Thursday, June 15, 2006

Six Minute Project Brings Dinghy Back To Life

Way back in 1999, I got rid of my hard dinghy which was terrific for me, towed amazingly well behind my 30 foot Ranger, Wind Hawk, was easy to row in a straight line, but was too tippy for my non-swimming wife. I replaced it with an inflatible dinghy from West Marine on sale at the boat show. It was an early roll-up model, 7 - 1/2 feet long with non-removable slats in the bottom.

Just so you know - rowing an inflatible with no keel is really hard work. The flat bottom sucks the life out of the rower. Having said that, in the spring of 2002, I took the boat up to Cold Spring NY on the Hudson River across from West Point and Storm King Mountain.

Although I anchored really well for the night, I moved the boat so I could row ashore to meet my friends for lunch at Hudson House. In the middle of lunch, well actually just as we ordered, I noticed Inertia dragging upriver at a not insignificant speed. Nothing would do but that I run back to the dinghy and row as fast and as hard as I could to catch the errant boat. In the process, both oarlocks become bent and virtually useless. I ended up paddling like a canoeist. That is especially hard.

I'm too lazy to use the motor. I have to carry gasoline (I don't like it), get the motor serviced, lug it on and off the boat, and so forth. So I'd rather row or paddle. Also, since I'm usually alone on the boat, I have one kyack and that pretty much does it for me. Anyway, I may have company on my cruise this summer, so I thought I'd make the dinghy useful again by replacing the oarlocks. You can see how cheesey the whole arrangement is.

The first thing you have to do is remove the line from the oarlock by undoing it from the stern fitting. It turns out that Zodiac made a really nice sharp hard end on the line when the cut it. These two images, although blurred show this. With a fid or marlinspike it comes apart really easily and pulls out of the oarlock.

Next, there's a plastic E - clip on one side of the oarlock. It turns out to be on the right as you look from the outside of the boat in. I just used two screwdrivers to pry it out - it comes out really easily once you get a grip. It's going to stretch an may even break if your boat's been out in the sun alot. I've kept mine in the garage so it's in good shape. Don't worry - the replacement kit comes with a new one.

Once that comes out, the shaft slides out and the whole thing comes apart. Note that the shaft has a hole in it - that's where the little pin on the E - clip goes. Also, there are side thingies I didn't take out because I didn't need to.

Here are all the replacement parts along with the old - It's pretty obvious how it all goes back together. The addition is that there's a clip that installs on the shaft that holds the new oar holder in. The shaft on the new holder has a bolt through it so it's good and strong. And it locks in. Both really big improvements. It's important that when you put the new E-clip in, you get the pin in the hole in the shaft. Here's the kit part number: Zodiac Z60044 Oar Lock Adapter Kit. You can try to get it at BoatersWorld, but I got mine at Defenders. They had it, they answered the phone, and that was that. I have to admit, though, the BoatersWorld guy actually went to look at the part.

And now, the piece de resistance: Here it is, all installed with the oar holder both out and in. All that's left to do is to re-reeve the rope, tie it back off like it was and you're done!

This works only with older Zodiacs - pre-2002. From the pictures you should be able to see if it'll work for you.

I'll be seeing you on the water, but with my dinghy, too.

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