2014 © Graham Rabbitts [You are welcome to use original material from this site, but the source should be acknowledged]
For years, I have used a heavy dinghy as a tender. It had to be sufficiently stable so that Dairne could easily get in or out of it. In a single trip we could get all our food and gear on board, and leave the dinghy on the mooring, unless we were going away for a long time. But the weight was a problem, and I had a tow hitch added to the car so that I could pull it up the slip.
After Dairne’s stroke, she could no longer use the dinghy. So I now have to go out to Ariadne, and bring her alongside for Dairne to board and to load stores. The need for a big heavy dinghy has gone.
Following a lead from Mike and Helen Clegg, I purchased a rigid 8ft Walker Bay dinghy. It has a flotation collar that makes it incredibly stable and unsinkable. It rows beautifully, takes a small outboard, and also sails well. The capacity is 2 adults (plus a couple of small children!).
The downside is that it is rather valuable so cannot be left on the mooring. On the other hand, it is lighter than my Avon Redcrest, so I find I can lift it on deck with a spare halyard and turn it over on my own to stow on deck, I prefer to stow it with the bow aft on one side of the mast. This leaves a clear passage and a workable foredeck.
Yes, it will tow, but if there is any lop on the water, a significant amount of spray will get in.
At night, the inflatable skirt is a fender so it will sit alongside comfortably. Alternatively, I often lift it clear of the water and leave it hanging alongside.
We have retained our faithful Avon Redcrest. Having no outboard transom means that it rolls up and stows under the aft cockpit seat, Few other dinghies of that size would do so.
When cruising we have often carried it stowed inflated on deck with the bow aft alongside the mast. This has worked even on some fairly rugged Channel crossings. This obstructs light into the forecastle, but it is quite easy to stand the dinghy on its side lashed to the shrouds when in harbour. This avoids it getting in the way if put overside.