Choosing Best Dinghy For You: Roomy, Rugged, Safe & Fun

Portland Pudgy Safety Dinghy known for stability, unsinkability.

Your yacht tender is your link to shore. It’s worth putting some careful thought into what you need before you purchase a dinghy. In choosing the best dinghy for you, consider its roominess and buoyancy, stability and unsinkability, ruggedness, motoring and rowing, sailing, and transporting. In addition, especially if you’re a blue water sailor, think about your dinghy’s functionality in an emergency.

portland pudgy safety dinghy in harbor

Best Dinghy: Roomy & Buoyant

Your dinghy is your “family car” that you load up with groceries, kids, pets, crew, and friends. Its’ carrying capacity, cockpit size and storage space are important. You don’t want a dinghy that’s so big it’s unwieldy and difficult to transport. You don’t want one so small that you have to go back and forth repeatedly to do all the hauling of people and provisions you need to do. Your tender should be “just right.”

The Portland Pudgy is compact and pram-shaped, but it has more space and the USCG rates it with a higher carrying capacity than many ten foot dinghies. This is because of its amazing buoyancy (closed-cell foam under the floor), and its ingenious design: if you followed the curves of its rounded bow to their logical point, the dinghy would be just under ten feet, but the Pudgy has no wasted space in the bow. In addition, the Pudgy has 12 square feet of storage space in the interior side walls.

Best Dinghy: Stable & Unsinkable

You want a dinghy that’s unsinkable and that’s difficult to capsize. Dinghies often have to put up with heavy loads and unforgiving seas. Even with the cockpit and the interior chambers of the Portland Pudgy dinghy deliberately flooded, the boat floats with several inches of freeboard. The Pudgy is unsinkable and it’s easy to bail it out, so you need never be stuck in a swamped boat.  (This can be lifesaving!) It’s very difficult to capsize the Portland Pudgy. But, if you manage to do it, the Pudgy is easy to right, and it comes up empty of water because of the thick side walls. Its stability makes it the best dinghy to use as a platform for fishing, hunting, and photography.

Best Dinghy: Row or Motor

You need a tender that’s easy to maneuver to shore and back, and you may want to use it for fun. The Portland Pudgy is a joy to row (unlike inflatables, which are basically impossible). Many Pudgy owners use it for recreational rowing. The Pudgy has adjustable rowing positions allowing you to balance the load and give yourself legroom. It’s also a good little motorboat, moving along nicely with a two HP (or 3.5 HP with a simple modification). Southwinds article by Pudgy owner, Paula Shur.

row or motor dinghy yacht tender

Best Dinghy: Sailing

Once you’re in an anchorage or mooring field, it’s nice to be able to sail to where you want to go. The Portland Pudgy is a fun, safe sailboat that lets you sail to shore from your mooring or explore islands and coves that your big boat can’t get to. And it’s a fun little recreational sailing dinghy in its own right. Amazingly, all of the sailing gear (including the mast, gaff, boom, and sail) stow neatly in a bag that fits inside the interior wall space, via the transom hatch)!

Best Dinghy: Tough & Rugged

If you’re ever in out of the way places without docks, you need a rugged yacht tender that you can beach on rocky shores. For that matter you may need to consider the wear and tear of transporting the family dog…claws can wreak havoc on inflatable boats. (One way or another, you don’t want a dinghy with hole in it.) The Portland Pudgy is the best dinghy for rugged use, molded of the same tough polyethylene as rugged ocean kayaks.

good dinghy for floating and relaxing with dogs

Best Dinghy: Easy Transport

You need a dinghy that’s easy to transport, either on deck, on davits, or towed. You don’t want it to be too heavy, and you don’t want a flimsy eggshell. Inflatables are surprisingly heavy and are notoriously difficult to tow. Thin walled plastic dinghies likewise tend to skitter about when towed and flip easily. The Pudgy is the best dinghy to tow:  it’s straight as an arrow and there’s very little drag because of its buoyancy. It’s light enough to easily carry on deck or on arm davits or swim platform davits. We designed the Pudgy with a pram shape to make it compact enough to fit on the deck of a moderate sized yacht.

towing dinghy yacht tender maine

Best Dinghy: Emergency & Self-Rescue Functionality

In tales of survival at sea, many survivors recount the horrors of waiting passively in a leaky life raft. Steve Callahan, who survived 76 days adrift, says that if he had had a “dynamic” lifeboat (i.e. one he could have sailed to safety) he would have reached safety in six days from where his boat sank. The Portland Pudgy is unsinkable. The Pudgy lifeboat system includes an optional exposure canopy and other survival gear (including a sea anchor and sail kit), and you can sail it to safety.

Even without the special gear, the Pudgy’s ruggedness, buoyancy, unsinkability, and stability will keep you safer than any other dinghy on the market.

best dinghy emergency self rescue yacht tender