Major improvement in life at the Coquina North Boat Ramp on Anna Maria Island, FL. Upgraded the dinghy propulsion system from a kayak paddle to a pair of oars…What a difference!
I’VE KNOWN oars would be better but a couple of things held me back. First it was money. When I arrived here in the Bradenton Beach area nearly three years ago my financial situation was nearly faded as my jeans, to steal a phrase from Kris Kristofferson. Didn’t sit real well after shelling out $150 or so, I honestly don’t remember how much, for a cockelshell dinghy. A set of oars would set me back nearly as much as I paid for the dinghy. I remember THAT. But a kayak paddle was less than $25 at (boo…hiss) Walmart.
The paddle worked decently enough BUT there were lots and lots of days I was stuck on board the boat because of brisk winds that I couldn’t paddle against. My dinghy isn’t titled and getting a title so I can register it as required for even an electric trolling motor just isn’t worth the hassle. Anyway, the transom needs major work before it could take any kind of motor at all. While electric trolling motors are initially inexpensive there are a lot of add-ons to consider. Battery to run it with then a charger, etc. Costs add up rapidly.
I pretty much dismissed the idea of buying a small, cheap, used, 2-stroke outboard out of hand after watching so many people in the anchorage buy them and then spend days trying to keep them running. It seemed that someone always had one of those buggers in pieces.
I’ve been looking on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist for a reasonably priced dinghy replacement. Something around 8 to 10 feet long. Nothing within range either in price or distance from where I’m anchored.
So, I started to look online for oars. I wanted wooden oars. To me those are what real oars are about. But a set of them (2) run close to $150. So I lowered my expectations and finally went and sprang for a set of 6-½’ aluminum oars for $85 along with a pair of oarlock sockets. I don’t like the oarlocks that bolt onto the shafts and bought a pair of the ones that look like a horseshoe. I ordered the oars from Amazon and paid a bit extra for expedited delivery. Without that expected delivery date was sometime in the middle of July. Why Amazon? Well, the only place around here with oars is West Marine and a similar oar is $60 for ONE! These were $85 for a PAIR. They arrived yesterday.
I picked them up at the mail drop this morning, installed the sockets as soon as I paddled back out to the boat. Then, rearranging the stuff in the dinghy, shopping cart, required life jacket and throwable device, I put the oarlocks in the sockets and headed into the dock with my empty water jugs. Now, granted, there was no wind at the time and I was riding the ebb current, but I made it to the farthest end of the boat ramp, probably 150 yards or so away, where the water faucets are in about a third of the time as I would have done with the paddle. The BONUS was that when I’d paddle in I’d usually have to stop AT LEAST once, sometimes twice, to let my breathing even out. Not with the oars. Straight on in.
It’s HOT here, so I soaked myself down before starting to fill the water jugs. Replenished 7 1-gallon jugs and hosed myself down once more. Now, a breeze had sprung up a bit. Not a whole lot but it would be “heading” me and I was now going directly against the current. The trip back took a bit longer than going in, but still, perhaps half the time it would have taken to paddle. Again I didn’t need to stop to catch my breath and when I tied back up to the main vessel I didn’t have to sit holding on for five minutes until I was back to what passes for normal these days eight days away from my 78th! I think I’ll be going ashore more on those, “Well, I’ve got water and food on board so I don’t need to battle 10 to 15 mph winds” days.
It would be better if the boat was a tad bigger but this morning someone told me about a dinghy I might be able to get my hand on and it IS a hair larger. Anyway, this has been a big improvement over the kayak paddle and falls into that category of “Why didn’t you do this a couple of years ago?” Well, money and ….inertia.