Hoisting the Dinghy on Small Sailboats

Hip hoist.  Using your hips to hoist the dinghy, using a motion kinda like hula-hooping.  Kidding.  Okay that was really stupid.

Well it’s about that time to leave Mount Hartman Bay.  I’ve enjoyed my time here – quiet, peaceful, and no crime as far as I could find in any records (knock on teak).

It’s for that reason I’ve felt safe leaving my dinghy in the water at night, like I’ve done just about everywhere else I’ve been.  I keep it tied to my boat with a heavy steel cable, which I know won’t deter the most determined thieves but it helps me sleep at night.

So the crime isn’t a problem, but there’s this:


And this was after scrubbing a bunch of stuff off the bottom of the dinghy while it was still in the water.

The crabs scurried away before I could take a picture. Yes, there were crabs hanging on to the bottom of my dinghy. I’ve never seen anything this bad before, but then again I’ve also never really stayed in one place as long as I’ve stayed here. Three weeks – yeah I guess I’ve never stayed anchored in one spot longer than three weeks. Wow.

Other than the…general weirdness…of crabs living on the bottom of my dinghy, this is also terrible for fuel consumption and not good for the dinghy material.  You can read about how I quickly & easily cleaned it in Cleaning the Dinghy Bottom.

I’ll also be moving on to spots that do have crime and similar concerns with aquatic growth. Guess I better solve the dinghy-hoisting problem now!

Dinghy Hoisting Options

A lot of bigger boats have davits on the stern for hoisting the dinghy. Many other sailboats that don’t have davits will hoist the dinghy “at the hip”, that is to say alongside the mothership. I’ve never done the “hip” thing because it just never seemed necessary for me, and it looked to be an awkward process to do on such a small sailboat. The only other option is to take off the outboard, partially deflate the dinghy, and hoist it on deck every night. That is way too much of a chore to do every day.

It sure makes the dinghy hip-hoist look more appealing.  I guess I better figure that out!

Setting Up the Dinghy Hip Hoist

My dinghy, a small soft-floored Zodiac inflatable, doesn’t have much in the way of hoisting hardware. All it has are the two lateral D-rings on the side of the bow.

But solving this problem was easier than I thought – and I didn’t even have to purchase any new hardware!

I just used the tow bridle that I already have tied on the lateral D-rings, made of 5/8″ cotton rope, for hoisting the bow and for lateral stability. For the stern, I took a 30′ length of line and tied the ends together with a square knot, giving me a continuous loop.  I looped this around each of the rear pontoons.

dinghy hoist

Hoisting the stern of the dinghy with a continuous line looped around the rear pontoons.

I connected the bow hoist lines and the stern hoist lines over the dinghy using a big spring clip (carabiner), then shackled my staysail halyard to that.  I don’t have a winch on the mast, but as I said, this is a small, light dinghy so I’m able to hoist it by hand.

dinghy hoist

The bow tow bridle and the continuous line hoisting the stern are put through the carabiner then shackled to my staysail halyard.

Adjusting the Dinghy Hip Hoist

At first I hoisted it just inches off the water to get the dinghy balanced correctly.  The bow hoist line (bridle) is a fixed length, so I adjusted the stern hoist line by adjusting where I tied the square knot.  It’s important to do this in the configuration you’ll be regularly hoisting it – for me, that’s with the outboard detached from the dinghy.

Removing the outboard while hoisted will make stealing my dinghy less appealing if the outboard is locked up in my cockpit. Thieves really just want the outboard.

Anyways, you want the bow to be slightly higher than the stern, so that if any rain collects it’ll drain out of the bailer in the transom (but only if you remember to open it while it’s hoisted!).

I finally hoisted it up to a height where the dinghy rub rails were on the sailboat rub rails, and tied the bow D-ring to a stanchion with a short length of steel cable, which is padlocked for extra security.

hoisted dinghy

The dinghy hoisted alongside the sailboat.

There – no more dirty dinghy bottom!  And if someone really wants to steal a dinghy they’ll hopefully pass my boat up and go to the one with the dinghy trailing in the water!

If you have a small sailboat and have found other methods of getting the dinghy out of the water, I’d love to hear about what you’ve done.  Add it below and I’ll get right back to you.

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