A 'Yacht Tender' is the description of a wide variety of small craft used to service yachts and originally was of heavy [ clinker construction ] and hoisted aboard in davits.
Two types are available today, the first being the rigid [ GRP dinghy ] , which has a swinging mooring and large enough to carry the crew and equipment and able to withstand robust use.
The [ inflatable dinghy ] being the second type, designed to be easily stowed, when deflated, on board. In practice it often gives occupants a wet ride and is prone to being swept off course by the wind but has found universal acceptance as a compromise for tasks it is required to perform.
When purchasing an inflatable dinghy, make sure there is a seat or inflated buoyancy, compartment to sit on when rowing. If there is no seat, rowing will be difficult when seated in an impossible position. Incorporation of a plastic or plywood floor is an essential as it gives a stable platform to work from, and enhances the craft's performance being rowed or under power.
Rowing these two tenders requires practice. The GRP dinghy tender is heavy and clumsy to manoeuvre, but carries large loads and tracks well and requires a rowing action that is long and measured.
When rowing an inflatable dinghy apply a quick, dipping rowing action, aiming to keep the oars immersed in the water preventing the wind affecting the course of the craft. Be aware that captive oars may complicate the rowing action in choppy seas.
A lightweight outboard engine is a necessity for all-weather operations, with a small 2-hp engine and self-contained tank able to drive a heavily loaded yacht tender in most situations.
The outboard attaches to a bracket on the transom of the inflatable dinghy, with a safety lanyard permanently attached to the engine and clipped to the tender. When not being used, the outboard is stowed on a mounting board fixed to the back of the yacht's pushpit, and the safety lanyard clipped to the pushpit.
It is advisable that when transferring the outboard from its stowage to the yacht tender the lanyard should always be clipped to something. When being handed down from the yacht, it is clipped to the crew member’s wrist and when attached to the tender, the lanyard is clipped to the transom.
With their light weight and windage, inflatables do not have good towing characteristics except in calm conditions. The inherent danger with an inflatable is being flipped upside down and creating drag causing the painter to break or pulling out its anchorage patches.
If the foredeck is large enough pull the inflatable tender aboard, invert it and lash it down or else, deflate it and roll it up and stow it on deck or in a locker. Once on shore, it is placed vertically in special shore stowage racks or lashed on car roof bars taken home and hoisted into the garage roof space.
It is advisable, when using the tender that each occupant should wear a life preserver as there are more drowning accidents involving tenders than falling from cruising yachts. Problems occur at night when crews are returning from an evening ashore. It must be accepted that night operations in an inflatable tender is difficult and dangerous and the load should be within the maximum capacity and the driver is skilled and capable.
Safety equipment for a tender should include a torch, a pump, spare fuel, a toolkit and flares and items secured with line or placed in special sailcloth bags fixed to the tender.
The primary use of a tender is for ferrying the crew to and from the yacht, but secondary it should be capable of carrying out various traditional tasks, such as laying out an anchor.
The process of laying out a [ second anchor ] at an angle to the first is a task, which calls for some consideration. Inflatables do not tow an object well because they tend skid across the surface when turning and work best in reverse with the towed object attached to the bow painter.
The engine, being at the front, is aimed at the objective with everything following. The anchor and chain should be placed in a box preventing damage to the inflatable's fabric, or slung on the side of the tender with a quick release hitch.
When cleaning the yacht's hull from the tender is often complicated as the tender tends to drift away from the hull. To overcome this, place two large fenders along the sides of the dinghy and stern leaving a working space then lash the dinghy tightly to the yacht to keep it in position.
Caring for and repairing tenders is usually permanent activity with GRP dinghies being fixed with automobile repair packs and inflatables having a repair pack containing wooden plugs for emergencies and fabric patches for repairs.
The development of tough laminated fabrics makes the inflatable yacht tenders durable requiring a visit to a servicing agent about once every three years. Sand lodging in the junction of floorboards and fabric can be a hazard to the fabric’s integrity so regular washing and twice a season inspections should be done.