I watched entranced as a hatch, the size of a tennis court, opened in the side of a superyacht to reveal, resplendent, varnish agleam, chrome and stainless steel as bright as the midday sun, a tender that cost more than a house in central London. I love to see these classic, hand-crafted runabouts although I certainly would not like to maintain one. These ‘tenders’ are so far removed from the everyday workhorse, the RIB, that crew now require special training in order to operate them. As Captain Jeff Werner points out in his article on page 46, bump an inflatable against a superyacht’s topsides and you will do little damage, but clout one with an antique Riva or Gar Wood and the yacht owner is looking at a hefty repair bill and the boat’s operator has joined the ranks of the unemployed. Being met at the dock by a uniformed steward who bids you step aboard the mothership’s classic runabout, hands you a glass of champagne and then whisks you out to your half-million-dollar-a-week rent-a-boat is rather appealing … I wouldn’t even get my tuxedo wet.
For the hardier wet bum brigade on cruising yachts, a tender is very much a necessity and a classic mahogany motorboat simply won’t cut it. Having eliminated Rivas at a stroke of the pen, what are your choices? Surprisingly, when buying a yacht tender, there are lots. In our early cruising days, we fell into the trap of buying a cheap dinghy that eventually cost us dearly. Yes, there were extenuating circumstances, like the fisherman who flicked his cigarette butt into the boat and popped a tube. The tube was almost impossible to repair and it lead to a week of me rowing as fast as possible for the shore, while my wife gripped the pump between her hands and went at it like a demented concertina player.
Recently we bought a secondhand tender, a rollup with a plywood floor. The boat is in great condition and we bought it for a good price, but we didn’t quite get it right. The dinghy was a little long and the engine too big for one person to wrestle onto the transom without risking a hernia or worse.
Small yacht tenders are an expensive item, a one-time buy that you hope will last for many years. On page 42, Sim Hoggarth describes how he went about selecting a new tender for his 44ft cruising yacht. He explores the various options like sailing dinghies, rollups and RIBS, and discusses methods of construction and construction materials. If you are in the market for a new tender then his useful tips might help you decide what is right for you.
June sees the start of the Atlantic hurricane season. The H word is not one I like to use but it is a fact of life, and for anyone living within the ‘zone’, afloat or ashore, then it really shouldn’t be ignored. The forecasters predict an extremely quiet season this year and we hope they are right. Putting together your storm strategy as early as June might seem a little extreme as most folks know that early season storms are rare, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Last year my wife and I were caught out by a storm that smashed our 30-footer and had I prepared in June for what happened in October, we wouldn’t have spent the last eight months repairing the boat and looking for a replacement mast. After years of living in the Caribbean, I became complacent. Don’t let it happen to you.