A Ten­der SUB­JECT

Cruising World - - Point Of View - Tom Dy­mond is cur­rently cruis­ing the South Pa­cific aboard Blue Eye (sail­ing­blue­eye.com).

Have you ever dropped out the bot­tom of your car? As in, have you at one mo­ment been pulling up out­side your home and the next found your­self sit­ting on the road be­neath? Al­beit still in the driver’s seat and within the realms of the ve­hi­cle, but hav­ing fallen through the bot­tom nonethe­less? I have. Only the car was an in­flat­able dinghy, and home a small sail­boat an­chored off the Gre­na­dine is­land of Be­quia.

Of course, in my sce­nario, I ended up in the wa­ter. Hav­ing stood up at the bow of our lit­tle ten­der to tie us on to Blue Eye — the Ni­chol­son

Fix­ing the pa­thetic pile of PVC that sat de­jected on Blue Eye’s fore­deck, we de­cided, was be­yond us.

32 my friend James and I had sailed over from Eng­land — the soft floor­ing came all too eas­ily apart from the inflated tubes, and it was only an in­stinc­tive pirou­ette that pre­vented me from drop­ping right the way through in a Jack Spar­row-es­que es­cape.

There is never a good time to fall through the bot­tom of your dinghy. Es­pe­cially not for fru­gal sailors like our­selves who stub­bornly an­chor in all man­ner of wind and swell to avoid ma­rina fees, and thus the pur­chas­ing of a dinghy — which is as­tound­ingly ex­pen­sive when new, and painfully rare to find sec­ond­hand — be­came an un­wel­come pri­or­ity dur­ing our Caribbean cruis­ing.

Fix­ing the pa­thetic pile of PVC that sat de­jected on Blue Eye’s fore­deck, we de­cided, was be­yond us. In fact, it was “fix­ing it” that had led to this sit­u­a­tion in the first place, as we had our­selves ripped off the en­tire floor in or­der to reglue the PVC to­gether, thus putting a stop to what was at the time only a mod­est wa­ter in­take. It so hap­pened that the morn­ing ride ashore to clear cus­toms and im­mi­gra­tion in Be­quia was the first run out for our newly “re­paired” ten­der, and as we know now, also its last. An­other $90 for some pricey PVC ad­he­sive and a day of toil and sweat was not in the least ap­peal­ing, es­pe­cially when the like­li­est out­come would be more wet-footed pirou­et­ting the next time I stood up at the bow. The heat and hu­mid­ity of the Caribbean, by the way, had been con­ve­nient scape­goats for our lack of suc­cess.

Ar­riv­ing in Union Is­land, we heard ru­mors that a man called Lam­bie had a sec­ond­hand dinghy for sale. Lam­bie, it tran­spired, was a very large West In­dian with an abil­ity to si­mul­ta­ne­ously shovel an en­tire flock of deep-fried chick­ens into his mouth, all the while scold­ing po­ten­tial cus­tomers for try­ing to ne­go­ti­ate a price.

The dinghy — in­ci­den­tally, in far from good shape it­self — had al­legedly been shipped down from Mi­ami, and cus­toms had charged him a fee of such im­men­sity that vi­o­lins could be heard play­ing in the back­ground. Given this, his ask­ing price of 1,800 East­ern Caribbean dol­lars (about $650) was very rea­son­able, so he in­sisted, as bits of chicken sprayed ev­ery­where.

But Union is just a stone’s throw away from the

post­card-per­fect Tobago Cays, where many a dinghy has been known to go “miss­ing” overnight. Har­bor­ing doubts about his nar­ra­tive, and un­in­ter­ested in an inflated price for a barely inflated dinghy that was un­likely to have ever seen the likes of Mi­ami, we con­tin­ued on. Ad­mit­tedly, though, none of this was ex­pressed out loud for fear of meet­ing the same grisly fate as the chick­ens on his plate.

Still dinghy­less, at times we had to re­sort to hail­ing wa­ter taxis if they were avail­able, and on one oc­ca­sion, I swam over to a neigh­bor­ing yacht to ask for a ride ashore, if he hap­pened to be head­ing in and wouldn’t mind. The man was Ger­man and there­fore naked, but the con­ver­sa­tion breezed over this, and later he kindly came by to pick us up. Clothed, thank­fully.

On one par­tic­u­lar day, in the ab­sence of both wa­ter taxis and naked Ger­mans, we set about launch­ing the dinghy into the wa­ter with­out any floor­ing at all. It was just two tubes, with James on one side and my­self on the other, clad in only swim shorts and dan­gling our legs into the turquoise wa­ter be­low. Even with our hefty Seag­ull out­board engine weigh­ing down on the stern, it worked flaw­lessly (pun in­tended).

Chuffed with our re­source­ful­ness, we headed over to a neigh­bor­ing sail­boat that was fly­ing a Bri­tish en­sign and the Cor­nish flag: the same cor­ner of the world from which Blue Eye hails.

Aboard we found a friendly English­man named Jon who was so ex­cited by our trav­els — hav­ing co­in­ci­den­tally al­most bought Blue Eye him­self some years be­fore — that by the time it came to say our good­byes, our ad hoc ten­der setup had re­mained largely un­no­ticed, much to our dis­ap­point­ment. Then, right on cue, Jon’s wife ap­peared from the cabin be­low and, in a voice far more posh and shrill than I imag­ine she hoped for, ex­claimed, “Why, Jonathan, it’s got no bot­tom!”

We laughed all the wet way home, but de­cided against ven­tur­ing off in a bot­tom­less dinghy again. Not only would it en­tail wear­ing swim­ming shorts ev­ery­where we went, but the drag cre­ated by the tran­som was a sure way to go through a tank of fuel a day.

Some weeks later, we fi­nally found our­selves a new in­flat­able, tak­ing a punt on a dinky lit­tle thing made in China and go­ing cheap in Aruba. If rip­ping apart our first ten­der had been a source of grief, watch­ing our sec­ond one sub­mit to the scorch­ing sun in a mat­ter of a fort­night re­ally is a ten­der sub­ject. Les­son to be learned? The age-old adage: Buy cheap, buy twice.

Tom and James take their bot­tom­less dinghy for a spin (top). Find­ing an af­ford­able re­place­ment proved chal­leng­ing in Be­quia (above).

James with the dinghy, in the good old days, when the ten­der still had a bot­tom.

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