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Old 04-25-2021, 08:49 AM   #1
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Does the size of your small boat matter?

It would have been too easy to say it using the other word, right?

We will soon be Lake Superior boaters, home base being Bayfield, Wisconsin. I sold my 2006 cruiser last year on Mississippi/St. Croix rivers up in Minnesota. Being a "boatnut" I somehow figured out how to make a Highfield 310 Classic dink fit on the back of that boat:



Where there is a boatnut, there is a way to spend lots of money to do something that everyone says you should not, and enjoy every dang second and dollar of it!

Underneath that all were a set of Hurley Marine H20 davits.....Todd Hurley himself told me I was a bit nuts...and it would barely fit....but he sold me the right stuff to do it and I was happy with it!

The cruiser is gone, but I still have the Highfield 310 Classic and Merc 20hp. And yes, it does fly!

New boat is a Mainship 390, comes with a nearly new Zodiac Cadet 310 with a 9.9 4 stroke Yamaha. New boat has the Seawise manual davit system.

Getting to my question - How much better is bigger for the small boat?

We used our Highfield setup a lot to cruise around...me 250...wife small..and kids 7 and 8. But that was on fairly small water rivers. Up on Lake Superior things are a lot bigger....and I'm by no means saying I'll be taking this thing out in any significant weather. But there are many places where it can be fun to scoot somewhere in a nice weather situation. Sea caves...lighthouses...shallow docks and sand bars where a small boat would be extra fun!

I think I'll keep the Zodiac / 9.9/ Seawise setup for the first season. Probably sell the Highfield 310 and maybe keep the motor for future something? Davits and everything are setup nicely. But longer term, would I be happier with something like a larger Highfield or similar setup?

Highfield CL310 and Zodiac Cadet 310 are both around 10'2" long. The Mainship 390 is wide...do I need to fill the whole swim platform? No.

Highfield 360 = 11'10"
Highfield 380 = 12'6"

Interesting fact - the Zodiac Cadet 310 is fiberglass, weighs 191 lb. The Highfield 380 is aluminum, weighs 183 lb.

I know bigger will be better for most things...but how much? My kids are growing...I hope to be shrinking....but probably not lol.

I'd love your thoughts. THANK YOU!
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Old 04-25-2021, 09:44 AM   #2
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It really depends on your wants and needs. How many people and how much stuff do you want or need to carry in 1 trip? How far do you plan to go with the dinghy? If you'd typically be going 1/4 mile to shore and back with 2 people and some stuff, your needs are less than if you want to load up 4 people plus the dog and then go explore everything within 5 miles without moving the big boat.

Realistically, the 310 is a good starting point. Plus, you already have 2 of them, so I'd plan to use one for a bit and see if you feel a reason to go bigger.
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Old 04-25-2021, 09:48 AM   #3
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So does the size of your dinghy matter? Of course! Too small does not plane off right with two adults. Both of you have to hang over the bow like a hood ornament to get the bow down. Ours is 8.5 ft and we gave up trying to plane. Single adult no problem.
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Old 04-25-2021, 09:49 AM   #4
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By asking the question you are letting us know that you are not satisfied with the 10' on a bigger mother ship.
With your present loads, I think you have maxed out the 10' dinghy size. Your Admiral will appreciate the better stability and less splash taken aboard in a larger dinghy. Your young crew will still be coming along as they grow, so you need to be able to accommodate that growth.
I have gone from a soft inflatable 11' with 15hp (very wet ride, but lots of power with young kids) to 10'2" RIB with 20hp (less wet, better power, but I had by that time fewer crew coming along) to 12' RIB with 40hp. 11 years in on this one. Lots of power for 4 adults to plane, dry under most conditions, good top speed. Lots of room for extra gear, line puller, rod holders, fuel capacity. The only thing keeping me from going up again, to 14' with 60 hp is the limitation of transom width and davit capacity. As you can see, I am with you, bigger is better.
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Old 04-25-2021, 10:08 AM   #5
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Thats a lot of weight on that platform. If your on plane and hit even 1+ foot waves. The inflatable will a hammering affect on the platform.
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Old 04-25-2021, 10:34 AM   #6
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Thats a lot of weight on that platform. If your on plane and hit even 1+ foot waves. The inflatable will a hammering affect on the platform.


That boat sat stern low at rest, but on plane there was no issue, there was plenty of clearance from any wave we’d normally hit.

The Highfield 310 was about 140 lbs, engine about 100, fuel and junk another 50. If a swim platform can’t support 300 lbs, there are probably other problems. It worked well for us and was well supported.
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Old 04-25-2021, 10:36 AM   #7
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Greetings,
Mr. mn. Unfortunately (maybe) there is no real answer.



Run what ya brung?
Go big or go home?
You can never have too many boats?
A bird in the hand is...?
If a little is good, a lot is better?
No substitute for cubic inches?
It takes two to tangle?
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Old 04-25-2021, 11:44 AM   #8
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We tow our 15' runabout [err... dinghy]. She's got 50 HP o/b on her tail, four comfortable seats, nicely enclosed bimini top that fastens to full windshield, two 6 gallon tanks of gas, bit of storage under closed bow deck and dash board operation dials

She [a 1975 Johnson powered 1975 Crestliner we nick named "Mini Me"] gently cruises a comfortable 25 knots with Linda and me aboard. Mini Me will do 39.6 knots at WOT [per gps - at slack tide] with just me [trim tabs are set just right].

Throughout most of my/our boating careers I/we towed a runabout. For a long time it was a 13'3" Boston Whaler with 40 HP Johnson. Towing is an art I learned when very young in New England ocean as well as inside waters. Properly actuating the many different line-use and fastener techniques enables [rear-pull or side-tie] towing to work well in rough waters and/or in close quarters too.

Our current tow behind is a great little cruiser [very fuel efficient - 20 +/- nmpg at a gentle planing 25 knot speed] while our Tollycraft remains anchored. In SF Delta we often go to visit towns' public marinas, friends' on-island resorts and restaurants at marinas that are from a few miles to over 20 miles away.

Item... years ago where Mini Me's capabilities were really appreciated/needed:

Phone rang to let us know our beloved 89 yr. Matriarch [wife's mother] had a serious heart attack [btw, she's still alive at 97 now!]. For a long vacation weekend, our daughter and husband [in their early 40's with their child] were aboard. We were anchored-out several miles from our marina. We live 100 miles away... sooo...would have taken too long to up anchor, properly dock our Tolly and get on the road in time. In a flash we loaded Mini Me with all five of us; as well as the kids' luggage. I hit the starter, pushed the throttle and put Mini Me up on a strong plane. She transported us all back to the marina in quick fashion. From that point [as the three started racing 100 miles home in our kids' SUV] I went back to our Tolly and brought her into berth.

We simply love to always have a sizable, cruise-able tow behind runabout during our pleasure boating days!

Happy Dink-Daze!! - Art
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Old 04-25-2021, 02:17 PM   #9
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That’s a great looking towable boat Art.
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Old 04-25-2021, 02:19 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rslifkin View Post
Realistically, the 310 is a good starting point. Plus, you already have 2 of them, so I'd plan to use one for a bit and see if you feel a reason to go bigger.
Great point, that's the plan right now. Use the Zodiac / 9.9 that comes with the boat, already setup for the boat. Adjust from there after a season.

Thanks!
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Old 04-25-2021, 02:26 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Art View Post

She [a 1975 Johnson powered 1975 Crestliner we nick named "Mini Me"] gently cruises a comfortable 25 knots with Linda and me aboard. Mini Me will do 39.6 knots at WOT [per gps - at slack tide] with just me [trim tabs are set just right].

Happy Dink-Daze!! - Art
Art, that's a great little boat you've got! Thanks for the comments!
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Old 04-25-2021, 03:49 PM   #12
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My wife used to sail out of Bayfield. Spent a couple of trips sailing the Apostles, and went up to Isle Royale another time. Pretty area!
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Old 04-25-2021, 04:52 PM   #13
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Also think where you are and what you do enters into this decision. When full time cruising there were frequent occasions where we where anchored miles from the nearest port. Going food shopping, to a chandlery,laundering bedding or going to the hardware store meant miles of travel. Often in a desire to not do that trip too often you needed a bigger dinghy to carry the weight. Especially if you were carrying out liquids (fuel, beer, soda, water etc.) or other heavy things. Also dinghy exploring is great fun. Carry along everything you think you might need and be gone all day not knowing where you’ll be and what you make encounter.
The other occasion where bigger is better is in surf and adverse currents. It’s fun to go to a deserted beach. Often you can’t drop the dinghy’s anchor and just swim in. Either you have stuff you don’t want to get wet or the surf is enough the dinghy will fill even at anchor. So coming in isn’t a problem but you need a decent sized engine to safely get off the beach. Same when dealing with strong currents, decent sized wind waves or in some places even tides. Wouldn’t want anything less than a good 15hp and would feel better with >20hp. so that defines smallest dinghy you can get away with.
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Old 05-10-2021, 01:23 PM   #14
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St. Croix river to Bayfield

Congrats! on the new boating adventure. We were boaters on St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers for years. Moved to Lake Superior; Bayfield area. Unlike the rivers where you dinghy often, it's rare on Lake Superior. The only time we used a dinghy was if we were anchored in a bay and wanted to go to shore to hike. Most dockage in the Apostle Islands National Park will work for your Mainship. On a calm Lake Superior day we anchor our boat close to the sand caves and took the dinghy into the sea caves; you will only want to do this on a calm day. Otherwise the waves are crashing into the sea caves and makes it very uncomfortable. As far pulling up to sand bars, there are few. Lake Superior water is cold. Even off Long Island in August, the water is only 70 degrees. The weather turns quickly on Gitche Gumee. One day in July, we left port in 1-2 foot seas and weather forecast good. Within 2 hours we went from Thunderstorm Watch to Thunderstorm Warning to Tornado Warning with seas at 10 - 12 feet. Boat handled the conditions well and made it to a safe harbor. Boating on Lake Superior you must be prepared for all and any conditions. What marina will you keep her at? We enjoyed on time on Lake Superior and continue to speak fondly of those years. Now we boat in the Gulf of Mexico.
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Old 05-10-2021, 02:04 PM   #15
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Size depends on who you ask and the need to over compensate.
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Old 05-10-2021, 04:20 PM   #16
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Congrats! on the new boating adventure. We were boaters on St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers for years. Moved to Lake Superior; Bayfield area. Unlike the rivers where you dinghy often, it's rare on Lake Superior.
Thanks! I spent from about the age of 8 to about 28 boating on various sailboats from a 21 foot Luger (we survived lol!) to a 33 foot Tartan up on Lake Superior. It's an amazing place! After about a 20 year break, and being tired of all the noise on the St. Croix/Mississippi, I'm pumped for the move. I'll be introducing my 7 and 8 year old to the area at about the same age I was.

Thanks for the tips. I agree our usage will likely be quite different from the river. I still have a Highfield 310 RIB with a 20hp Merc on it. I think I'll sell that boat, but keep the motor and see how we do with the Zodiac 310/9.9 combo that comes with the new boat.

Part of the fun is just messing around on the small boat. We did a lot of exploring via the small boat on the rivers, but yes definitely aware of the differences the big water will bring us.

What about the secret sand bars published in the 1980's books you can't get anymore? And NO I WON'T TELL haha!

We will be at a place called Pike's Bay marina, it's next to Port Superior. I really wanted to be in town, but as an adult I'm realizing the fantasy I had with being in town may be just that.

Lots of changes in Bayfield. Mary Rice passed away in December. Most of her places either have been sold or are in-process. Even Maggie's is no more! That one made me a little sad...but I did get my kids there last season twice to see it in its "Flamingo" state.

Water temp - We were there this last August. The little beach park between Washburn and Bayfield....the water was probably 80 for a few days! It was amazing, but I agree, a rare event!

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Old 05-10-2021, 05:38 PM   #17
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As the saying goes, "Whatever Floats your Boat".

Lake Superior can be very unforgiving. I guess I would reccomend a little more substantial boat.

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Old 05-10-2021, 06:30 PM   #18
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As the saying goes, "Whatever Floats your Boat".

Lake Superior can be very unforgiving. I guess I would reccomend a little more substantial boat.

pete

I agree. For year 1 will go with what I have, once it’s home at the dock can figure out how much bigger I can go. If I stick with a blow up boat 2 ft longer would be ideal.

Thanks Pete
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Old 05-10-2021, 08:20 PM   #19
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Size depends on who you ask and the need to over compensate.
Wifey B: Anyone who says size doesn't matter, doesn't have it. Sorry, old line, couldn't resist and don't necessarily believe it.

Now, to the point. I want the largest size that will comfortably fit (dinghy or tender I'm talking about). More passengers, handle rough water better, just too many advantages. We have a 330 (as do two friends on similar) on a boat but it's the largest that will fit in the garage. However, when we could fit a 385, we had a 385.
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Old 05-10-2021, 10:21 PM   #20
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My comment.

We upgraded from a 3.1m RIB with a 6hp to a 4.3 Plastic Wally with a 30hp with a center console.

Better boat allround.

Cons.

Heavy to lift. Dragging above the tide line on a beach is impossible unless you have a boat load of people. I have some rollers coming that should make it easier, we shall see..
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