The Dink

Actually, we have two boats. One, our home on the water, the second is our dingy. Affectionately call a ‘dink’ in boating circles.  Ten feet long it is known as a RIB – Rigid Hulled Inflatable boat.  Sounds pretty cool, ‘eh?  How could one go wrong leaving the dock in a boat that’s both solid fiberglass hull and inflatable?  But then again. . 

Our dink sits atop the roof of the stateroom in a solid wooden cradle.  Part of the charm of our old trawler is the mast and boom which work in tandem to manage the launching and retrieving of the dingy.  It’s far too heavy to manhandle over the side considering it has a fiberglass hull and 15 hp outboard.  Launching the dink is easy.  

Our dingy comes with not one, but two plugs to ensure water doesn’t come inside.  Just like so many other times, we’ve once again discovered that the previous owners were double safe in having two of everything – two plugs, one for a spare.  Since we only need one plug, we’ll put the spare right here in the bucket in the cockpit on the rear deck of Shangri-La. The other goes in the hole in the center drain hole in the transom.

With the help of the electric winch, one lifts the dingy out of the cradle and swings the boom to the side.  Once the dingy is dangling over the side, one lowers it down nice and easy into the water.  Unless one has never done this before.  Then what happens is the dingy comes off the cradle and scoots to the rear of the boom on a pulley we didn’t know rode in a track.  That way as the dingy moves down the boom the prop on the outboard is precisely in line with Jan’s sternum.  The tiny boat then makes one long surge down the track to aft and she is nearly knocked over the rail.  Dingy boom designers have such a clever sense of humor. Of course now the dingy has spun 90 degrees to the side rail and is lurching back and forth like a 700# trash can lid in a wind storm.

But all things that are in motion tend to come to a stop at some point.  With a bit of nudging and tugging, the dingy is ready to be lowered into the sea. We’re money.  Dinky do is tied alongside the swim platform and we are rarin to go!  Throw the life jackets in and we climb aboard.  The 20 year old Yamaha fires up on the second pull and awaaaaaaaay we go!  Our first adventure aboard our second boat!

We motor away from the dock high fiving each other as we head out the channel into the Cape Fear river.  A short distance from the entrance to the channel, Jan tells me she is getting wet.  She’s sitting on the floor in the bow. I look at her and explain that we’re in an unsinkable RIB and it’s highly unlikely there’s water coming into the boat.  With a shrug she scooches farther up on the pontoon and away we go.  Off to the vast estuary formed by this historic river.  Well, we go for a while.  Actually I think maybe 200′ out of the mouth of the channel.

That’s when the engine died.  Now I’m not a bad shade tree mechanic, but after 42 pulls on the starting rope, I’m convinced we have an issue with bad gas.  Something we can’t fix from here.  What we can do is watch the shoreline slide by as the tide goes out.  Most dinks have a set of oars on board and of course ours is no different.  We unsnap the oars and I get my man mood on.  This isn’t so bad – rather romantic in fact.  Balmy June day, the love of my life crawling up the inside of our ‘second boat’ as I . . . wait.

“I’m telling you there’s water in here! says the love of my life.  “Lots of water, it’s coming up through this hatch in the floor.”  At that precise moment it dawns on me that this whole rowing thing is not really working like it should. Maybe we have a weight issue.  I pull for all I’m worth and we’re barely beating the outbound tide.  With superhuman effort I lunge at the oars and we make the turn back into the channel.  Whew! This dam thing rows like a coal barge.

Jan’s concerned now.  We’ve shipped about three inches of water and it’s now obvious the left pontoon is only about half full of air.  But – we have a pump. Yep super duper high volume air pump that you step on to fill the pontoons. Apparently there’s a minor leak and we’ve agreed that will be Jan’s job to pump it back up.  About that time we hear the horn blast.  A horn blast is required when the Bald Head Island Ferry (Ferry is capitalized for a reason) leaves the terminal in our marina and starts the turn to exit the harbor.

There are two styles of ferries.  One is a mono hull of about 45′ and typically shuttles the contractors to and fro.  The other is a catamaran of what seems like 90′ feet long and I believe it is nearly square.  The channel is maybe 70 feet wide. Ranger is her nameo.  Yep, here she comes idling out the channel. The one we’re foundering in, shipping water and severely listing to port. (the left side.)  Once again I lean into the oars.  Lean might be a weak word here. I’m freaking out. Each pull brings us 6 inches closer to the breakwall and out of the center of the channel.  

Tucked up  against the breakwall is the tug that pushes a barge full of new furniture and Budweiser out to Bald Head every day.  My goal is to get behind the tug and hope we don’t get swamped by the big cat.  It’s then that I realize Jan is huffing and puffing almost as much as I am.  I turn to see what’s the clatter and find her sitting on the pump, hopping up and down on it trying to inflate the pontoon.  “I sure as heck can’t stand up in here and do this!” she said.  So here we are, 15 minutes after the high fives, soaked with sweat, ankle deep in salt water and working like dogs trying to stay afloat and get out of the way of the Bald Head Island FERRY!

As the big cat passes by, I notice nearly everyone on board is hanging out on our side of the boat, lined up at the rail.  Only a few feet away, I can see them laughing and pointing. . .at Jan hopping up and down on the pump and me pulling for all I’m worth trying to keep control of the 17 ton landing craft we’re riding in. Where the hell is this water coming from???

We make our way back to the dock and somewhat gracefully exit the dink as our new dockmates look on.  The ones who weren’t blowing beer out their nose waved and patted the air in a cappella high fives.  Weve decided the best thing to do is drag the dingy up on the dock and try to figure out what needs to be done.  But we can’t.  Even after bailing all the water out of the interior, it weighs just too much.  Remove the motor!!  But of course! That’s where the weight is. Unbolting a 90 pound outboard and lifting it over the stern and onto the dock without dropping it in the water wasn’t in my captain training. (Dustin you really should touch on this.)  And frankly it sucks.

With the motor safely on the dock, we both pull enough of the dingy out of the water to sit on the bow and leverage the hull up on the dock.  Victory!!!  Wait, where is all that water coming from?  Seems there’s a reason we get two plugs with each dingy on board.  One for the obvious centerline drain, the other for the hull drain, which keeps water from filling the hollow fiberglass hull – when it’s in.