Originally Posted by redbopeep
Hey, all, speaking of life rafts. We have a Tinker 12' inflatable w/sailing rig. Great little dingy for us. Even better that its hardly used but we bought it via the classifieds for very little money from its original owner.
Now, we know we can send it back to the company to have it set up for use as a life raft, too. I've seen the online reviews of its use as a life raft. Question: have any of you set up a Tinker as a life raft? What do you think?
Hello RBP ,
Here is a write up on the Tinker 12 by Scott and Barbara Thurston. :-
A sailing inflatable?
"Who ever heard of such a thing?" That was the way my friend Jack put it when I first mentioned the Tinker Traveler to him. Well, the Brits, that's who. The Traveler and its little brother the Tramp are exports from England and are as common there as Avons and Zodiacs are here.
The Tinker Traveler is an interesting hybrid, sort of a cross between a common inflatable and an Olympic-class sailing dinghy. Of the four boats tested, it is perhaps surprising that this is the most purely performance sailing machine of the bunch. The literature says it's at its best performance in winds between 8 and 15 knots, and that statement is backed up by Michelle D'Aoust of Neris Marine, the East Coast distributor. She tells of blasting around the Chesapeake with a partner and having to use the painter as a makeshift hiking strap when trying to keep this lightweight flyer upright in winds of 20 knots and more. When you see the boat and realize how light the whole package is and that the two hulls and the flat floor are not much more than catamaran hulls connected by a planing surface, you can imagine tire turn of speed this demon must have.
Unfortunately, the wind our scheduled sailing day was blowing less than 10 knots, but even in the zephyrs it was obvious that the Tinker was the fastest of the boats. Broad reaching and running, we were able to go just less than the speed of the wind, demonstrating the Tinker's catamaran-like abilities. She crawled upwind smoothly, tacking between 85 and 90 degrees with the roller-furling genoa pulling well. I was even able to hike the hull upwind, getting the rig high into clear air and effectively sailing on only one hull, a great way to decrease drag and increase speed. As you might imagine, the boat is quite stable with the catamaran hulls and the deep, wide daggerboard giving the Traveler nearly all its surface area below the waterline. The biggest boat of the bunch, it was very comfortable to move around and spend time in, even for two.
The hull is surprisingly stiff for an inflatable, though it does flex some. The two inflatable tubes that make up the side of a Tinker run one inside the other, and each is enough to keep the shape of V the boat, should one be punctured. The base of the mast sits on an aluminum brace that runs from the thwart/daggerboard trunk forward. This also helps keep the bow in place, against the upward pull from the rigging.
Unlike most of the inflatables we're familiar with in this country, the Tinker has a pram bow, a flat piece of wood that Joins the port and starboard tubes together, rather than having the main tube circle back. The tubes, 18 inches in diameter
at the stern taper carrot-like as they go forward, and from the permanently attached spray skirt for-ward they also slope toward the water. This odd design, reminiscent of the wave-piercing hulls seen in modern multis, is part of a second feature that sets Tinkers apart: available as an option is a kit to turn the dinghy into a highly regarded (and legal for racers) emergency life raft. The bow is shaped low because it becomes the boarding platform for the life raft.
While a low bow makes a great loading platform, under sail downwind it can make a good shovel, and the Tinker newsletter mentions what can happen if you inadvertently stuff the bow into the back side of a wave while planing downwind. (Apparently, there is quite a one design class in England, and the Brits race these things intensely.) Inadvertent pitch poling or temporarily "taco-ing" of the boat adds to the excitement, I guess, but it does explain the need for the two big drain plugs in the transom. I expect that it takes an awful lot of wind to get that to happen, and chances are the average user won't be sailing the boat under those conditions. With the weight of a motor aft, it's not so much of a problem under power. While rowing, the boat is so buoyant it floats above everything.
Due to time constraints, we didn't practice the capsize drill with the Tinker, but Michelle asserts that the boat rolls up dry, and I believe her. The boat is so buoyant and floats so high, the round tubes wouldn't scoop much water on the way back up.
The Traveler had the largest sail area of the four boats with up to 63 square feet set from its three-section mast (52 square feet if you set the working jib, rather than the genny). It was also the most complicated rig of the bunch. It was the only one with stays, nylon cords attached and adjusted with earn cleats. With experience, you could set the rig and be sailing in about 20 minutes, though it would be better to do it ashore.
Rowing the Tinker is a little cumbersome, with the locked-in oars, and the seat atop the thwart is of necessity at the same height as the row locks, making for an inefficient stroke angle. Michelle says they're coming out with a set of breakdown oars for next year that'll be easier to store, and with luck the grips will be smaller, too. It rows well, though tracking is a bit of an issue without any kind of a keel, arid the light weight makes it hard to have any authority over wind and chop. The best place for a passenger is forward of the thwart, feet under the skirt, facing for-ward. Sitting back-to-back with a passenger would give the rower some more support. There is room for cargo between your feet and farther under the skirt, but the tall rowing position would limit the amount you could carry. Like most inflatables, it's better to motor if you have to go any distance.
There is a towing eye well anchored on the pram bow, but like most inflatables, the Traveler is going to tow best with the bow tied against the stem rail, nose in the air. Even then it's susceptible to wind gusts and wear on the Hypalon. Since it folds up into a space less than 4 feet by 2 feet by I foot, why bother? Let the air out, stick it in a locker, and refill it when you get there. It only took us about 10 minutes with the supplied double-acting pump. Isn't that the beauty of an inflatable?
Testing the Traveler was an interesting diversion into just what a sailing tender might be. It embodies all the useful attributes of an inflatable: light, stable, and taking a minimum amount of storage space, with the added excitement of sailing and the ability to become a true emergency life raft. Its ability to sail will appeal to those who expect more from their sailing than a pleasant dodder around the cove. That it is a quality boat becomes apparent when it's known that no less than respected technical maven Nigel Calder owns one.
Nice touch: The tensioners on the stays.
Could he better: Complicated rig."
I heard of one being used successfully as a life raft off Lossiemouth - North Scotland - when the parent vessel foundered.