C'est la Vie is a 1966 Charlie Morgan 34.

Her home port is Everglades City, FL. Our typical cruising area is Southwest Florida, the Florida Keys, the Southeastern Atlantic Seaboard, and the Bahamas. We are C'est la Vie's third owners and purchased her in 2005. We continue to maintain and update this classic vessel. Please post any questions or comments about C'est la Vie or our travels via the comment links below.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Inflatable Dinghy

Our first dinghy, an 8 foot Port-A-Boat we called Origamy, served us well. 

Origami beached on Carrot Island with C'est la Vie in background - Beaufort, NC
After 7 years of faithful service the only alarming signs of wear were her seats splitting at the seams.  She towed well and stowed well on the starboard side along the rail.  

Origami stowed on C'est la Vie's starboard rail - Key West, FL
We retired her in spring 2012 after I completed the re-build / conversion of a 8 foot wooden sailing pram into a rowing dinghy - Dinghy Rebuild .  

Segundo - awaiting her first launch - Sunset Island, FL
We christened her Segundo.  She is a looker and we received many compliments on her.  We transported Segundo on the forward deck. 
C'est la Vie with Segundo on deck motor south in the ICW just off the Fort Pierce City Marina, FL.
Stowing a dinghy forward had the added benefit of serving as a fantastic hatch cover but added noticeable weight and windage to the bow. Did I mention weight?  When refitting Segundo I focused more on durability than weight.  Her 7'10' hull weights approximately 80 pounds. Ultimately her beauty could not overcome her foibles.  She proved to be a wet ride under power and towed poorly. 

For our next dinghy we decided to experiment with an inflatable.  Size and weight considerations eliminated the popular Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) designs.  That left us three options... aluminum roll up floor, wood slats floor, or inflatable floor.  This time around we elected to prioritize weight over durability and purchased the West Marine HP-275.   
Our yet un-named inflatable dinghy.
The HP-275's  high pressure floor (11 psi in floor vs. 3.6 psi in tubes) is identical to an inflatable stand up board. Having experienced the performance and durability of Anne's inflatable board boosted our confidence in this construction.  Thanks to the inflatable floor the HP-275 provides more carrying capacity and more free-board than her aluminum or wood slat brethren. She weighs in at  a svelte 63 lbs.  

We will experiment with various options for transporting the dinghy, but my guess is that for multi-day crossings she be deflated and go below; offshore hops she be stowed at the bow; and for daily travels inshore we will tow.  I plan to rig a bridle system for storing her out of the water along side C'est la Vie at night.

Does anyone out there have recommendations or diagrams for creating towing bridles or bridles for using a halyard to lift the dinghy out of the water for nightly storage? 


  1. Can you please tell me why you elected not to go with the Port-a-Bote for your new dinghy? We're considering one and would like some feedback.


    S/V Kintala

  2. Deb,

    The primary reason is storage space. We now have one rigid and one inflatable paddle board that occupy the storage space along the toe rail that once belonged to our Port-a-Boat. Secondary reason is our desire to explore all the options. We hope to get three to four years out of the inflatable. Then we can re-visit the decision fully informed.

    We did like many aspects of the Port-a-Boat. It traveled well on deck. It towed well in calm seas, but took on a bit too much water in rough weather. It proved very durable. Our 8 foot model did alright with two people + gear or three people.

    I found the weakest part of the Port-a-Boat was the oars & oar locks. I added oak strips along the gunwales for stiffness and added nice bronze oar locks to the boat. The next item to fail were the seats. They split along the seams. I have see this happen to other Port-a-Boats and the owners fabricated new seats.

    Let me know if you have additional questions. Thanks for the comment!