New dinghy

We just took delivery of the dinghy for our Nordhavn 52, an AB 12 VST with a 40HP Honda outboard. We’d ordered it a while back, and weren’t planning to take delivery at least until commissioning on the Nordhavn had started later this year. But we thought it would an efficient way to run back and forth between our winter moorage at Bell Harbor Marina, and Elliott Bay Marina, where Emerald Harbor Marine will be commissioning the boat. The two marinas aren’t that far apart (map of area), and, having sold the car, we’d been biking back and forth this past year without much trouble. But the bike trip does take time, and can be a uncomfortable in the rain. And Seattle does get the occasional winter storm. :)

The new dinghy is a real step up from our old 9-foot West Marine RIB with its 8 HP motor. The high seat back on the center console is very comfortable, and the deep-V hull and raised tubes make for a smooth, dry ride, even in near 30-knot winds. We can run between the marinas in less than 10 minutes, and there’s plenty of room for dive gear, or our bicycles on board. For now it will live behind our current boat at Bell Harbor until we mount it on the boat deck of the Nordhavn. It will be a tight fit—we’ve had removable rails installed along the starboard side of the boat deck to make that more workable.

We hadn’t needed a separate registration for our current dingy—we’d instead just numbered it with our main boat’s registration number appended with a “1”. Our current boat isn’t documented (partly because we weren’t US Citizens at the time we purchased it). But the new boat would be documented, and we weren’t sure what the impact would be, since documented vessels don’t display state registration numbers.

According to the USCG, “documentation of your vessel does not cover the vessel’s tender or dinghy. These craft fall within the jurisdiction of the motorboat numbering laws of the state of principal use. Please contact your state agency that handles the registration or numbering of motorboats for further information.”

The new one, it turned out, would need to be registered separately. To be exempt from registration in Washington State, under RCW 88.02.030, the vessel must be:

  1. equipped with a motor less than 10 HP;
  2. owned by the owner of a vessel for which a valid vessel number has been issued;
  3. display the number of that numbered vessel followed by the suffix “1” in the manner prescribed by the department; and
  4. be used as a tender for direct transportation between that vessel and the shore and for no other purpose;

Even if the motor was less than 10HP, that direct transportation clause was a concern. In researching the registration requirements, we’d read about the Coast Guard questioning folks who were simply touring around in the dinghy and not using it for direct transport between the vessel and shore. And while out in the dingy near Point Defiance this summer, the Tacoma Police stopped us to verify the dinghy’s registration and confirm that we had all the required safety systems on board, including lifejackets and a whistle. It’s apparently a $280 fine not to not have the vessel properly registered, and they seemed eager to enforce it.

Because the new dinghy is less than 16 feet long, we didn’t have to pay the Watercraft Excise Tax, and the total bill was less than $40. The adhesive numbers we’d bought for the current dinghy hadn’t lasted well, so we are instead going to try this number plate system to display the registration.

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6 comments on “New dinghy
  1. David Evans says:

    Hello James, I have been researching new tenders for my N43 which gives me a max length of 11′. In reviewing NOG posts, I notice you were considering replacing this tender in 2016. Did you buy another AB? Did you go with aluminum?

    • Hi David. We ended up deciding to do tube repairs and put the old ABT VST12 back into use. More patches and new fuel gauges and it continues to run well. We have had the boat since 2009 and it’s been used hard so it will need to be replaced eventually. Several patches and a re-renfocing panel from the original design are starting to peel and the boat is looking tired but there are no leaks and the boat continues to serve.

      Were we to buy a tender today it would be an aluminum AB either a 11′ or a 12′. I lean towards the 11 but Jennifer wants to stick with the 12′ on the argument that in big seas, it’s a bit more stable and less wet. It’s great to be able to run at speed in a big swell. We’re pretty happy with AB in general and the only thing we would do differently is to go with Aluminum next time.

  2. Adam, you were asking why we went with the AB 12 VST. We wanted ample interior space, an ability to work through rough water without getting soaked, and we wanted a seat with a solid back. We wanted to be able to run a 40HP. The AB is very good value. The only thing I would fault it for is partly an advantage and partly a disadvantage: beam. it’s 6′ 1" beam gives lots of space and good stability but it is very wide for a 47/52.

    We have removable boat deck rails down the stbd side of the boat but we won’t really know how it fits until 5263 arrives. I’ll let you know then but I know it’ll be very tight.

  3. Adam says:

    That dink looks like a good size for the 52. Of the many dinghy manufacturers with similar boats of this size (Novurania, Avon, Caribe, Nautica, etc.), how did you settle on the AB? Also, do you know what the max (or "best") size would be for a 47 without your longer boat deck?



  4. Yeah, its great to see the pictures of the 5263 in the water. We’re really looking forward to seeing the boat here in Seattle but its not been driving me nuts to not have it. So far, we’ve been treating it as "just another engineering" project along the lines of what we do at work. These projects are fun, sometimes intense, often tiring, and great to see when finally done. This one, thus far, has been similar.

    Its been enough work that I’m actually more looking forward to the work being done as much as looking forward to the boat being here. It will leave Xiamen in under 1 week.


  5. Rusty says:

    Just saw the N52 launch pictures on the Nordhavn site … waiting must be driving you crazy.

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