Dinghy Cruising with Phillips
Chapter 1

When you have learned to sail a dinghy, there are several things you can do. You can enjoy yourself simply sailing around a harbour, small lake or bay in whichever direction the wind favours you. If there is another dinghy in sight, you can race it. You can join a club or Class Association and have a great time racing each other "around the buoys". Apart from trading up to a bigger boat, the other thing you can do is to go cruising. 

The first time you decide to sail from the place where you launch to a beach a little distance away, or to go and have a look at another landing, or to sail around your island, you have started cruising your dinghy. From small beginnings, you can work up to making a twenty- or thirty mile cruise in a day. You can venture from the sheltered waters of a harbour, out on a lake, make open water crossing, take camping gear and go for a weekend, week, or weeks at a time.

Adventurous dinghy sailors have made ocean crossings of several hundred miles, doing their sleeping, cooking, and eating on board. A dinghy has been sailed from Scotland to Iceland, and from Scotland to Norway. This booklet is not concerned with that kind of high adventure, though  we can learn a lot from the people who have done such cruises. It is concerned with day-sailing from point to point, camping by dinghy, or sailing from one port to another. These journeys may be in sheltered or open water, but sailing at night will not be discussed except incidentally because you might be becalmed or delayed and so happen to be out after dark.

Most cruising is done in cabin boats, but there are some advantages to cruising in a dinghy. The biggest advantage is something intangible: the intimate and informal relationship which you can develop with the waterways and the country in which you are cruising. There are also very real advantages due to smallness, lightness, and shallow draft: the gear is easy to handle, and no one sail will be more than you can manage on your own. You can paddle or row when you are becalmed or when you need to manoeuvre in a narrow space. If you happen to go aground, you can usually pole off, or step out and push off. You can beach and pull the boat out of reach of breakers, manhandle her through shallows, or even portage. This way you can enjoy many peaceful coves where bigger boats cannot go. You can unstep or lower your mast and row under a low bridge. Finally, everything on a dinghy is smaller and costs less.

Against all this, however, you have the obvious disadvantages of small accommodation and stowage space and there is less protection against the weather. But the only really important disadvantage is that if you should be caught out in a severe storm, even with all care and good seamanship, you might be swamped or capsized. You have to be able to self-rescue, but this may be tough. There will be damage to stores and possibly loss of equipment. Of course a storm can sink any boat, but in a dinghy your "survival conditions" come at least one Beaufort Force lower than in a cabin boat, given equal care, luck, and good seamanship. However, you are less likely to suffer irreparable hull or rigging damage in a dinghy than in a larger boat.

Much of your thought and preparation should go to guarding against capsizing, but such an accident is extremely rare, and is nowhere near as high as the risk of collision with commercial craft. My wife and I have cruised every one of the Great Lakes during the 1970's and have covered thousands of miles including whole day and whole night open water crossings yet we have never been anywhere near capsizing, nor have any of the friends who have cruised with us.

Ontario summer weather is usually pleasant. We have dropped our mainsail for a sudden squall or thunderstorm only once or twice. We have never dropped all sail for the weather, and have not used our sea anchor except to test it. Only a few times have we stayed ashore for a whole day because of a strong wind, rain, or fog, and never for two days in succession.

Nevertheless, I shall put a good deal of Dinghy Cruising emphasis on equipment and precautions for heavy weather, although such are rarely needed. If you are well prepared, you are very unlikely to be in danger. Most dinghy cruising is fun and very relaxing.

Dinghies are usually sailed by a skipper and one crew member but there have been successful dinghy cruises done with three, or with small families, as well as many singlehanded cruises. (I do not think any child should be taken in a dinghy unless he or she can swim.)

It is my hope that this booklet will encourage others to start out, and start out safely, to try the type of vacation that we have enjoyed so much. After our first major dinghy cruise, we both said we had not enjoyed a vacation as much since our honeymoon, 20 years earlier.

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Planning
Chapter 3: Equipment
Chapter 4: Rigging and Sails
Chapter 5: Camping
Chapter 6: Cooking and catering
Chapter 7: Communication
Chapter 8: Navigation
Chapter 9: Heavy Weather
Chapter 10: Spares and repairs
Chapter 11: Clothing, Personal Items, First Aid
Chapter 12: Stowage
Chapter 13: The Record
Appendix A: The CWA Cruising Library
Appendix A1: Dinghy Cruising Logs on line
Appendix B: Book List
Appendix C: Recipes
Appendix D: Addresses: Government Agencies, etc.
Appendix E: Buoyancy Testing