cruising world artGetting a dingy up onto a sailboat is about as graceful as climbing onto a horse with your pants around your ankles. And once the dingy's on board, it usually  looks about as much in place as that pants down cowboy all saddled up.

On Chez Nous, we've tried almost everything, including the old rope trick. You tie your halyard to the dink, crank the winch, cuss a lot, and up it comes.I used to take pride in how far I could make my rubber ducky swing out from the side when the boat rolled. The farther it swings, the harder it hits the top sides, and thus the farther it swings out again. Until, that is, you pull it just above the gunwale. Standing there watching my 11-foot inflatable flying my way from about 2 miles out was a great inducement to take a swim. My problem was that I always jumped in from where I'd just been standing to pull on the halyard, which placed me exactly under the dingy when it hit the sea.

Some tow the dink, but doing this in the ocean can be like strolling through a meadow full of bulls while holding a short leash that's hooked to a cow in heat. This point was aptly illustrated, I'm told, by a big motorbox making the mandatory migration from Miami to Bimini. The big motorbox owner had a particularly large hard tender serving as an ego extension. Seems the wind blew up nicely from the sou'west as he crossed the Stream. As he grandly motored up into the shallow shelf on the west side of the Bimini chain, the stabilized motor yacht hardly reacted to the huge following seas piling up around and behind it as they, too, met the shallow water.

But the tender did. It took a grand ride on one of those cresting seas and crashed right into the stern of the mother ship. This was one of those mother ships that have a nice big picture window in the transom so that the Master of the Vessel can have a lovely view of where he's been, in case he missed seeing it on the way there. Fortunately, the Master of the Vessel was up on the flybridge looking ahead, so he wasn't personally involved when the large tender, choosing the big windows for its point of impact, kept on going until it stopped halfway inside the Master Stateroom. This, of course, meant half the tender—and the huge outboards—were hanging out the transom, a sight that would probably have made for some mean small talk along the docks at the marina where the yacht was booked. Mercifully, this did not occur, but not because of human benevolence. Since proud yachtsmen don't really like being the butt of jokes, we can assume that the Master of the Vessel was delighted when the trailing tow rope, hanging out of the transom, was thrust by another hurtling sea into one of the props. Thus encumbered, the motor yacht was unable to negotiate the sharp turn to the north necessary to avoid the beach. It now landed there to stay without the benefit of dock boys, or even docks.

Some of our more motoresque sailing brethren, of course, also fancy large dinghies. There was one such gentleman a few years back who was quite proud of three particular things. One was an 18-foot fiberglass tender, more than adequate for his 45 foot boat. Another was the tow rope that he proudly claimed — as often as possible — would never break because it was an inch or so in diameter. The third was the huge, old, low-reving diesel in the mother ship — the kind, he frequently noted, that “just keeps on turning over forever.”

The sailor loved maneuvering around to demonstrate the power of his engine, the majesty of his tender astern, and what was recognized by all as the thickest piece of rope in the harbor. He was no doubt happy one day when events conspired to assist him in proving the merits of his rig. While the mother ship was backing down, its propeller snagged the tenders hawser, instantly wrapping it tightly around the shaft and reeling in the big tender until it smacked abruptly against the stern. The mighty line didn't break, although the propeller shaft, bound by the huge hawser, stopped turning. But the diesel engine, as oft it had been proclaimed so well to do, kept turning over. And in less than an instant, that engine had indeed turned right over — upside down in the gentleman's bilge.

In the matter of big old dinghies, we on "Chez Nous" aren't without fault. We love our "ugly supreme" 12-foot aluminum skiff. We had custom davits on our previous boat, and they worked perfectly, but this boat came with a store-bought set made for Mickey Mouse. We were wondering what to do when along came John and Linda from Beaver Brand Canvas. They were putting on our cockpit enclosure in Ft. Lauderdale when John told me he had a patent on a unique hydraulic rig that lets you drive your dink over a submerged cradle that, with the push of a button, lifts it up over the transom. When the dink is launched, if you position the lift just above the water you've got a perfect swim platform. “And,” John said, “it works on a sailboat transom. You don't even need to get a motor boat.”

He took measurements, and we sailed away up the coast. When the lift was ready, John put the whole thing in the back of his pickup, and he and Linda drove north. We rendezvoused at Narrows Marina in rural Mathews County, Virginia. Pickups in Mathews County are a common as fleas on a dog, but not ones with Florida plates, no gun racks, and weird-looking contraptions in back. A crowd assembled early on as we commenced drilling holes in my stern and carrying aboard a hydraulic motor, a ram, “fork-lift” frames, and ceder planks. Someone said he couldn't figure whether I was going to bring folks aboard in wheel chairs or pick up dumpsters in marinas.

No job goes perfectly on a boat, especially when it involves something that has to fit well and is made far away. But this job went perfectly. Everything fit. John pushed the button, and it worked. Perfectly. Everything fit. As I tightened the last nuts inside, I heard him say to Mel and Linda, “Now, just lower it beneath the water, drive the dingy aboard, and push the button.” He did. It did. Perfectly. As soon as the dingy was at deck level, 4 feet above the water, he jumped out of it to check for hydraulic leaks. He said. “All it needs now is the cradle to hold the dingy in place.” He was right again. Perfectly. Which is why my cradleless dingy, with its 25-horsepower outboard, was floating upside down a second or so later when I came up to check on all the noise. The anchor of course deployed automatically. The craft lay neatly bow to current, propeller proudly waving in the air. Scooter, a surfer friend, dove up the stuff that had gone to the bottom. Fifteen minutes later, it was righted, and John had the motor purring. “That's some test,” said a voice in the crowd, “but I wonder what it is exactly they're testing?”

I've tested the lift almost every day since then, and it still works, perfectly. The improvement it makes to the quality of cruising life doesn't stop with dingy launching and storing. I don't have to be sober to get aboard now, I don't have to remember to tie my dingy when I've brought it up with me in it, and I can stand on the swim platform and lower it beneath the water when the only thing I want to wash is my feet. And I've gotta admit, its kinda neat to turn up some yuppie music in the cockpit speakers, step off the deck into my ugly dink, and ride up and down on my elevator.

About Marine Lift Technology, Inc.


Since 1988 Marine Lift Technology has been manufacturing and installing hundreds of systems for satisfied customers throughout the world. We continue to lead the industry in technology, engineering, design and customer service. Our engineers have worked with a wide variety of yachts and manufacturers to develop lifts and installation appropriate to each vessel. This ensures that the lift compliments your boat's individual lines and does not interfere aesthetically with the shilouette, or inhibit performance.