Where to Leave Your Dinghy When You Go Ashore
We received this question from a reader. My first thought was that isn’t it obvious where to leave your dinghy when you go to shore but then thought about it. It is a really good question. Cruisers and more so charterers often get told off for leaving their dinghies in the wrong place.
Just yesterday we went to shore in Raiatea, French Polynesia. An island where the residents in certain parts of the island have a reputation for being less than hospitable to cruisers. And partly it is the sailors who are at fault, mostly charterers, who anchor where they like, with no respect for the fragile coral ecosystem their chain is destroying (but that is the subject of a future article).
In Uturoa the main town in Raiatea, there is no dinghy dock which is immediately evident as in so many other parts of the world. Rather there are two corners of the small craft marina that dinghies tie up to. There are some hand marked lines on parts of the walls where some resident boats have claimed the space as their own. Only the ferry docks are marked off-limits to all boats.
We proceeded to the furthest corner, where there were two other dinghies, and tied up. As I clambered up the concrete wall, I was accosted by a local tour boat operator, who immediately went off at me in French, saying that we and our dinghy were not welcome anywhere in the little marina. I listened and said that on our first visit to Uturoa by dinghy, we asked a security guard who worked for the port where we should tie-up, and he had shown us this exact place. The tour operator was having none of it and continued ranting for a further minute or two before storming off.
His friend came up to me a few moments later after watching me stand with my mouth open, taking his abuse. He apologized to me, saying that his friend was not entirely wrong. We could certainly stay in that spot for a couple of hours, but not overnight. I asked if there was a better place to leave my dinghy, and he said no, you’re in the right spot.
So there we were doing everything right and got into trouble. This situation is infrequent, I think we have only ever encountered something like this once before. And the abuse came from the town drunk sitting on the dock.
Where Should You Leave Your Dinghy When Going to Shore
Public Dinghy Dock/ Pier
The most obvious is the dinghy dock. This dock is normally easy to distinguish by the sheer number of dinghies tied to it. Often this dock will have a sign indicating that it is for dinghy use.
Restaurant or Bar Dock
In many parts of the world, restaurants will build a dock for their customers. It is expected that the dock is for the restaurant’s customers use only. We will often have lunch or a drink at a restaurant or bar and then ask if it would be ok to leave our dinghy while we go shopping or even for a walk. Sometimes we will tell the restaurant that we will be back for a beer after our business onshore is done and ask to leave our dinghy.
We have never once been turned down. However, we frequently see proprietors getting upset with people who show no regard for the dock being private and tieing their dinghies up without permission.
We are also encountering a growing number of hotels that will not allow any dinghies on their pier (or cruisers onto their properties) as cruisers have abused this privilege in the past and have tied up for hours, walked through the resort without permission to gain access to the street, and never purchase anything from the hotel, nor asked permission to use the hotel dock.
If there is no dock you will need to pull your dinghy up onto the beach. Above the high tide mark. Make sure you put your dinghy in a place that is not in the way of any foot traffic. If you are in a high theft area, it is wise to pull your dinghy all the way up the beach and then lock your dinghy with a sturdy cable wrapped around a tree.
Tip – Make sure to buy a heavy-duty stainless steel lock that will not rust before departing as fully stainless padlocks can be impossible to find once you are out cruising. It is also worth pointing out that pulling a dinghy up a beach can be extremely difficult especially if there is any slope. Investing in a good set of dinghy wheels is a must. I highly recommend the dinghy wheels from Davis Instruments which come in standard (100kg/ 220lbs) and heavy-duty sizes (150kg/ 330 lbs)
Make sure you take your kill cord with you when you leave your dinghy. We have seen kids climb in unoccupied dinghies on the beach and start them for fun. Not only could someone get hurt but your motor will be damaged by running without water to cool it.
If there are homes nearby should you see someone outside in their garden it’s a good idea to ask if it is ok to leave the dinghy where you have left it.
Never Leave Your Dinghy
- Private garden
- On someone’s property
- Private dock
- Commercial dock
- Fuel dock
- Tied to another boat
If In Doubt Where to Leave Your Dinghy
If in doubt ask a local official or nearby business owner if where you have left your dinghy is acceptable.
Make Sure You Can Prove Ownership Of Your Dinghy At All Times
Make sure you have copies of the purchase documents for your dinghy onboard your boat. Take a photo of these documents and store them on your phone. Should your dinghy get stolen, you will need to prove ownership before the police will do anything to help you find it.
Here’s another really good reason to be able to show proof of ownership. There was a family of liveaboards who lived on a derelict sailboat in the lagoon in St. Martin in the Caribbean (fortunately post-Irma they have moved on). The father was a real scoundrel, a huge brute of a guy, who hung out at a popular cruiser watering hole all day trying to fleece cruisers. During happy hour his trick was to climb onto people’s dinghies and write down the serial numbers of the motors.
He would then wait for a cruiser who was on their first-time visit to St. Martin to climb on their dinghy to leave. Normally after way too many beers. He would then start to raise hell that they had purchased his stolen engine, which was now on their dinghy. Or depending on the reaction he received, that they themselves had stolen his engine. Somehow he would extort money out of the now petrified and confused cruiser. As cruisers are a transient lot, he could pull this stunt over and over as there would be a new group of cruisers every few weeks.