Cruisers Forum and Our West Marine Dinghy

Nearly everyone has heard of Cruisers Forum. Like a lot of people, I used to spend a lot of time on the site. Then we bought Bear, and I slowly realized how irrelevant and useless most of the information on there was. After maybe a year of owning Bear, I had stopped visiting Cruisers Forum, except when it turned up in a Google search. Cruisers Forum had done a great job of fueling my dreams, but it did not do much to help me live them.

Jeff aboard our dinghy in Maine 2018

Back when I owned my Catalina 22, I was looking for a dinghy for my first big trip, what became a three-week trip to the Chesapeake with a buddy of mine. But I was also hoping that the dinghy would last me through the purchase of a “real” cruising boat, which I hoped to do in five to seven years. Naturally, I went to Cruisers Forum to ask some questions about the West Marine dinghy, which I was considering buying.

I was wondering if Dan or anyone else would mind answering a few questions about the SB-275. I am in a similar situation, looking for an inexpensive dinghy. However, I am on a smaller boat and worried about space. Furthermore, part of my calculations involve how long the dinghy will last for…whether I will have to buy a new one in 7 or so years when I move to a bigger boat and full-time cruising or whether I can hope that the whatever I purchase now will still serve me then.

I was wondering what size the dinghy folds up to? Is the inflate/deflate and fold process as easy as West Marine makes it out to be? Anyone have any guess on how long one of these will last if well-taken care of and mainly stored indoors? Any use for the foreseeable future will be out of the tropics in Chesapeake to Maine summers.

Thanks for any and all comments.

Some commenters on Cruisers Forum gave me some wise advice, warning me that seven years is a long time for any dinghy and that I needed to care for it if it was to last that long. And I still laugh when I think of one of the responses from one of the frequent Cruisers Forum posters:

ROFLMAO…. your looking for an inflatable dinghy that’ll last 7yrs… and be good enough to transfer to the next boat…??

And then you’ll unpack it… I asssume…

All of this comes to mind because, eight years on, Margaret and I are increasingly talking about replacing our dinghy. The West Marine dinghy is still going strong. It does need a couple pumps every week or so lest it gets a little flaccid, but it has never had any major leaks. But we wonder whether it will make it through the winter in the Caribbean. And, of course, we want a little more robust dinghy with an engine capable of getting us on a plane together. At the same time, we are not sure we want to spend the money for the larger steed and wonder whether our davits could handle a rigid inflatable. But one thing is certain, I will not be going to Cruisers Forum to get advice on what to buy when our current dinghy does give up the ghost.

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