Hello sailors: rigid or inflatable? That’s just one of the questions you should be asking yourself if you fancy messing about on a boat when the only experience you’ve had of sailing is the Rod Stewart song.
The dinghy (rigid or inflatable) is entry-level boat ownership, but it’s classier and cheaper than a floating gin palace and a lot more fun; and you can take it on holiday if it’s not too big.
A good place to start is the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), whose website has extensive information on how to launch your life afloat. The name may sound a little intimidating – all braid and blazers – but it offers sensible, friendly advice to the nautical tadpole.
There are details of courses and training, taster sessions, where to find a sailing club and what kit you’ll need to buy (not much to begin with). You can also be a boater not a floater, and read up on what you’re letting yourself in for, using the RYA’s bookshop.
An inflatable-plus-outboard engine package can be bought for under £1,000 at Mail Speed Marine, which claims to the UK’s largest mail order chandler. It’s a one-stop shop, selling safety, fishing, marine and dock equipment, sailing clothing and portable cooking gear. Their staff are happy to give advice on the phone, whether you are going to sail your dinghy just for fun or plan to tow it behind your yacht (Mr Rothschild).
Meanwhile, you can paddle your own canoe at Planet Marine. Inflatable dinghies, kayaks (and paddles) can be bought from this online-only firm, which started off selling fishing gear and is now a major player in the rub-a-dub market with warehouses around the country for fast delivery.
Though you can find a workmanlike Wetline dinghy there (for around £1,444), it’s a specialised site and doesn’t carry much in the way of advice for the novice who doesn’t know his bosun from his backstay.
More encouraging is Go-Sail, which explains the different classes of dinghies and includes a sailing glossary, so you can read up on what everything means. (It may make you feel slightly less green when approaching your local club.)
Go-Sail is bursting with sensibly written advice about where to buy, what to buy and where to store it, but it’s not all about inflatables. This is where to learn about proper dinghies with sails, and it answers all the questions anyone need consider before spending money. Probably one of the best go-to sites for newbies.
Finally, if anything could persuade me to leave terra firma, the Comet Zero might. It’s great for beginners, says Devon-based Comet Dinghies. Prices start from £3,950 – which seems a lot for a beginner’s sailboat – but it is a classic little beauty, just made for zipping across the Salcombe Estuary on a sunny afternoon.
Even more alluring is the Comet Trio, a £7,250 15ft family all-rounder with a slab-reefing mainsail and a furling jib. Well, whatever rings your ding, I suppose.
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