When it comes to a Tender or Dinghy, everyone is looking for something specifically tailored to their individual needs... and we are no different. Here are our requirements when looking at a tender or dinghy, the 'car' for your boat.
When it comes to hulls on a Tender or Dinghy, there are two options, Fiberglass or Aluminum. Here are our thoughts on which is the best hull matieral for our needs. We have five areas of comparison:
Though fiberglass hulls seem to have a lot going for them, in the end, we just couldn't get past the better durability of the aluminum hulls for beaching. We don't want to be doing constant repairs on fiberglass, so we decided to go with an aluminum hull. Therefore, in the comparisons (below) all of the contenders have aluminum hulls.
Zar Mini Rib, Model 13 HDL
The ZAR Mini is a twin deck aluminum hull boat with a double bow locker. She is 12'6" long, has a tube diameter of 18" and weights in at 201 lbs. She is rated for seven passengers, and has a payload of 1521 lbs. These are all excellent numbers for S/V Lynx!
Her main competitors will be the North Atlantic and Highfield CL 380. It isn't the lightest boat on our list, in fact, the ZAR loses in weight to the Cadet by 38 lbs. In fact, just comparing to the Cadate, the Zar wins in tube diameter by 2" (which is significant). The Zar also wins in payload by 103 lbs. Her length is five inches shorter than the Cadet, making her a bit easier between the sugar scoops, however, she is 11" wider, at 6'5", which is desirable. Finally, by price, she costs $6344.00, losing to the Cadet by $852.00. Therefore, the real question is, do we want to spend an extra $852 to get a larger payload, wider beam, and larger tube diameter, yet a bit heavier boat? It's a close call, but we are leaning toward the ZAR Mini 13 HDL or her two main contenders (the next two boats below).
North Atlantic, Model ALA380
Next is the 12' 8" inflatable from North Atlantic. She is a light weight boat at 175 pounds even though she has twin decks and a deep V hull. This boat is listed as a 6 passenger boat. She has 18" tubes, so that's a plus. The load carrying capacity is good at 1550 lbs. Max hp for the outboard is 30 hp, so that works for our electric 20 hp outboard.
The ALA380 compares well against the ZAR Mini and comes in at a great price, under $5,000. That makes the ALA380 one of the best priced boats we are considering. Her only real negative is that this isn't a major boat name, like Highfield or ZAR, hence, the lower price.
Still, at this low price, we have to consider the boat.
Highfield, Model CL 380
Like her smaller sister, the CL360 (see next entry), she is still a light boat at 183 lbs, but 8" longer than the CL360. The beam is 2" wider than her sister boat, coming in at 5'8" and the weight capacity is more at 1404 lbs. The hull is the same with a dead rise of 15 degrees with a moderate V hull. And, the maximum size motor is also 30 hp.
So, what makes either Highfield Classics so desirable? Well, like the ZAR, NA, and Zodiac, it all has to do with the weight. If we go with this much lighter boat, it opens up the possibility to use an electric vs a gas outboard. That means, we don't have to store flammable gas on board the main catamaran and we can refill our fuel (batteries) off our solar panels. (More on this, in Electric Propulsion, below) and share them with the main catamaran when needed.
The price is fair; the CL 380 runs $7,214. However, there are less expensive options, like the ZAR Mini, or even better the NA ALA380.
Still, this boat is one of the top contenders.
Highfield, CL 360
By going down to a bit in length, we can save a little weight and money over the CL 380. Besides shedding 18 lbs over the CL 380, the price also drops by about $600. At 165 lbs, she is only 2 lbs heavier than the lightest boat on our list, the Zodiac Cadet. However, she comes with 17" tubes, where the Cadet is only 16". She is the same width, 5'6". The problem with this smaller boat is that she is only rated for six passengers, with smaller a payload of 1237 lbs.
The main advantages are her weight and shorter length for an easier fit between the sugar scoops.
This is a decent boat, just a bit light on the load carrying capacity.
Zodiac, Model Cadet 390 DL RIB NEO
The Zodiac Cadet is the lightest twin deck aluminum hull boat we have found, coming in at 163 lbs, that's 2 lbs lighter than the closest competitor we have found, the CL 360, from Highfield.
It is rated to seven passengers. If the Cadet has a downside, it is the 16" tubes, where the CL 360 or 380 have 17" tubes and the ZAR an NA have 18" tubes. The Cadet also has a smaller payload and will be a little less stable and wetter ride. The max payload is 1418, a little less than the CL380 by 103 lbs. Her length is also slightly worse for fitting between the sugar scoops, though the CL380 is only five inches shorter. Anything under 13' is fine.
Like the Highfields and Zar Mini, this boat also includes a double forward storage locker. Another big plus is that her tubes slide off the hull in case they ever need to be replaced (unique to Zodiac boats).
The hull is a medium V, so good for plaining, but not our desired Deep-V.
The lighter weight really make this boat interesting for us, as does her low price. This would make an excellent electric propulsion boat! The maximum size outboard is a 30 hp, so the 20 hp Stealth electric outboard would work fine. The total weight of this boat, with the Stealth electric propulsion is 467 lbs. With the Spirit 1.0 plus (for beaching) this seven person, nearly 13' tender only weighs 207 lbs! However, those small tubes are an issue.
Scores and numbers aren't everything. In the end, we must also like the boat, and that comes from some of the smaller things, like builder reputation, storage, space, quality, materials, etc. Other factor contributing to our choice is that our tender is a light enough boat to beach if we remove the battery and larger motor and mount a Spirit 1.0 Plus, which is light weight (but slow). Tube width and beam are also important to us, as is the length. We also want a light enough boat to be electric. Price also figures in as well.
The ZAR Mini turns out to be the best compromise of all these elements, just nudging out the Atlantic ALA380 and the CL380. We will pare it with an electric 20 hp motor and LifePO4 batteries in waterproof cases. Then, we'll add a Spirit 1.0 Plus as a backup motor (see below). As for which Electric Outboard, that's up next.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both choices, as follows:
In the end, this was an easy choice. It came down to having to deal with all the hassles of procuring gas, storing a flammable fuel on the main boat, smelling nasty fumes, doing less maintenance, and having endless excursions without running of of fuel in remote locations. Electric won, hands down. Because of all these advantages, we are willing to pay the extra money to get an Electric Outboard system.
Below are some of the electric outboard options:
Torqueedo 10.0 R
Aquawatt Green Power E15.5 kW
Aquawatt Green Power 22 kW
Epropulsion Spirit 1.0 Plus
The choice is fairly clear, based on power of the motor and cost to purchase, the Stealth E18 wins! However, we also plan to purchase an Epropulsion Spirit 1.0 Plus for trips through the surf and as a backup motor to the E18 to get us home in a pinch.
Here is a wall of text if you want to know more about our choice of outboards:
Based on what we have learned, we plan to go with the Electric Propulsion for our tender.
Note, if we were running a straight diesel catamaran, instead of a combo diesel/electric, we might make a different choice (gas). But, this electric outboard's batteries can be charged by our existing electrical system on the main boat. There, we will have 5 kw of solar panels, a 10 kw generator, and two 55 hp diesel motors each with a 100 ah at 48 volts alternator. Between these three systems, we can easily charge the main batteries of the big cat and then use that bank to charge the tender batteries. Therefore, an electric propulsion system on our tender just makes the most sense since we won't have to cart around or buy flammable and (at times) hard to find gasoline.
Gas motors have a farther range on one excursion, but far less excursions possible, let us explain:
1) Farther range on one excursion: Gas engines can go much further on a tank of fuel than electric can on their batteries. However, it should be noted that with an electric motor, you may sacrifice speed for distance. Our tender, on an electric outboard, 7 miles when going 15 mph before depleting the batteries. However, if we slow down to 7.5 mph, it will takes us a lot further, up to eight times the range. That's in a perfect world, but it will, no doubt, take us twice as far, 15 miles, and that should always be sufficient to get us back to the main boat. We never plan to be that far from the main boat.
2) More excursions: Consider this, if you are making multiple runs over many weeks, like when you are in the remote Tuamotus Islands for two months and running a gas powered tender every day, you will eventually run out of gas. However, with electric propulsion, you will always have sunlight to recharge the batteries, giving you endless supplies of fuel for additional runs.
As for which electric outboard, at this point the Stealth e18 wins, hands down. It is a more powerful motor at 18 kw vs 15.5 kw and far more economical than buying the 22 kW. It is the cheapest at $4,800. It is among the lightest at 84 lbs. It uses a Yamaha lower end, so parts are easily found for the mechanical portion of the system. Tests show it pushes a 1,500 pound boat with two people onto a plane and travels at 15 mph for an hour on the included battery pack of 135ah at 96v, but we are only counting on half that. However, in theory, it should push a lighter boat, like ours, at 18-20 mph. Example, if we are four people, each averaging 180 lbs, that's two additional people, so 360 extra lbs. Our boat weights 200 lbs, that makes out boat 612 lbs lighter than their test boat, which still got on a plane.
Now, for safety reasons, we plan to go with LifePO4, a less volatile battery chemistry. This will add a slight increase to battery weight, (about 80 lbs. more) but they will also keep us far safer from any battery thermal runaway fire.
Our Tender will weigh about 201 lbs. (dry). The propulsion system will weight about 332 lbs (motor [84 lbs.], and 2 batteries that equal 13 kWhs [210 lbs.]). All total, the tender weighs 495 lbs. That is around our maximum weight allowance but will just work on our davit lift.
As for when we have heavier loads, in the tests for the Stealth motor, the boat weighed 1,500 pounds, and they added two people (360 lbs.), that's 1860 lbs. total of boat. cargo and the propulsion system and the boat still did 15 mph on a plane. Our RIB tender only weights 201 lbs. but our batteries are 80 lbs. heavier. Still, that leaves 1,470 pounds which we can still add to the tender before we reach the same weight. That means, we should easily get 4 divers (about 720 lbs.) and dive gear (about 280 lbs.) to a dive site, or we can take six people (1080 lbs.) and even get eight people to shore (1440 lbs.), easily enough, still doing 15 mph on a plane.
Now, their test were done in an ideal situation, on a lake. Still, if we can get our tender, using electric propulsion, on a plane with six people (1080 lbs.) we will be happy enough.
With Hypalon material tubes dinghy's can last about 10 years even in harsh tropic sun conditions. However, that doesn't mean they won't start to look a little dull and worn out over time.
Also, abrasion of lines, or equipment, like dragging scuba gear in and out, can damage the hypalon.
To the rescue come dinghy chaps! These are a cover you put over the tops of the tubes to protect them from abrasion and UV damage. With Chaps, we hope to extend the life or our dinghy for the entire sixteen year voyage (twice around the planet).
Where do you get chaps?
Unfortunately, due to variances, particularly since the mounts and other protrusions on a dinghy are not in exactly the same postilions from boat to boat, even on the same same model, Therefore, chaps are not mass produced. That means, there are only two ways for us to get Chaps:
1) Hire someone, or a company, to custom make the Chaps by letting them have our dinghy for a time while the Chaps are created.
2) Make them ourselves. This, however, requires us to own a sewing machine capable of swing through multiple layers of thick UV resistant materials or vinyl, or both.
These help you pull a relatively heavy dingy up onto a beach by letting a large portion of the weight be taken up by the wheels mounted to the outside of the dingy transom. They are retracted upwards, when not needed, so they don't drag in the water and extended down when you are about to pull the boat up on to the beach, yet while the tender is still in shallow water.
Here is our choice for boat wheels for our dinghy:
* The Patented BEACHMASTER Autolock system is light and strong as well as being extremely fast, easy and clean to operate without touching the wheels.
* Beachmaster boat wheels unique over-center locking mechanism compactly encapsulates and locks the wheel against the transom when retracted, then extends in use to form a cross braced frame for high strength in all directions.
* They are designed to be used with outboards in shallow water drive mode so they can be operated close to shore.
* Their very fast and easy to use auto-locking action up and down is an essential feature for launching and landing on surf beaches and fast flowing rivers or when conditions afloat are rough.
* A reassuring click instantly lets you know the wheels are securely locked home in both the up and down positions.
* The retracted wheel is locked and prevented from spinning which provides a secure handhold for safety when working around the outboard.
* The easy to reach non-jamming up-and-away motion of the mechanism enables the wheels to be deployed and retracted in the shallowest possible water. Beachmaster dinghy wheels are not jammed by the buoyancy of the tire or grounding as can be the case with other systems.
* The low visual profile and compact retracted position of beachmaster dinghy wheels against the transom allows for normal unhindered operation the boat and outboard motor. They have quiet and smooth running, large, quality, Nylon reinforced, 4 ply rated pneumatic tires (10.5" diameter) with polypropylene rims and nylon bearings for durability in marine environments and Butyl tubes for reliability.
* Being self contained there are no separate parts to stow or lose or pins to fit. They are always instantly ready for action.
* For strength, durability and light weight the wheel system is manufactured with marine grade boat building Aluminum.
* The mounting bracket measures 5.5" x 8" and is effectively designed to distribute the wheel loads to 4 widely spaced bolts.
* Recommended for boat lengths up to 12 feet. (3.6 m) [ours: 12'6"]
* Recommended for outboards up to 15 hp. [ours: 20 hp, but only 85 lbs.]
* Recommended working load 220 lbs/set. (100 kg) [ours: light version 210 lbs.]
* Maximum load limit 440 lbs (200 kg)/set on hard smooth surfaces for both fixed and removable mount types. [ours: heavy version 418 lbs]
* Recommended tire pressures 5psi (soft surfaces) to 15psi (hard surfaces).
* Mount Weight: 10.5 lbs (4.8 kg) set of two.
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