In his latest blog Jonty Pearce is debating the best size dinghy for his boat


A few years ago I updated my ageing Avon Redstart in favour of a Tinker Tramp inflatable dinghy. Whilst I loved the Avon, and still do (it now lives in the garage awaiting any trip where Carol and I are the only ones aboard), it had a major flaw – being a round-tail inflatable there could be no drain hole when left on the davits. While our davits are strong, I was not sure that the D-ring patches from which the dinghy hung would resist the ripping weight of a cold tub of water.


So, out with the old bath water, and in with the new – and welcome to the originally named Tink. Henshaw Inflatables made several versions of this well respected dinghy. My mate Badger had a Tinker Traveller which we took to the Isles of Scilly. A fantastic bit of kit, but at 12ft it was simply too long for the davits – it looked as if the tail was wagging the dog. I therefore sourced the 9ft version – the Tramp. I through-bolted a pair of stainless steel ring bolts in the forward wooden floor which, with the solid transom forming the hanging point for the aft davit, give secure lifting points. The Avon water bath problem is averted by a pair of pluggable dinghy drains at the bottom of the transom. And, glory of glories, a full sailing rig fits below decks aboard Aurial.


The Tramp is large enough to transport 4 adults (the Redstart managed two easily but when four up wet bottoms were the norm), rows well, and can plane with a 3.5HP Yamaha Malta (with one or two persons aboard, not four!) The wooden floor keeps our feet dry, and deflated she rolls up into a moderate sized bag. I’m told that Tinkers can even be converted into a liferaft by the addition of an auto-inflating cover. The versatility of Tinkers is heightened by the sailing rig. The base of the three piece mast sits in a foot plate, with a forestay and two shrouds swiftly tensioned to keep all in place. A few bits of string, a couple of sails, a rudder and centreboard, and you’re away!


Well, when I say away, it is actually not that simple. The Tramp is somewhat flexible, and, while reaching or running is straightforward, beating into the wind requires some thought. When Badger took his Traveller to Llangorse Lake for a Penguin Cruising Club ‘land cruise’ the Tinker Challenge’ was founded. All entrants needed to do was sail it round the lake. Some difficulty was initially encountered by several entrants until their thoughts became as flexible as the dinghy – a balance of weight positioning, sheet tension and forestay tightness was necessary to make windward progress. I was pleasantly surprised when the Indoor Dragon won the Challenge – her dinghy ailing lessons were long ago! But get the trim right and they go like the clappers, as I found when sailing both Badger’s Traveller and my Tramp between Scilly islands.


Carol insists that there is not adequate room for two in Tink when rigged for sail. She may be right, but I would hate to admit it. Having seen photos of what I am assured is yours truly sailing said Tramp, I initially was bemused that baby elephants had such nautical skills. Once the helmsanimal’s identity was corrected, I did accept that Carol had a point. As she prefers kayaking to Tinker sailing it does not really matter – we can both have fun.


My sadness is that there is never really time on our all too brief sailing weekends to rig and enjoy the sailing capabilities of the Tramp, even if the weather is compliant. So bring on retirement and longer breaks – I’ll really be happy Tinkering about then!


Jonty Pearce