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Date: 10 February 2014. Stabilize a Hard Dinghy (inexpensive how-to)


Algae is a small, inexpensive hard fiberglass dinghy manufactured in 1972. She is old, beat-up and just about perfect. When I pull up to a dinghy dock, I am not worried about someone taking her. No one in their right mind will want the thing and for several reasons -- not all of which are true.

Everybody "knows" that hard dinks are by and large unstable. They tip over and indeed Algae as purchased had that propensity too. She doesn't now and it's a very simple fix that can be duplicated with relative ease.

This idea actually is one that friends of mine did to their dinghy. Ann and John live on the schooner Steelaway. The sailboat has an 80' waterline and is approximately 110' overall. Steelaway is a rugged steel boat built by the couple in Louisiana.

I have been fortunate enough to go sailing aboard her.

As much fun as that was, Ann used to hostess a Tea Time for the ladies aboard her boat that always brings a smile of remembrance. Multitudes of various teas, sweeteners and more, plus treats -- and loads of girl talk too. It was fun.

The plan John and Ann came up with for their tender increased the stability of the boat. Their dink was long and slender -- lending itself to tipping over. A slender, round bottom boat tends to roll and situating yourself in dead center is a must. If not, well, America's Home Videos always seeks amusing new moments....

But I digress. The Steelaway hard tender is similar to mine. It included reinforcement at the gunnels and fenders down the sides.


Mine, after over 40+ years in the sun, tended to bow out at the middle. Those two boards (inside and outside the hull at the *gunnel) add strength. Mine are oak, approximately 1.5" wide and 1/2" thick. Through bolted (it is good to have a fiberglass dink) they made a wobbly dinghy far sturdier. Scott and his buddy added them for me years ago and they have made a big difference in my happiness quotient.

*Gunnel: That's the top edge of the hull of a boat.

However, even though strengthened, Algae was still tippy. Stepping into and out of the rowboat was a bit less comfortable/safe than I preferred. That is where I copied another of Ann's dinghy ideas. She and John had fenders down the outside edges, so I duplicated their plan.

Holes were drilled through the dinghy and small rope tie the fenders to the upper gunnels. Ratty fenders work perfectly for this process. Just so long as they have some umph (air/floatation) left in them, they will be a-okay.

I can only fit three fenders down each side on Algae in order for the state numbers and sticker to be displayed.

[Whenever you use a motor of any sort the state has it's hand out for fees. That sticker isn't real expensive, only because Algae was manufactured in 1972. Antique boats (30 years old or older) in Florida get discounted rates.]


Fenders are amazing -- they offer floatation at the edge of the dinghy.
Onboard Algae, I can stand in the bottom at the edge without fear of tipping.

What's particularly fun is watching folks on the dock get up and walk over to see me splash when I board Algae. They do not get their reward and seem surprised. And I never enlighten them either.

The main benefit to a small fiberglass dinghy like Algae is that folks do not realize that by virtue of the fenders she is stable. She is not fancy by any means and I like it that way. Thus, Algae less likely to be acquired by nefarious sorts. Thieves go for the marshmallows (inflatable dinghies) that are ubiquitous.

The plan for stability enhancement evolved from simply having three fenders down both port and starboard. I wanted to add a couple more across the transom.


That is when I started to keep my eyes open for small fenders. Buying same is not done -- not by me anyway. Out here quite often you can find them floating free. I have spotted fenders washed up along the banks of rivers and in the middle of bays. Without a name on the fender, well, it is mine. Or mine until I find a new owner who wants or needs a fender.

And that is what happened for me. Bear on Thursday's Child offered me a couple of fenders for Algae which I gratefully accepted. I had plans for them too.

←Bear and his son Drew

Thursday's Child on the horizon→

You met Thursday's Child a Westsail32 in the
Three Miles Out (Thursday's Child) article.

The theory (and everything works in Theory) was to place two fenders across the transom of Algae which would offer stability at the aft end, and also could keep the motor out of the water should the dinghy ever be flooded. The fenders were a gift from Thursday's Child.

Then I placed one of the fenders at the transom and ran into a road block. As you can see on the starboard (right) side of the dink, the extended U-bolt and handle get in the way. So, another plan bites the dust. The fenders will work well for Seaweed so I am pleased nonetheless. Thanks Bear!

Not only did the name of the dinghy become covered when I added fenders across the transom, those extended U-bolts got in the way. And why are the extended U-bolts important? Well, back in the day when I bought this dink from Scotty on SeaNut they were a component of his storage system.

As I recall, Scott had two gizmos (similar to pelican clips) on his swim platform. Those U's fit into the clips/clamps and then the bow was hoisted up vertically. That would be ideal!


I want those gizmos -- or something similar. You see, when the dink is in the water she gets barnacles.

The other option, to store her on the swim platform is unsafe. When Algae is side-ways on the platform my swim steps are covered.


Being able to re-board Seaweed is critical from a safety aspect.
Too many folks drown because they cannot get back onboard their boat. 


If any of you have an idea as to what I can use to attach Algae via those extended U-bolts, please do add a comment. I would like to rig the way SeaNut had done it. There has to be a word or search term that would help. Even better would be if you have a set in your chandlery aka garage that could solve the problem. Thanks!

Summary of How-To Stabilize a Hard Dinghy:

  1. If her sides are wobbly add two long strips of wood (inside and outside) down each side at the gunnels. Through-bolted, they will add stability.

  2. A seat (or three) also adds firmness and keeps the boat from twisting.

  3. To keep her from flipping over, fenders along the edge of the gunnel will work wonders. Any sort of fender (no-name is fine) will add flotation.

Fenders along the edge will also keep your boat from sinking
should she ever become filled with water -- another benefit.

Happy life afloat to you... of course it is wintertime, so there is more time to think of projects.

While my Comments were kaput, I received the following notes:
Comments are functional again. Please scroll down and comment too. I love that!



Don says on 2 January 2017: Hey, I found your post about the fenders. Looks good. I may make a variation for the gheenoe but great idea.


Me: Thanks Cap'n Don. The fenders have worked well for me. One of the best parts about boating is sharing ideas. What works for me fine, with a bit of tweaking, may just exceed your expectations. I hope so!

Thank you for your comment. It is appreciated.


Don says on 3 January 2017: Just a note on your concerns of not being able to put a fender on the outside on the stern to keep your motor out of the water. Why not put it on the inside on the stern?


Me: Now that is an idea I'd not considered. I believe I could fit one on the starboard side. The port side has my Perko switch that turns on the trolling motor and the running/anchor light. I'll take a look though. Your idea has merit and it might just work.

Thanks Don! I love learning things. I betcha I can make your idea work. Thank you, and thank you for your comment.


How do you store your dinghy when underway?
If you know what SeaNut used, or I could use to raise Algae, please let me know.

Regarding the Comments Section, found at the end of every article:

  • Before you type in each block be sure to hit the backspace key. Coding inserts a space in every box. Your email address will come back as malformed unless you remove that space. (You don't have to include your email address.)

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