The story so far, Sailorgirl and the Pirate Guy are just not good with dinghies. Inflatables deflate. Inflatables get stolen. Hard dinghies sink. You get the picture, we’re not good with dinghies. So by the end of our fifth cruising season we’re on dinghy number six (story on dinghies 1 – 5 here) and I’m patching the deflatable yet again. That’s it. We need the perfect dinghy.
So we built it.
Robbie is born.
Robbie is a Chameleon, a nesting dinghy designed by Danny Greene of Offshore Designs in Bermuda. We studied the plans, built a mockup in cardboard and studied some more. In April 2003, in 14 days, working 8 hours a day, Robbie became a reality. Unfortunately our cruising season came to an end before Robbie could be painted and launched so he was left on the hard while we went to replenish the cruising kitty.
Fact. You won’t save much money building a decent dinghy. Fiberglass and epoxy are not cheap. Don’t even bother factoring in the cost of your labour – at this point you are not working for union wages, it really is a labour of love.
January 2004 finds us wielding paintbrushes and a last coat of epoxy to fully fare the hull for a fabulous finish – a racing finish.
Fact: January in Florida isn’t warm and it rains a lot. Fact: Humidity and cold means that epoxy and paint don’t dry. We put a layer of epoxy on and wait. And wait. And wait. Paint takes 3 days to fully dry. We need primer and three coats. You do the math.
In the end, we present Robbie.
In my humble opinion Robbie is the best dinghy in the whole world. Rowing around in a dinghy that my own two little hands built makes me so proud I could burst.
The Pirate Guy made a couple of changes. We used a commercial inspection hatch on the bow locker instead of building our own. Quicker, easier and it sits flush so no stubbed toes. This large watertight bow locker is where we keep our lifejackets, whistle, bailing bucket and all the other necessary paraphernalia. Bonus, no junk to step on in the bottom of the dinghy!
The longitudinal seat means that people of different heights can find the exact location that is perfect to row. And fast? Robbie is fast! With a good pair of oars it’s almost faster to row than to motor. By sitting inside instead of on the pontoons no more DINGHY BUTT!!!!! What is dinghy butt you ask? It is the bane of all cruisers existence. When you sit on the pontoons of an inflatable water splashes up and your butt gets wet. You have a permanent wet circle on your butt. Very attractive.
With a 4 hp on the transom Robbie will plane with one person in him. We use the bow section for groceries and stuff leaving the aft section to sit in. Another change, we put an eye bolt on the bow, not on the foredeck. This doubles as a towing bolt and a place to put our 30 foot steel cable to lock him. We also cut out circles in the oars so that we can lock those too. Robbie is locked at all times, even on the back of our boat when we’re at anchor. Anybody who tries to steal Robbie will have to deal with a mad Sailorgirl. Beware.
When we row around Robbie gets a lot of attention. People always want to know how the two halves are connected. The sections are simply bolted together. We find it easier to connect the sections on our cabin top, and then drop him in the water. The plans originally called for three bolts, we added a fourth. We also added a rubber gasket (made from old bicycle inner tubes) in between the sections. We have no leakage at all. We were concerned that water would be pushed up between the sections when we had the motor on but it simple doesn’t happen. The aft floatation tanks are very useful, not only are they in the perfect spot to use as footrests when rowing, but when cruising around the harbour at sunset they’re the perfect spot to rest your cocktail!
Four hands built this, our hands. Me, I built a boat. How cool is that?