinghy. This is either a rigid inflatable or a full out fiberglass skiff, powered by at least 15 horse power and able to get you several miles into town or out to the reef in safety and comfort.
From experience, I can say that Bruce was pretty much spot on. Having now had a pure inflatable and a rigid fiberglass skiff, we have now purchased a rigid inflatable. This is our third dinghy in only 5 years of cruising, but I am hopeful that we'll finally be happy with this one.