For commuter cruisers, a dinghy is the primary means of transportation … but it’s also the source of great fun!
1. Dinghy Drift. “What the heck is a dinghy drift?” …. my question the first time we were invited to such an event on the Rio Chagres in Panama. Turns out just another excuse to get together for sunset cocktails with friends … no problem, that’s FUN! We dinghied up the Chagres for a couple miles, then tied the dinghies together, turned off the outboards, got out the paddles and just drifted. It’s a great way to see a sloth or a troop of monkeys as well as visit and laugh with old and new friends. It’s easiest if all the appetizers/snacks are finger foods easily passed from dinghy to dinghy. Make sure to bring your cooler and maybe some bug spray if you’re in a locale where bugs like sunset. A dinghy drift can easily be organized in an anchorage as well, just tell everyone to meet somewhere upwind, tie the dinghies together and let the wind drift the dinghy collection through the anchorage.
2. Diving/Snorkeling. Behind visiting friends on other boats, daily diving and snorkeling trips are probably the second most popular fun dinghy activity. We take our anchor, drop it in sand near a patch of coral or reef, gear up, slide off and we’re off on another fun afternoon!
3. Spearfishing. A slightly different take on snorkeling, this one usually results in dinner! We’re not very good at spearfishing, but it’s still fun to see if you can come back with a hogfish, grouper or more likely snapper. Be sure to have some protection for the speartip so you don’t accidentally puncture the dinghy! We cut a piece of hose the length of the speartip to cover it while we’re not in the water.
4. Paddling Up a River. Often rivers and creeks are too shallow for our dinghy …. but it’s usually the outboard that drags. If you tip the outboard up and break out the oars, often you can explore territory that is otherwise inaccessible in a dinghy. At the “Love Canal” on Cayo Costa Island in SW Florida, we even had to wade and pull the dinghy a couple of times, but the payoff was access to a stretch of beach strewn with shells and totally devoid of people! Since it’s become one of my favorite beaches anywhere!
5. Laundry. OK, so laundry doesn’t sound like the usual definition of FUN, but when done with friends, sometimes even chores can be a pleasant way to pass an afternoon. Especially if you happen to be in the San Blas Islands of Panama where essentially there are few places to have laundry done and hand laundry is the usual method. We explored up rivers until we found fresh water, then we’d empty our cooler of dirty clothes/sheets, fill the buckets and cooler and wash/rinse clothes. The locals were often busy doing the same! Caution! If you DO decide to have a Kuna lady do your laundry, you may opt to get it back wet and hang it to dry on your boat. Otherwise, the normal drying method in the Kuna culture is to lay the wet laundry on their bamboo huts, which would be OK except for the wood smoke fire burning inside. Your laundry will come back smelling like smoke!
6. Visit Friends. A no brainer, probably the most popular fun use of a dinghy in anchorages around the world!
7. Go Dinghy Riding. Sort of like the old fashioned Sunday afternoon drive, one of our favorite activities, dinghy riding is just what it sounds. We hop in the dinghy & away we go. We don’t have a preconceived plan of where we’re going or what we’re doing. We just go with whatever our curiosity dictates. “I wonder what’s around that bend?” is a favorite or “let’s go explore that little island over there”. Sometimes dinghy riding leads to a visit with old friends, sometimes we introduce ourselves at another boat which leads to new friends, sometimes we watch as eagle rays glide beneath the dinghy.
8. Explore Your Territory. This is similar to dinghy riding, except it has a specific objective. Anytime we anchor in a new location, it’s a must to get out and explore the area in our dinghy first. Caution, if you’re in the 10,000 Islands off the West Coast of Florida, it might be wise to drop breadcrumbs to find your way out of the mangrove maze and back to your boat!
9. Dinghy Fishing. This differs from spearfishing in that it requires a fishing pole, or handline if you’re adventurous and want to try it like the locals. Again, be sure to protect the inflatable from fish hooks. We always take a bucket for the fish – no use letting a sharp fish fin puncture the inflatable either!
10. Go dinghy-caroling at Christmas time! I’m pretty sure no one wanted to hear us sing, but everyone laughed and it added to the festivity of the anchorage since we were anchored in the middle of nowhere! Plus, we were given fresh baked Christmas cookies at one boat! It doesn’t get better than that!
What are your favorite things to do in your dinghy? Leave comments to inspire the rest of us!! THANKS! Jan