The topic of using a kayak as a dinghy is one that comes up from time to time on some of the boat forums. The usual answers are “No Way” from your typical cruiser with an inflatable with 9.9 HP or larger outboard. And “Hell Yeah” from minimalists like Cowboy Bob.
The right answer is probably somewhere in the middle. The truth is it really depends on your specific situation. I’ve personally been using the kayak more than the dinghy lately.
A kayak is generally going to cost less than a dinghy, much less if you add an outboard. With a kayak every time you go to shore you’re getting some exercise, similar to riding your bike to work. The same can be said for a dinghy with oars, but a kayak is faster and much easier to row…I mean paddle.
A kayak can also go through much shallower water than a dinghy, which could be a big benefit, depending on where you’re anchored. Where we are now we have to be careful not hit the bottom with the prop on the dinghy at low tide. In some spots it’s so shallow the dinghy can even run aground.
A large sit on tandem kayak has plenty of room and weight capacity to carry a few bags of groceries, water jugs, and more.
A kayak is going to be harder to into and out of, especially from the boat. If the water is choppy at all you’re much more likely to get wet in a kayak. So it may not be the best choice if you have a long run to shore and have to paddle in to work every day. At least not if you have a job that requires you to get dressed up.
Although you could easily get around this one the same way as bike commuters by changing after you get to work.
Lastly, although most kayaks have a pretty heavy weight limit, it is harder to carry larger items like a bike. I was able to fit my folding bike one of my old tandems, though, but of course getting it onto the boat wasn’t easy.
The Final Word
In the end whether you can really use a kayak as a dinghy or not depends on a few things. Your health and personal fitness level. Your location and where you have your boat anchored or moored. Whether you’re out cruising or just living on the hook and going into shore every day.
And if you need to bring large items to and from the boat frequently. For most people…and dogs if you ask Sparky, the answer is probably sometimes. In my next post I’m going to review some of my favorite kayaks.