Tinker Time


By Jim Favors

I imagine I’m like most boaters, when I’m home, and not on the water, I have other interests – household chores, social and family events that require my undivided attention. I’m not complaining, quite the opposite, because I thrive on being busy and engaged, I look forward to my time at home. On the flip side, when I’m in the cruising mode, I only have cruising with Lisa, and the boat, to occupy my thoughts and attention. I love being on our boat and in the cruising mode. Truthfully I love it any time I’m able to spend time on the boat, but even more so when we are cruising for extended periods of time. It’s during these one week, month or more excursions when I feel I become one with boating – It’s when I feel the most relaxed and able to take my time tinkering with the systems of our boat to repair, enhance or create areas that will elevate our life on board. Lisa feels even stronger about this than I do. So I guess you could say we’re in the same boat, both physically and, more importantly, mentally.

Having an open storage locker covered by a functional door gives our saloon a more finished look.

Recently we were cruising on the Tennessee River for three weeks, giving me plenty of quality time to spend with Lisa and it also allowed me time to pay some needed attention to the boat. Up to that point, for a little over a year, we had been towing our dinghy behind our Ranger Tug, we towed it with a long painter line, – it worked fine, however it did limit us as to how we could travel. I was always concerned about the stability of our dinghy while underway, we needed to be mindful of its whereabouts as it could easily have trouble in rough seas. Equally I didn’t feel comfortable cruising beyond trawler speed and we always had to address securing the towed dinghy before and during dockage, as we tied up at a lock or when anchored out. Having more time to concentrate on the boat, since we put her in the water at Grand Rivers, Kentucky, made me well aware it was time to add a davit system to Kismet.

I had been researching various brands of davit systems since we bought the boat. I was looking for one that would comfortably carry our diminutive 7’7” dinghy and her accompanying 4HP outboard. As most things go with boating we found the marine marketplace had a lot of available davit choices to consider. I quickly weeded out most, as they didn’t fit our short list of requirements. Someone else may have different needs or desires in a davit system and even have the same boat as us, therefore it should not be construed that one davit system is better than another, it simply means that the one you choose should meet your particular needs and not someone else’s.

I had a dock and dinghy line, along with a floating finger dock and water motion all trying to get in the way during my “Kismet” vinyl graphics install.

An unobstructed line of sight from the pilothouse and ease of deployment were my overriding requirements for our future davit system. A stand off system, where the dinghy is folded up vertically, towards the transom, did not make our short list. Although a great system and it would have met our ease of deployment requirement, our visibility prerequisite would not have been satisfied. After ruling out the stand off system, I started looking at swim platform davit systems where a dinghy slides up onto the davit directly from the water and rests parallel to the swim platform of the boat.

There are several functional and lightweight swim platform pivot cradle davit systems available, but ultimately we chose one from Hurley Marine. The deciding factors that tipped us toward the Hurley Davit System were, not only that they are made in the U.S.A., but they are lightweight too. The one we bought was made of lightweight (15 lbs. total) marine grade aluminum; they are electro coated with a primer and have a powder coated finish for better durability. Lastly, based on an online video demonstration, we learned that the dinghy was easy to deploy and retrieve and still provided easy access to the swim platform.

During my measure and cut routine, I’m trying to determine where the davit system should be mounted.

Armed with the necessary arsenal of information, we had a unit shipped to us from Hurley Marine prior to leaving Michigan for our Tennessee River adventure. We stowed the box of davit parts with the rest of our gear in the bed of the truck and headed south the next day. I like a good project and I was excited to get time on the boat to assemble the system and try it out.

I read recently that the closer you have your dinghy to the water the more you’ll use it. On a prior boat we had a hydraulic roof mounted hoist and I can honestly say we would have used our dinghy a great deal more had it been easier, safer and faster to deploy and retrieve. When we anchor out, we like to scout out the surrounding areas or run to shore to stretch our legs.

Like most projects that involve drilling and/or cutting holes in a boat, I like to take my time. Measure twice, cut once comes to mind – except on a boat I find it’s a good practice to measure three or more times, sleep on it and cut once. Since we purchased Kismet I’ve initiated several projects using my self-imposed measure and cut method, all without having made a major blunder.

With my drill at the ready I review my calculations one more time.

My first fun project of this sort, on our new Ranger Tug, was having a 12-inch square hole cut out of the fiberglass in the interior of our saloon. My goal was to install a teak door so the space under the saloon settee could be better accessed for additional storage. Next up, I installed an inline black water holding tank charcoal filter. During this install I had to cut away a 12-inch section of factory installed vent filter hose. Cut too much and it could have been a huge problem but all went well and now we have fresh aromas emanating from our black water vent instead of the typical foul odors. Another enhancement I made was to fabricate teak doors to cover the two storage lockers above the helm area.

Lastly and probably the most personal touch one can make to a boat is installing your boat’s name to the transom. With the vinyl graphics in hand, and with the boat floating in the water, I laid on the swim platform, as I carefully applied our “Kismet” moniker. Again I measured many times, vacillating about the correct way to apply it, but in the end it came out perfect. These personal touches have made the boat more functional to our needs.

As you can see, the Sanigard filter install was a tight fit. I had to check several times to make sure my measurements were correct.

I’d much rather sit in the cockpit of our boat with fresh aromas emanating from this vent.

Shortly after our launch in Kentucky I was eager to start the install process for our new Hurley davit system. I took advantage of the stillness of the harbor waters and began my measuring routine; I took the measurement three times. Then I had to sleep on it a little before cutting. I had only four holes needing to be drilled through the swim platform fiberglass, a relatively easy task, as long as it was done right the first time. Everything seemed fairly straightforward except by the time I was ready to take the next step, to drill the holes, we were anchored out at Cypress Creek. I had the added element of completing the installation while hanging partway off the swim platform as the boat swung about, from normal water movement, while we were at anchor, – not an easy task.

The holes are drilled and mounting brackets secured at the taped off marking spots (shown here with the davit system deployed).

Working on a boat project at dock always provides an opportunity for welcome suggestions from fellow boaters. I recall one boater who was helping me with a dock project describe his helping me as “task avoidance.” He went on to state that most of us would rather help other boaters with their tasks than tackle their own projects. I welcome the help; I always learn something in the process.

The reason I slept overnight on my formulated davit set up was to make sure I had thought everything through. My boat is 8-foot 6” wide; so one concern was to make sure I had the brackets set in the proper location so the dinghy wouldn’t ride too far to port or starboard. In addition I had to make sure the brackets were far enough away from the transom to give the dinghy adequate clearance and at the same time provide enough leverage for the cradle to pivot properly.

As you can see the cradle position makes it easy to retrieve the dinghy for quick mounting.

After many measurements, re-measurements, dock suggestions, eye balling for the proper dinghy placement, taping the pattern off on the platform, re-taping and more dock advice we retired for the night in hopes that the clarity I sought for my project would come to me in my sleep.

Waking up the next morning, without having any installation nightmares, I proceeded with the final steps of hole drilling and installation of the dinghy davit setup in the afternoon just after we had set our anchor. With the holes finally drilled, brackets mounted and pivot arms attached, it was time for the true test of seeing how the dinghy would ride on the davits. Our only other task was to find the right straps to secure the dinghy to the cradle. When all was said and done, we were quite pleased with the result.

From the view above, from the cockpit, you can see how the davit system looks with the dinghy secured to the swim platform.

Our new davit addition makes it so much easier to launch and retrieve our dinghy and, because it’s close to the water without actually being in the water, we can rest assured our prior dinghy storage constraints (up top with the crane option) would not be an issue on this boat with this fast and easy dinghy deployment system. Now we can cruise without always looking behind us to see if the dinghy is holding up to the wave action and we don’t have to panic when we slow down to idle while choosing a spot to anchor or approaching a dock. (When towing it’s easy to forget the dinghy line could get tangled in the prop without the proper tension maintained on the line.) To a guy like me, there is nothing quite like a project completed without complications or delays and the satisfaction quotient is a nice after effect. Our Kismet is shaping up nicely and, if I do say so myself, I know Lisa likes all the improvements; I think as I’m writing this she’s busy thinking up something else for me to do on the boat to make it better fit our personal tastes.