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Stopping a tethered dingy rubbing and bumping against the yacht

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What is the issue?
Depending on conditions dinghies tethered to the stern of a yacht can make a lot of slapping noise in a chop or at other times rub and butt up against the yacht itself. The answer is to haul the tender out on davits but few yachts have these davits preferring to depend upon inflatable dinghies that are stowed away during passages and tethered whilst at anchor.

Why address this?
The slapping or bumping noises of a trailing dinghy can be very annoying for a crew member trying to rest or sleep in stern cabins. The rubbing and bumping is not good for the yacht's topsides. Also in area's where security is a concern, making it more complicated to release the tender rather than just undoing a knot in the painter will make it far more secure.

How to address this?
The answer is to hoist the dinghy up at night on sturdy davits if you have them. If you do not have davits you can utilise a couple of simple approaches as shown below to hoist the dinghy out of the water and keep it under control. Once hoisted there will be no bumping or slopping about, and it also helps to keep the dinghy drained if it is raining, and it deters bottom growth if carried out regularly, and makes it more difficult for thieves.

There are several ways to hoist up a dinghy with infinite variations depending upon the dinghies and vessels in question. Here are a couple of approaches that broadly work across many vessels and are quick and easy to use which, if they are to be practised, are the essential requirements.


Hoisting the dinghy out of the water by halyard
Drawing: Michael Harpur

This Halyard Hoist may be achieved by:

  • • Making up a strong three or four-point lifting harness that radiates from a central lift ring with convenient snap shackles at their endpoints. Adjust the lines so that they are at the balance point of the combined tender and outboard's weight. They should finish upholding the dinghy and engine slightly stern down so that rainwater may empty through the transom drain. If there is no drain don’t hoist it, or fit a drain, as the weight of water from a rainy night could cause untold damage.

  • • Once complete stow the lift hoist in a place where it is conveniently available.

  • • Attach the lifting harness and a halyard to the central ring.

  • • Remove the inboard oar fitting and any others that might scrape the top sides. If abrasive items cannot be removed, use an apron and or pad.

  • • Hoist the dinghy up on the halyard. The tender can rise up hard against the vessel’s topsides making it a task better undertaken by two people, one on the block and one bouncing the dinghy out as it rises up.

  • • Let the dingy layup against the topside.

  • • If it looks like a breeze might come up during the night or the area is subject to blustery squalls, rig up dinghy bow, breast and stern lines to any conveniently located deck cleats or stanchions.

The dinghy hoisted out of the water
Drawing: Michael Harpur


If you happen to have a simple spare 4:1 cruising mainsheet system with a cam, you can use a variation of the halyard system by using a boom and tackle to lift the dinghy out. Attach the spare sheet to a strop around the boom near the topping lift so the two forces are in opposition and not to put too much weight on the unsupported centre of the boom. Then let out the mainsheet and use the tackle to hoist the dinghy up on its hoisting harness.

Hoisting the dinghy out on the boom
Drawing: Michael Harpur

If you do not have a spare tackle, the mainsheet may be doubled up for this purpose as it already runs through multi-purchase blocks to a winch. Ideally, place a snap shackle on the sheet’s base block so it may be regularly convenient to unclip and fasten onto the hoist's lifting ring.

Unfortunately, the problem with the mainsheet on many boats is that it normally positioned too far forward of the boom’s after end. Using it to hoist from a central position will cause the considerable weight of a dinghy and outboard to exert undue strain which may possibly bend the boom. To alleviate this take a halyard or the topping lift to the mainsheet’s position on the boom and tie it off with a clove hitch, or attach it to a strop there if it is more convenient, to provide support. Or alternatively, put another snap shackle on the sheet's head block and just move it all as a set piece to the back of the boom.

This system has the added advantage over the halyard approach of being able to push the boom outboard enough to hoist the dinghy up clear of the topsides removing the risk of scratching. It also makes possible another approach of hauling off the dinghies' outboard engine, to drop it back down in the cockpit for storage, and then lifting up the dinghy by halyard and dropping it on the foredeck. This more laborious approach is the better option if it is expected to get windy and if deterring theft is the objective. However, the same basic system can be used to haul off the outboard when stowing the dinghy and outboard for making passages, which is very helpful.

These techniques are also a good approach to secure a dinghy in uncertain anchorages that are known for theft. A hoisted dinghy is a more difficult proposition to steal and is, therefore, less likely to be stolen. In almost all cases the thieves are mainly after the outboard engines. Hoisting out may be made fully secure by deploying a locking connection that passes through the tender and outboard and back to a fixed strongpoint on the vessel. Unfortunately, outboard thieves typically come armed with cable cutters so the best option to secure the dinghy alongside is a length of stainless-steel chain that is the most cut-resistant, and which can be doubled as the tender anchor chain in normal operation - see also reducing boating related theft Experience. Finally, in more practical terms, having familiarity with this process and an effective dinghy bridal may be what is needed to quickly both reducing draught and induce heel to get a badly grounded yacht Experience back into deep water.


Hoisting dinghies and keeping them aloft, however, can only be used in calm or light winds. If it gets at all windy the tender will start to act like a kite and you have another problem to deal with on the side of the boat. I had an interesting night when katabatic winds started to descend in the early hours and our dinghy on a halyard started to lift up and take off. It was quickly relaunched with an anchor weight swinging from its towing loop to keep it down.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.

Keeping Your Dinghy Safe and Dry Without Davits

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