Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The "Car"

Living in a house on land, you generally have a car (or two....or three).  When your house is a boat floating on water, you have a dinghy or tender...and they are often referred to as the family car.  You can probably imagine that a dingy is a handy thing to have.  When we purchased our Leopard 38, it came with a rigid inflatable dinghy and a motor.

The "car" hanging on the back of the "house".

The dinghy wasn't in the greatest shape.  In particular it has a rather ugly patch that slowly leaks and the tube fabric is looking rather worn and...well you may have seen some of the other issues in this post.  And I have no idea what condition the motor is in.  So I've been debating how much more money I should invest in the dinghy or if I should just replace it.  I hate just throwing things away, but I also don't want to throw good money after bad. After some mental debate, I decided I would try to resurrect the dinghy.

I'm not really worried about how "ugly" it is (after all, if someone wants to steal a dinghy, do they want the shiny new one or the faded and worn one with patches...right?), I just want it to stay afloat without having to pump it back up while we are using it. Someone recommended a product that is somewhat similar to automotive fix-a-flat that sounds like it might help seal up any leaks in the inflatable tubes...so I might give that a try.  I was also talking with a guy that suggested that, particularly since we will have dogs, that we find or make dinghy "chaps" for the tubes using Sunbrella or similar fabric.  This would protect the tubes from the sun, chafing, and dog claws.

But first, since the boat will have a motor on it, we should probably register it.  Just like you have a license and registration for your car, most U.S. states require a registration for any boat that has a motor on it (this isn't an issue once you get out of the U.S.).  And just like your car, most states will recognize a registration from another state on a temporary basis. There seems to be a bit of debate on the internet over the need to register if it is strictly being used as a tender (only to go from ship directly to shore with no side excursions).  Since we will be in the U.S. for at least a little while, and we would like to use it more like the car to do a bit of sightseeing and other trips without having to "drive the house around", it seems to make sense for us to register it.

We have a bit of a dilemma, though.  You see, I technically live in Colorado right now but the dinghy will likely never be in Colorado so it doesn't make sense to register it there.  Of course, we will also be rather transient and most places seem to want a permanent mailing address and some require it to be in their state.  I don't think they'll accept "s/v Rover, Somewhere in the Atlantic, USA (sometimes)".   Of course, in a bit of irony, many states also want you to register your boat and/or dinghy if you are in their state for a given period of time (we don't intend to hang out in any one place that long).  This time seems to vary from 50 to 180 days depending on the state and is the what they use to determine your area of "primary use".  So you could easily be considered the area of primary use by several states and therefore require multiple registrations.  But without a mailing address....well, you get the idea.  It can make the head spin.

I think for now I'll try registering my dinghy in Georgia.  I'm at least here now and their registration fees don't seem too bad.  Or maybe I'll need to get one of those James Bond rotating license plate gizmos for the dinghy so I can register it everywhere as I go....yeah, right.


  1. This permanent address thing is becoming a real problem. We need it for our driver's license, car registration, dinghy registration, USCG registration on the sailboat, and my gun license. For now we are switching everything to my Dad's house. He lives in the same state but is about 1.5 hours away. So we also got a local PO box to be our mailing address. But we will be in Hingham for the summer and Boston for the winter. So we ended up getting the PO box near my wife's work. Technically this is illegal since we are not actually living at my Dad's place.

    And when we leave in 18 months we will likely have to change everything again. We can use one of those mail forwarding services but you are not technically supposed to use those as your permanent address either. We want to keep driver's licenses when we go so we can rent cars but there are some significant tax problems with continuing to use my Dad's address (Massachusetts will charge you a tax for not having health insurance and we don't plan to have insurance when we go. I have no interest in throwing some of our limited kitty to the state because I don't have insurance).

    It's all a big pain in the ass!

    Sorry for the thread drift. Back to the dinghy.

    I know one person that used the "fix-a-flat" stuff and it didn't work very well. They do make a similar product that is meant for inflatables. You pour it in and inflate the tubes. You then have to rotate the dinghy for the next couple of hours or days while it sets.

    With the big ugly patch that leaks, the best thing to do is remove the patch and start all over again. This can be very time consuming and frustrating. After 3 years of doing this I bailed on our old dingy and we bought a new one this year.

    On the chaps, Sailrite has a good instruction set on how to make them. http://www.sailrite.com/Dinghy-Chaps-Instructions#.U0anwp3D-Co It looks to be a real big project. I also think it would cost a lot to have someone else make them.

    What kind of outboard did your boat come with?

    Fair winds,


    1. Hey Jesse,

      Yeah, the permanent address thing is a pain. Seems the laws are contradictory...a lot of you must do this but you cannot.

      As for the dinghy, I was referring to the stuff for inflatables...not the automotive fix-a flat...but conceptually it is similar in use from what I can tell. The "ugly patch" is at a location near a handle so the patch was laid over a spot on the wall of the tube, the seam for the material that runs along the handles and up around the handle. To make things worse, the prior owner used what I can only assume is 4200 to "caulk up" where the patch continued to leak a little. The result is the tube holds air but does slowly leak over the course of a day. I was thinking the inflatable sealant might be the best option for sealing up the mess without making it much worse. I have no idea how to clean it up enough to make a real patch out of it short of cutting out a one square foot section of the tube including one of the handles...which isn't really worth doing I don't think.

      If I knew there was at least a chance at improvement with the inflatable sealant, I would probably buy a bottle. I don't mind pumping it up every few days, but twice a day is a bit annoying and I do wonder how long the 4200, or whatever it is, will continue to hold on. Other than this patch and a seam that may be leaking between the tubes and rigid bottom, the dinghy is in OK shape and seems a waste to just throw it away if I can get a little more life out of it.

      As for the motor, it's a 15hp 2-stroke. Subject of another post, but I think it is a diamond in the rough and well worth nursing back to health.