Buying a sailing dinghy is a big investment, so you want to make sure you get it right. There are many sailing dinghies out there, all with different characteristics, levels of condition and price ranges. No one’s dinghy has it all or does it all - it’s all about finding the boat that suits your specific needs.
If you have your heart set on buying your very own sailing dinghy, but don’t know where to begin, here’s our list of factors to weigh up and things to look out for.
1. Figure out where you want to sail your new dinghy
Before you even start looking for the boat itself, you need to establish which body of water you plan to sail on. As you know, there are many different types of sailing dinghies, and although all of them are suitable for inland sailing, only a few types are better suited to open water.
If you’re an experienced sailor and plan on sailing through choppy seas regularly, a high-performance or racing dinghy is your best bet as the shape of their hull is more rounded, so they’re better suited to cutting through waves.
High performance or racing dinghies are best for choppy conditions. Image credit: Steve Arkley.
2. Consider what you’ll be using your dinghy for
Are you buying a dinghy purely to cruise in? Or will you use it to make things a little more competitive from time to time? If you want to race your dinghy, figure out where you would do this and what class of dinghy racing is available there (mirror racing, laser racing etc.). You don’t want to buy a dinghy in a class, only to find there aren’t enough people to race against with that same class at your chosen sailing spot!
When buying a dinghy to use for cruising purposes, you can be a lot more flexible and base your choice on your personal preference.
3. Size does matter
The size of the boat is also something to consider. If you’re new to dinghy sailing, a smaller boat is lighter and therefore more manageable and so is likely your best bet. You’ll also have the added bonus of it being easier to transport.
However, if you want to sail with someone else you can’t buy a dinghy that’s too small. Luckily there are plenty of doublehanded dinghies that get the right balance – Wayfarer or a GP14 are two of the best examples.
Wayfarer dinghies strike the right balance between manageability and being big enough for two. Image credit: EXE Sails.
4. Work out how much you can afford to spend first
It goes without saying, but just in case we’ll say it anyway! As with any purchase, you need to calculate how much you want to spend beforehand – doing this will narrow down the seemingly endless choice of dinghies out there.
Your budget should also take into account all the additional costs rather than the cost of just the dinghy itself. Even if the dingy is advertised as ready to sail, you might have to fork out more for extras that you might not have considered. Sailing clothing, a dinghy trailer, a protective cover, dinghy insurance, and sailing club membership fees are all added extras to prepare yourself (and your wallet) for.
5. Go to boating shows
Boat shows are a great way to find inspiration at the same time as having a fun day out! They’re the perfect opportunity not only to see the different dinghy types in person but to also speak to manufactures, designers and other people in the know as they will be more than happy to offer their advice.
The RYA runs their own specialist dinghy show every March – where better to see what’s out there?
The RYA dinghy show. Image credit: RYA
6. Surf the web
Once you’ve taken all of these things into account, the search will become so much easier – so, it’s time to look at some dinghies!
Browsing the internet is by far the easiest way to do this. It enables you to search for the exact type of dinghy you want, in the condition you want, within your budget much more quickly than if you browsed in person. Online marketplaces such as Sailboats UK and Apollo Duck are great places to start.
7. Have a checklist
Once you’ve found a boat you want to go and view, make sure you have a list of things to inspect once you get there. Quite often a dinghy may be missing a few parts that you want or fall short of the condition you expect. So, it’s important to inspect it thoroughly before parting with your cash.
You’ll want to check the condition of:
- The hull – make sure it has no deep scratches or signs of damage and is in a stiff and strong condition.
- The sails – the cloth should have a good shape and be stiff. Floppy and misshapen sails are a sign of age and will significantly affect performance.
- The mast and rigging – check they aren’t misshapen.
8. Take along a seasoned dinghy sailor
Having a second pair of eyes never goes amiss. If you know a seasoned dinghy sailor, take them along to your boat viewing as there are some things that only an experienced pair of eyes can see. That way you can be sure nothing is overlooked.
Consult an expert before parting with your cash. Image credit: NTOA.
9. Take out Specialist Dinghy Insurance
Once you’ve made your dinghy investment, the last thing you want is to be left out of pocket if your dinghy is damaged or stolen. That’s why once you’ve taken the plunge and brought your dinghy, the first thing you should do is take out Specialist Dinghy Insurance to protect your new pride and joy.