Dinghy on Wheels

Is this a boat?

An Airplane?

A vehicle?

Nope, it’s our dinghy with its new retracting landing gear!

Our dinghy is the equivalent of our car here. We use it to go places far and near, on pure exploratory rides and for practical stuff alike. It is useful, fun and fast.

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As cool as it is though, it is heavy, and quite a handful to be pulled up a beach whenever we land on one.

Beached on Eureka harbor in October last year. Note that we can't pull it too far from the water, causing two problems: the sea keeps trying to take it away, requiring a constant and close watch from at least one of us, and the waves slapping on it end up filling it with salt water and sand.
Beached on Eureka harbor in October last year. Note that we can’t pull it too far from the water, causing two problems: the sea keeps trying to take it away, requiring a constant and close watch from at least one of us, and the waves slapping on it end up filling it with salt water and sand.

It so happens that soon we shall be using our dinghy primarily as our “landing vessel”, for we shall see less and less marinas along the way, thus demanding a solution to overcome its heavy weight once outside the water.

Enter the retracting landing wheels. It is a simple, easy to install/ easy to use system that cruisers often install to their dinghies to make the process of beaching them an easy and quick one (when dodging waves on a beach approach, speed of action is at a premium). I bought one of these systems at a chandlery nearby a few weeks ago, and was just waiting for a suitable day to install it. That was last Sunday.

The dinghy was fully assembled at Pesto’s stern, and the first step was to remove the outboard. It is heavy, but a block-and-tackle system facilitates the process.

Next, I had to hoist the dinghy on to Pesto’s bow. For this step, I enlisted the kids for help:

A strong halyard and a powerful winch make hoisting the heavy dinghy a child's play. Literally.
A strong halyard and a powerful winch make hoisting the heavy dinghy a child’s play. Literally.

With the dinghy on deck, I proceed with installation. The process was relatively simple: drill 8 holes on the dinghy’s stern, treat them with a caulking material to prevent water from penetrating the fiberglass core, place the wheels’ mounting structure, and fix everything in place.

The landing wheel system prior to installation.
The landing wheel system prior to installation.

Before installing, I applied marine grease to the metal parts for added some protection against salt water. It took me a good 3 hours for the whole thing and at the end, despite being fully smeared myself with grease and caulking glue, the result seemed satisfactory to my eyes.

The new "landing gear" in place, each wheel left on the Up and Down position for the photo.
The new “landing gear” in place, each wheel left on the Up and Down position for the photo.

When I was working on it, I discovered the white cap at the bottom portion of the stern was letting water in, and the fiberglass body of the dinghy was filled with gallons and gallons of water. So I also took the opportunity to clean up the cap and its threads, and apply a decent amount of sealant component before closing it back.

As I write this, the dinghy is still dangling from Pesto’s halyard, letting the caulking and the sealant components to fully cure before submitting them to salt water. But I can’t wait to check everything together (the wheels, the outboard), and try hoisting the dinghy on a beach nearby. I hope it works !

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