Wednesday, June 23, 2010

She Tows!

Every big boat has a dinghy. 

This is a proper dinghy, here on the left.  It’s small.   You can tow it.  Or you can stow it, either on the bow of your boat, or hanging from davits off the stern.

Dragonfly does NOT have a proper dinghy.  She’s an unusual boat, and she has an unusual dinghy.

Here she is, riding high on the roof of Dragonfly like a loon chick on its mother's back:  An Adirondack wherry, first cousin to a racing shell.  

Like a shell, she’s a high-performance rowboat:  very long, very narrow, and very fast.  (Faster than Dragonfly, actually! When we feel the need for speed, we go rowin'!)

Her name is “Naiad,” which is an old-fashioned scientific name for a juvenile dragonfly. 

Bill purchased our dinghy rather on impulse, on E-bay, and against the advice of the crew (and many others) who advocated for a conventional dinghy. 

You need a dinghy for worst-case scenarios—say, you’re crossing the Gulf of Mexico in your canal boat, five miles from shore, and your propeller backs out (again!), and you take on water and start to sink and have to abandon ship. 

More pleasant thought:  You need a dinghy for best-case scenarios, as when you’ve just avoided marina docking fees by anchoring out in some secluded cove, and since you have a dinghy you can still row into town for a romantic dinner at a cozy little bistro.

Because Naiad is so large—half the length of the mothership--the Captain’s original idea was to tow her.  But you can’t tow a dinghy through locks (it's either just not allowed, or you have to pay for BOTH boats--and pay by the foot!) and we’ll go through hundreds of locks on this trip.

So she has been living on the roof, where she is mostly out of the way. (Except that she throws a shadow on the solar panels, and when it’s the Crew’s turn to steer, well, it’s hard for short people to see over her.)

Could she actually BE towed? We didn't actually know!  Like a racing shell, Naiad is very narrow, and ordinarily she relies on outrigger-style oarlocks and very long oars to set up and stay balanced.  Many, many observers predicted the first wake from a powerboat would send her spinning like a fishing lure, if it didn’t swamp and sink her outright.

Somehow we never tested this theory before we departed.

Making and installing a towing bridle--while cruising
Naiad has been riding high for weeks, but Monday we came to a 16-mile stretch of the Trent River with no locks.  It was a sunny, warm day and the water was the proverbial glass.  So, we launched her. 

And . . . she tows!  She sits in the water lightly, like a gull, and the little uptilt at her bow lets her skip lightly over powerboat wakes.

(Look closely at photo on left to see very large smile on Captain's face.)

The Captain now is considering his next construction project:   Outfitting her as a platform for afternoon naps.

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