I’m pretty fortunate that there’s a decent water taxi at Folly Reach which serves my mooring for only a couple of quid a trip; the guys are friendly, it runs long hours and you can carry all sorts of gear with you. Ideal.
There are times when it might make sense to use my own tender – midweek sailing, or out of season. I’ve got an old (Avoncraft, I think) inflatable with plywood floorboards, a solid transom and one slow puncture which I keep in the rack at the Medina Mariners Association compound for a pittance.
The problem is, that if I’m on my own it’s really too heavy at around 40kg to manoeuvre down to the water without a trolley; but I don’t have a trolley so I’d have to make one. Then I’d have to make several trips up and down the slip taking the boat down, bringing the trolley back and vice versa.
So I get lazy – I take the water taxi…
The problem is, in the winter the water taxi runs less frequently and in the height of summer at the weekends there can be a bit of a wait as it gets very busy, so I really ought to look at alternatives seriously. Taken at face value, the obvious solution is to build a little trolley for the inflatable, which I may yet do. It would mean (with some huffing and puffing getting it out of the rack) that I would be able to come and go as I pleased.
A hard dinghy
Option two would be to buy a hard dinghy with a trolley and hope there was a space in the dinghy park itself. It’d be better for rowing, but I’d still be faffing with a trolley.
Dylan is dead keen for me to build a West Mersea Duck Punt… great boats, but it wouldn’t fit in either the rack or the dinghy spaces they have available in the compound so it’s a bit of a non-starter at the moment.
Skin on frame construction
A little off-the-wall is perhaps to build a small skin on frame dinghy in the back to basics style of Dave Gentry. It would row better and be lighter than my inflatable. In theory a small pram would weigh 10-15kg by my estimations – light enough to be carried to the water’s edge. I don’t really have any issues with the durability of these kinds of boats as I remember well an old double canoe when I was at Scouts which was still tough as boots. Whether that would be light enough for me to carry on my shoulder with a bag full of gear… who knows.
Light weight inflatables
Last up, there are the light weight inflatables. I’ve never been much of a fan of them as they seem flimsy and poorly constructed. Even the supposedly well made ones by Sevylor remind me too much of a beach toy. I imagine them being a pig to paddle, hopeless at carrying gear, easily damaged and perhaps worst of all… I’d be sitting there getting a soggy bottom. Having spotted some interesting inflatables on Ben Fogle’s latest show it got me thinking about this again. A bit of searching online and it seems that the boats are made by Alpacka, though there’s another similar one made by Feathercraft. This introduced me to a whole new thing I didn’t know existed – packrafting. Going on expeditions with a raft that you can carry to cross water or travel along rivers. Anyway, they’re essentially tough little whitewater rafts as opposed to scaled up beach toys which makes them a serious prospect. The catch is they’re hand made, so ridiculously expensive and the chance of a soggy bottom remains.
What to do…
Well, probably nothing at the moment given how other areas of the boat are eating through money I don’t have so I’m really just thinking out loud. I really am quite intrigued about trying a skin-on-frame type boat just to see if it does work out as a good compromise between weight and rowing ability. I’ve no desire to use an outboard to cover the few hundred metres to my mooring so a boat that rows well is important.
I’m toying with the idea of getting one of the cheaper Sevylor boats and modifying it to be paddled as a light tender for anchorages. The advantage there is that it can live in a locker and take up barely any space. Well, we’ll see…