Precious, Practical Pudgy

Today we took a break from all the home projects we are doing in order to get the house ready for renting. Sometimes you just need to remember why you are choosing this particular path in life, because this part of the process is such a lot of work and one leap of faith after another.  I guess if it were easy, everyone would do it, or so I understand.

We needed to remember this.

We needed to remember this.

Lately we’ve both been feeling a little overwhelmed at how much we’ve bitten off for ourselves by moving our departure date up so significantly. It’s cramping us a lot more than we thought it would. All of the things we still need to get for Galapagos, like safety gear, a dinghy, and a life raft (only the very tip of that iceberg of a list), all need to be bought in a much smaller time frame. In addition, we will have to put several thousand dollars into getting our home ready to go, and our other financial obligations haven’t disappeared, either. Deeply into the yard landscaping re-do, a huge project,  we both wanted to get away from the house for a day. We needed a little Galapagos time.

What a generous and touching surprise!

What a generous and touching surprise!

So we hopped down to Galapagos to spend the day on the boat and what did we find upon our arrival? Some thoughtful and generous fellow cruiser had left us a gift in the cockpit! No kidding! Someone left us a lovely gift of several books of cruising charts for the Strait of Georgia and other areas of British Columbia. I tell you what. This could not have happened at a better time for us. When things like that happen, I consider it a sign that we are doing the right thing and all will be well. It really made our month! Thank you, anonymous chart-giving fairy! We can really use that kind of encouragement about now. We appreciate the gift and will certainly pay it forward ourselves.

We had a perfect ‘light air sail’, which means we sat bobbing around Commencement Bay for a couple of hours enjoying the warmest fall day we can remember, then headed back to the dock. We were hoping to hail our new friends Donn and Kerry Christianson on their Baba 35 S/V Brigadoon, and take them up on their offer to try out their Portland Pudgy dinghy. Check out their blog. They have their own cunning plan.

Practical and, yes, adorable.

The Portland Pudgy is an all purpose dinghy that can be used as a life raft. It’s also allegedly a good rowing dinghy. We need a new dinghy for Galapagos before we make the big left turn. Our Walker Bay is perfect for around here, but it’s probably not the right dinghy for what we want to do. If cruisers consider the dinghy their car, which they do, then our Walker Bay is the equivalent of a one speed bike, especially as we have no outboard motor on it. This summer on our trip to Vancouver Island it became clear many times that we at least need a good outboard unless we want to row really far all the time.

Most cruisers use an inflatable boat with an outboard but at this point we are not sure that we are ‘most cruisers’. With the Portland Pudgy, you get an unsinkable boat that is easy to row (unlike inflatables), that won’t get punctured, will take a long time to deteriorate from the sun, is dead stable, and that can be outfitted with a complete life raft system if you so desire. You can also get a sailing rig for it (which you can do with our Walker Bay as well) The whole thing is practical and well engineered.

This kind of stability makes getting in and out much easier.

We took Donn and Kerry’s out for a row and were very happy with how it performed. It’s not particularly light weight, but it rides high in the water unless it’s fully loaded. We really like that the seat can be positioned for one person in the boat, or for two, simply by flopping it over. And we also like that the oarlocks are easily repositioned and are well engineered so that you can really give the oars a good pull and they stay put in the oarlocks. We have trouble with that on our dinghy and it’s dead annnoying.

The seat is positioned for two people in the boat.

We found that the dinghy didn’t track as well with two people aboard, and it’s a beefy little boat so you really get an upper arm workout rowing two adults around. Still, the idea of this ‘one stop shopping’ kind of dinghy is appealing to us. Mike would love a sailing dinghy, and we both enjoy rowing as well. Still, these are not cheap. The basic boat is just under $3000. Add another $1300 for the sailing kit, and then add another $2000 if you want the life raft outfit. Running lights and electrical are another 500$. My eyes begin to glaze over until I think about the cost of a life raft all by itself: about $4000-$5000. And at that price, you hope you never have to use it. If we have to spend that kind of money, we could do worse than to get ourselves one of these. 




19 thoughts on “Precious, Practical Pudgy

  1. it is adorable and looks sturdy as all get out. I really like the option of having as a life raft as well. You nailed it when talk about spending money on something you hope not to use.

    • What really hurt is that we had to just get rid of the life raft that came with the boat, even though it looked perfectly good. It was too old to rely on. Oy. I just have to remember that having a boat is like having a second house.

  2. It IS totally adorable! You could name it “Tortuga”. Or is it bad luck to name a boat Turtle?
    You cold also go with Bob, Kevin, or Kyle, if your taste and humor runs toward “Minions”…

    (And can you believe this fall? Incredible! )

    • Well, considering we named our boat ‘Galapagos’, which means ‘tortoise’, I think Tortuga would be ok! I thought of the minions as well. It really is a cute little boat. Maybe we should play the lottery more often. Yes, this fall is strangely beautiful. I am digging things out with ruthless abandon.

  3. We considered a Pudgy before we left, but several downsides left it out of the picture: (i) back in 2012, production of the Pudgy was such that delivery in time could not be guaranteed; (ii) we contacted an owner who said it was too slow with a motor; (iii) for a hard dinghy, it is pretty heavy; (iv) it was pricey compared to an inflatable or even a basic hard dinghy; and (v) most importantly (at the time), we wanted our deck clear while making passages. We purchased an air-floor hypalon Achilles inflatable (relatively light, easy (!) to roll up for passages, and speedy with a small outboard (but just ok for rowing).

    We’re glad we have the Achilles (though we are a little nervous about those sharp oysters back home here in BC). Having said all the above, we (well, David) do have a hankering for an easy rowing hard dinghy with a sail kit.

    Best of luck – – probably there is no “perfect” choice.


    • You bring up points we’ve been discussing since yesterday. We, too, like to have our deck clear and for this reason had been considering a hard bottom, yet foldable inflatable dinghy that could be stored in a bag below during passage. That’s still on the table. The other thing we’ve been mulling is how fast this dinghy can go fully loaded with people and only a relatively small 2.5 horse outboard. Sometimes a person needs to get somewhere fast, like if the anchor is dragging during a sudden squall and one is on shore watching ones precious boat bucking in the waves. Rowing isn’t going to cut the mustard in that instance. Putting along at a leisurely pace wouldn’t work well, either. So we think of these things. Many thanks for that comment. So right there is never a perfect choice.

  4. The Portland Pudgy is the primary dinghy and life raft for the sailing vessel Del Viento, currently in the South Pacific. The family of four has used it as their primary dink from Mexico up to Alaska; back south to Mexico and then across the Pacific. They have a rechargeable electric motor for their auxiliary power and have been very satisfied. You might want to check their blog to see how they’re doing and contact them for their feedback. The link is at

    • Thank you! We will check out their site. We are particularly concerned with the amount of horsepower that this dinghy is able to carry and how that would measure up in surf or strong current. We appreciate you pointing us in their direction!

  5. I’d reconsider the Walker Bay. With the tube kit, it’s far more stable than a standard hard dinghy but is easier to row than a standard inflatable and if you puncture a tube, it’ll still float just fine. It’s lighter than a Pudgy and sails and rows better. The 10 footer will make 4 knots with a 2.5 hp motor in calm water and mine will haul a family of 5 plus dog without complaint. Of course, it’s not perfect but neither is anything else. Here’s the bottom line as I see it:

    Best all around for rowing, sailing, beaching: Walker Bay
    Best for high speed getting around with stowability: inflatable with air or slatted floor
    Best for high speed getting around with beachability: rigid hull inflatable
    Best substitute for a dedicated life raft: Pudgy

    • Yes, you pretty much nailed it. We haven’t made a final decision yet. Money talks and we’re busy paying for a lot of things right now. We do love our Walker Bay, but it’s only the 8 foot one, and it’s difficult to row with two people as the rowing position cannot be altered. On our trip we sorely wished for a different dinghy. Still, again, money talks and I’m going to re-read the Pardy’s book on cost effective cruising. They have a lot to say about making your dinghy into a life boat.

    • Yes, it’s been there for awhile. I think it’s just a bit overpriced for a used dinghy and we’re watching it to see if they person lowers the price to a more reasonable ‘craigslist’ price.

  6. Glad you were able to try ours out! Good luck with your decision. We’re still trying to decide on what kind of motor we want to use on ours when we sail away, but for now, rowing, sailing and our little Electric Paddle all work fine with it. 🙂

    • Right now, it’s all about the funds and the boat we have is better than no boat at all. We’ll have to get down to the decision sooner or later though. Maybe we’ll find a good deal on a used one.

  7. nice work, good luck, found a pudgy in montana and towed it back to nj with a motorcycle. take a look at pics on my website. went thru every national park on way home.

  8. Pingback: Farewell to Puddler | Little Cunning Plan

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