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Updated on August 14, 2009

A dinghy is a type of boat, often quite small, and towed by a larger vessel (or carried by even bigger ones).

It also refers to small recreational sailing boats or racing yachts. Due to their small size they are ideal for beginners learning to sail.

They can be rowboats, rigged for sailing or have an outboard motor. They can be made of wood, aluminum, fiberglass or even rubber (inflatable).

Having a private berth at a wharf or dock is quite expensive. Convenient but costly. An alternative to this is to anchor offshore and access the yacht by dinghy. If the yacht is big enough, it can be stowed onboard, or it can be towed behind.

The yawl, or dinghy, sometimes called a stern-boat when it was sling from davits at the stern of the ship, was a short, square-sterned rowing boat, either lapstrake, or caravel-planked, and sometimes fitted to sail.

Dinghy Construction

In lapstrake boats the plank edges are lapped and fastened through the joint, providing a strong hull of relatively light weight.

In caravel-planked boats the planks are laid edge to edge over wooden frames, or ribs, attached to the keel. The seams are caulked with cotton and putty.

The other method of constructing wooden boats is the strip-planked method. These boats are constructed with long, narrow strips of wood which are fastened to one another and to the frame. The seams are reinforced with waterproof glue for greater strength and tightness.

The development of waterproof marine plywood has made possible the construction of a different type of wooden boat. The use of plywood panels has simplified boat building because it requires a minimum of framing and fewer seams. However, because of the lightness of the plywood, the gunwales and various joints must be strengthened. Molded plywood boat s are made over a form by gluing and clamping together and then by heat-curing several layers of crisscross wooden plies. This method of construction provides each boat with a strong hull that has a minimum of framing.

Aluminum dinghies boats are light, durable and corrosion resistant. Most of them are riveted; some are welding; and some are stretch-formed over molds and jigs, with plastic-sealed seams. Because small aluminum dingies are easily transported on the roof of a car or by trailer and require almost no upkeep, they have become extremely popular. In Australia they are affectionately known as 'tinnies'.

Another development in construction material, newer than the others, is fiber glass. Fiber glass can be molded into almost any shape. The fiber glass is combined with liquid resin under heat and pressure to form a one-piece leak proof hull, which is durable and resists marine borers and rot. Most fiber glass boats do not require frequent painting, since the color us usually added to the resin or to the final gel coat.

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Dinghy Racing

Dinghy sailing is a competitive sport that also features at the Olympic Games. There are various classes for both men, women and mixed. The classes are known as Laser, Finn, 470, Laser Radial, Tornado catamaran and 49er skiff.

Dinghy Equipment

Oars. Boats were first powered by rowing. In the very least even if you have other means of propulsion, having some compact emergency oars on board is a good idea.

Motor. Depending on the hull configuration and the size of the motor, a dinghy can reach speeds of up to 25 mph. The outboard engine should always have the ability to swing up so the vessel can be grounded without damage to the propeller.

Sail. You have a choice between the simpler single-sailed gaff rig and a a triangular mainsail and jib. The sail is attached to a two-piece folding mast.

Dinghy Safety

Some of the following equipment is deemed a legal requirement depending on the state, province or county, but all should be considered necessary: a hand-bailer and a bailing sponge; large torch; signal whistle; signal mirror; flares; life-jackets (there should be one for each and every occupant); and a dinghy anchor such as a small mushroom or folding grapple hook anchor.


  • New Age Encyclopaedia, Seventh Edition edited by D. A. Girling, Bay Books, 1983. Volume 9.
  • Standard College Dictionary, 1963, Funk & Wagnalls, Harcourt, Brace & World.
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume x. 1971. Page 824.
  • Merit Students Encyclopedia, Volume 3, P.F. Collier Inc, 1979. Page 246. 


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    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 7 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      Just found this hub through searching. Nice description of a dinghy - and then instructions on how to built one!

      I've put up a link from our hub "Family Dinghy Sailing".

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 8 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      We call them Sabots here, too. Cape Cod Frostys are a one design class composed of home built boats. The class supplies full size paper templates for all the pieces. My son and I built one in our basement a few years ago. The process is incredibly simple--1)Cut the pieces out of plywood using the templates; 2)Stitch the pieces together with copper wire through spaced holes drilled along the joints in the pieces of plywood; 3) Glue the pieces together with fiberglass tape and epoxy; 4) Cut the copper wire stitches off flush and fair the joints; 5) Apply several coats of varnish and go sailing. (Sails can be homemade or purchased from a sailmaker. The mast and boom are made from 1 inch dowels.)

    • darkside profile image

      Glen 8 years ago from Australia

      Here in Australia we call them Sabot's.

      My dad spent most of his life at sea (though on ships, not boats) but my legs are firmly planted on land. But up until I moved out to the country I lived half way (about 600 metre walk north or south) between a yacht club and a 16 foot sailing club. And right on the water. So we'd see those Sabot/Frosty's out on the lake on weekends with mainly the younger kids either competing or doing capsize drills.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 8 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Nice Hub! I once built a Cape Cod Frosty using Lauan plywood and stitch and glue construction. It didn't take very long.

      Here's a link to a picture of a Frosty.