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life raft/dinghy for 20' bow rider in the San Juan Islands?

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  • life raft/dinghy for 20' bow rider in the San Juan Islands?

    I've had a '90 SeaRay BR200 for 3 boating seasons now. I've taken it out into some near San Juan islands for a handful of day trips and one overnighter. I've always been concerned about what to do if the boat takes on water and we need to abandon it. The salt water water is very cold there and one cannot survive in it long--its essentially the Pacific Ocean, just way inland (WA State). I've always taken along our very large tube that can support us if need be (strapped on the back of the boat), but feel like its not truly adequate (however it is a great dingy for paddling to shore after dropping anchor). Does one get a 10' - 12' rubber dingy, such as an Avon, and tow it behind a 20' SeaRay -- like what sail boats do? What are my options? What would be the safe thing to do? Thank you.

  • #2
    Well...lol the large tube sounds fun but I'd look for a 8 or 9 ft dinghy on Craigslist. If your boat has a swim step platform on the back you can buy some davits for it and stow the dinghy there when your underway. Just take a look at what the bigger boats have. Another option would be just tow the dinghy, but then your limited to only 8-10 knots. Ive noticed most sailboats just tow their dinghy. When I was a young deckhand, my family spent 5 days boating around the San Juans on the 22ft Fiberform Baja we had.. We just pulled the dinghy into the back of the boat when we were cruising at 30 knots (Had a 351 Windsor in it),when we got to our destination we'd just put it back in the water to get it out of the way. Hope this helps.


    • #3
      I've been boating in the SJI's for over 25 years. We are so fortunate to live in such a beautiful area.

      Learn to use your VHF radio. There are numerous marinas in the SJI's that have rescue/tow vessels and they monitor channel 16. Get yourself a cruising guide that lists the marinas on your planned route and keep it handy.

      It is extremely rare for someone to have to abandon their vessel in our inland waters. Learn to read and follow the charts to keep yourself from running aground, and listen to and heed your weather radio. Plan your trip and follow your plan.

      Immersion suits are an option if you are really freaked-out about it. (Even a SCUBA diving wet suit, semi-dry suit or dry suit would be an option, too. I was a diver for 15 years, and spent over 1500 hours in wet suits and semi-dry suits in Puget Sound. So I know that they will keep you warm enough to stay alive.) Probably your best option with a 20' bowrider. You might also want to consider a bail-out bag with a handheld VHF (among other things) in it.

      I have only had to call for assistance once, while I was out in the middle of Haro Straight with the orcas. Went to start my (recently professionally replaced) engine, and no go. Made the call on VHF Channel 16, and a tow vessel out of Roche Harbor was there within 20 minutes.


      • #4
        Thank you DaboatnutinWA & bwraven for your message and ideas!


        • #5
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          A little late on posting on this, but I agree with bwraven. My family and I spend about 25-30 days a year in Puget Sound; only a handful of times have I seen someone actually go in the water. Two were outside of a marina and a result of negligence (one a small boat overloaded in too rough conditions, the other a capable boat being driven into a tide rip it could have easily avoided) and all the others were people without life vests on falling off the boat or the dock IN the marina.

          Always check, doublecheck, and recheck your boat and equipment. We have cancelled or delayed vacations when something simple isn't quite right. Always have life vests on, always have a portable VHF radio that works.

          And there is NOTHING like being in Fossil Bay at sunset.
          1977 Reinell b-307 30' flybridge / twin OMC FWC 327 v-drives
          1983/2016 Bayliner Capri Cuddy 1952 full rebuild / AQ130C/270