How I became a Dinghy Sailor

In late July, my girlfriend and I went to the beach. We wanted to rent some surfboards, but the lady who ran the surf shop said it was too late in the day and refused to rent to us.

A half-hour later, we stood waist-deep in the surf, discussing whether or not we should buy our own surfboards.

I usually try to enjoy things without owning them. Instead of buying land, go to a national park. Instead of buying sports equipment that clutters the garage and only gets used once a year, rent it.

Our conversation led to my complaint that there aren’t places to rent small sailboats without taking classes. I think this is because sailboats are a little more complicated than other rental watercraft (standup paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, etc.). Thus there’s more possibility of damage being done to the sailboat or sailor.

I learned and taught sailing at the summer camp I attended as a tween. We sailed 14-foot Snarks made of styrofoam. It wasn’t that complicated and our mistakes were great (often comical) learning experiences.

Some campers failed to tack and got pushed into the cattails at the back of the camp’s cove. Some capsized. It was a blast!

My girlfriend and I started looking at used boats on craigslist. We quickly found an eight-foot plastic dinghy with a sail-rig from a Snark. It was a steal at $400, so I called a friend who had a pickup truck and we picked it up.

The first few times I took the boat out, I relied on friends with pickups to get the boat to the water. One day, after buying some ratchet straps from an auto-parts store, I did an experiment. I tried to car top the boat.

I was amazed to discover I could easily lift the little dinghy onto my hatch back’s roof. I put some towels under the three points of contact and ran my ratchet straps through the car door opening and tightened them. The more amazing discovery was the way the mast and spars fit inside the car with only inches to spare.

The benefits of car topping are that I don’t have to fuss with towing a trailer or rely on truck-owning friends. I can load and unload the boat in under ten-minutes. It’s fully rigged in five!

Dinghies between 8–12 feet long can be rowed, sailed or motored, and are often car-topped with ease!

Now, its December. I’ve taken the boat out almost two dozen times since buying it six months ago. I’ve explored rivers, lakes, and even bays here in Houston, Texas. The boat’s shallow draft means I can go places larger sailboats can’t. The fact that I’m not renting the boat or taking sailing classes means I can go places where there is little traffic.

Sailing is commonly viewed as an activity for the wealthy.

My little boat is a tool that lets me enjoy local waterways without paying for a marina slip or buying waterfront property.