One of the more potentially dangerous activities aboard is launching and retrieving the our large aluminum bottomed rigid inflatable. At 16 feet with a 70 HP Yamaha outboard, it weights in just around 1000 pounds. While the FPB 78 and FPB 64 both use the booms to launch and retrieve the dinks, each boat differs in various ways and poses its own unique issues.
As things are set up on our 78, the booms are controlled with traveler cars much like the travelers on a sailboat. Lines from he cars are lead down to a winch mounted on the mast close to the aft deck. The winches are used to crank the booms in and out. The large dinghy is actually lifted up and down by a drum winch in the starboard side wet locker.
Until now, we have been lifting the dinghy over the starboard life lines and then down on to the cradle. There have been a number of issues with this system.
In this picture, you can see how much further up the dink was to be lifted to clear the lifelines by looking at where the dink is positioned as compared to the lifelines and stanchions at the boarding gate. (Note – the lines typically ran all the way aft from the boarding gate to the aft corner of the deck – in this pic they are removed).
The higher you lift the dink, the more problematic things get so keeping it lower makes a big difference. There have been situations where controlling the dinghy was like trying to contain an angry billy goat. The other factor that compounded things was how tight things got as the dink cleared the lifelines. The aft corner of the solar panel array over the back deck created an interference problem.
The arch on the dinghy had to be brought right up to the corner of the array, the dink pushed outboard slightly, and then raised again to clear the lifelines. The same issue occurred on retrieval as the dink had to be lowered slightly once over the lifelines to clear the corner and then pulled further inboard so it could be lowered without hanging up on the lifeline. Clearance at this point in the process was only a few inches. Add a bit of roll and it was almost impossible to prevent the dinghy from hitting something.
Our next iteration was to remove the two stations between the boarding gate and aft corner of the boat. We had partially anticipated this by using pelican slips to connect the lifelines to the stations which simply unclip with the pull of a pin. The mid stanchion also had a fast pin which makes it simple to remove. The aft station was bolted in place but we will add a fasten to that as well.
This is how things look with the stations removed.
The procedure with the stanchions and lines removed consists of hooking up the lifting halyard to a bridle on the dinghy.
The dinghy is then hoisted up to deck level.
At this level, the dink can be brought directly aboard just a bit higher then the chocks on deck.
A line around one of the overhead supports forward and one around aft and the dinghy bow is brought aboard first.
The stern is similarly pulled in and the dink is lowered on to the chocks.
Using this method, no one is under the dink while trying to maneuver it aboard and only a few cranks on the winch to start bringing the boom and dink inboard are required.
Once on board, the dinghy completely seals off the open side deck. There is only one small area at the bow where someone could potentially slip between the dink and the starboard boarding gate station and go overboard. We secure this are with the dinghy painter. Obviously, there is a hazard down the side and across the starboard aft deck when the dink is off the boat but it is a simple matter to insert the two stanchions and clip the lifelines in place to secure the deck.
We also have discovered that the dink can be left outboard and secured against the belting in secure anchorages when the weather is benign.
No doubt there will be additional refinements but this is a huge improvement over how we have been doing things.