Be kind to your dinghy

As the title suggests, we have not been kind to ours. We expect our dinghy to transport us to shore and back, take us exploring, adventuring, joyriding, and perhaps even rescue us in the event of an emergency. Yet we treat ours poorly. Not intentionally. We always have the best of intentions. I’d call it benign neglect.

We’ve had our boat a bit over six years now. The inflatable came attached to the stern. Back in early ’12, we installed new davits, seats, steering, and a new 20 hp Tohatsu outboard. For anyone wishing to relive that exciting story, visit this post.

Since that time, the dinghy has lived on the davits on the back of our boat. Good weather and bad. Tipped up on the stern, it’s convenient to use, but not to work on. We wash it and keep it mostly clean, but that’s just about the extent of our care. As for the motor, I check the oil from time to time. I also check to make sure it is still firmly attached to the dinghy.

The most recent abuse came from sitting in salt water for a month while our boat was in the yard. Barnacles and various slimy things were growing on it when we finally pulled it out of the water. Yuck.

mv Archimedes dirty dinghy bottom

For reasons that made sense to me at the time, I decided to buy a trailer for the dinghy. With a small trailer, I can bring the dinghy home and take proper care of it. I can also take it to have the motor serviced. Maybe even bring it home for the winter. Now we can be much nicer to our dinghy.

I’ve spent the last few months checking Craigslist for an inexpensive small boat trailer. I found a number of trailers that would have worked, but they all came with boats. The folks at Kitsap Marina in Port Orchard sold me an EZ Loader EZB 12-14 1000. The price ended up being a few hundred more than used, but the trailer comes with a warranty, I know there will be no issues with the title or licensing, and I don’t have to do any of the licensing legwork either. That’s worth it to me.

My friend Bruce accompanied me on the errand to pick up the trailer. Once that was done, we went to the boat to get the dinghy. The closest ramp is in downtown Poulsbo next to the public marina. Bruce motored the dinghy over there and I met him with the trailer. It was easy to get the boat on the trailer. After we pulled the dinghy out of the water, we stopped to make preliminary adjustments to the benches and winch on the trailer. That got us back to the house.

I scrubbed the bottom off as much as I could before we brought the dinghy home. After it was home, I washed the dinghy thoroughly, cleaned it with inflatable boat cleaner, and applied a healthy dose of 303 Protectant. The inflatable boat cleaner made all the difference. It really cleaned off the guck. It was pretty much spray on, wipe off. That’s always nice.

mv Archimedes clean and shiny dinghy

mv Archimedes throttle lever and ilt switchThe throttle lever has a little switch that activates the up and down for the electric tilt/trim (yellow arrow). Recently it decided to only work in one direction.

So I disassembled everything and found a loose solder connection. I took apart far more than I needed to to resolve this issue, but I had no idea how it was all put together. Now I know, I’ll never need to do it again.

Under the waterproof switch cover is a plain old little electric switch.


mv Archimedes broken tohatsu tilt switch wire

The switch had a very poor solder connection. So poor, it failed. I figured it out by jiggling the wires. I fixed it and put it all back together.

It took me a while to put everything back together. I took it down to way more pieces that I needed to. That made for more work putting it all back where it should be. The mechanicals were a bit fiddly and everything was covered with gobs of grease.

But eventually I ended up with all the parts back mostly where they should go. No extra parts laying around and everything works.


The battery terminals were in serious need of cleaning, so I cleaned them. The rust must be from he wrong kind of bolts and salt water exposure. Everything is inside a plastic box.

mv Archimedes dinghy battery before cleaning

I replaced the bolts and washers with stainless steel. That should keep future rust down for a little while. I sanded all the mating surfaces so they were good and shiny. I applied a liberal quantity of some kind of goo intended to keep corrosion down between all the parts and tightened up the bolts. The “goo” came from a little packet hanging next to the register at the local auto parts store. Just enough to do one battery.

mv Archimedes dinghy battery after cleaning

When I was done, I treated the battery to a charge. It seemed like the nice thing to do. I’ve never charged it. I’m sure it was getting something from the outboard when it was running, but that’s it. More abuse. Now more nice.

I added a fire extinguisher. I’ve actually had it kicking around for some time now. Kindness to the dinghy is the motivation I need to complete the installation. I hope it stays there, though. That’s kinda the reason I hadn’t installed it sooner. I think the bracket should be adequate, but it doesn’t look like it.

mv Archimedes fire extinguisher in the dinghy

Next Friday I am taking the boat to have the outboard serviced. Something else I couldn’t do without the trailer.

See how nice I am being to the dinghy now? I hope it returns the favor with lots of fun and trouble free use this summer.

mv Archimedes dinghy about as clean as it can get

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