Fatty Knees Sailing Dinghy

This page was last updated on May 18, 2003.

Here are a couple photos of our new Fatty Knees dinghy, taken on its maiden voyage.  First impressions:  it's lightweight, beefy, and rows very well.  The topsides are high, and it will obviously be able to carry a lot of weight.  



If you read Good Old Boat Magazine, this dinghy may seem familiar--it is in fact the exact dinghy used for a recent article (March/April 2001) comparing four very different dinghies.  We found out that this was the exact demo used in the article when we picked up the dinghy at the manufacturer in Mattapoisett, MA in April 2001.  (Yes, the article was timely!)  Fame and fortune are sure to follow.

We store the teak daggerboard and rudder assembly in the starboard cockpit locker; the sail fits in the lazarette, and we're storing the mast sections and boom on the deck of the boat, at least for now.  They're securely lashed in place.

For a while, I left the dinghy tied up behind the boat at the mooring.  Not only would this be convenient for the multiple weekend cruises we were hoping for (that didn't really ever materialize), but it would also leave a waterline on the dinghy that would help in painting the bottom.

After a month or so, the bottom was pretty heavily fouled--it all seemed to happen at once.  I took the dinghy home and turned it upside down on some sawhorses.  After letting the growth dry for a couple days, I masked off around the outer edges--it wasn't a perfect, distinct line, so I evened things up by eye and did a little guesstimation as well.  Then, I cleaned, sanded, and painted the bottom with some leftover antifouling paint from Glissando.

Sailing the Dinghy

Finally, on our cruise over Labor Day the opportunity to sail the dinghy presented itself.  We were ensconced in a lovely anchorage on an equally lovely day, with no plans to go anywhere.  Why not play around with the dinghy for a while?    

Rigging the sailing gear took a little while, partially because I had never done it before, but also because the dinghy, despite its robust nature and size, is still a little boat, and moving about--especially at the bow--makes it move a little bit more than a Triton might!  However, it was easy to slip the two halves of the mast together--after reeving the halyard through the sheaves at the masthead--and the boom easily pinned into place.  I installed the daggerboard in its slot, and lined up the pintles and gudgeons on the transom--always a little interesting with a rudder that floats, since the inherent buoyancy tends to work against you.  I rigged the "traveler" across the transom, then I raised the sail--it has real slugs, and is not simply loose-luffed like some.  I'm not sure I rigged up the tack attachment right--I may try something different the next time.

Of course, as soon as I pushed away from Glissando and started sailing, a gust of wind hit, leaving me and the dinghy a bit strewn about as I struggled to find the best position to sit inside the boat.  After a few minutes, I settled on sitting on the teak floor, steering with an arm behind me and my forward-facing arm handling the mainsheet.  All I had to do after a tack was reposition so I faced the other way.  This allowed me to easily adjust my weight as necessary to account for changes in wind speed or direction.  It was fun, once I got used to the seating arrangement--but at first it was awkward, to say the least.


The boat sailed very nicely--it was a pleasure.  I sailed around the cove for a while, testing windward tacking angles, performance on a reach, and downwind.  Obviously, the boat's a little tippy--it's an 8' dinghy, after all--but is less so than most, including Dyers that I have sailed in the past.  Light air performance was fine--but it's nice knowing that there are oars to provide backup if you get too far away and the wind dies!  Speaking of the oars, I found that I had trouble finding a good place for them to go inside the boat that would still leave me enough room to move around.  This was part of my problem when I first set out.  I ended up putting in the rowlocks, and sort of wedging the oars in place on top of the gunwales.  I suppose taking them along isn't entirely necessary, but with fluky and light winds it seemed to be a smart move.  (I didn't end up needing them.)  I can tell that this will be a fun boat to sail around in as time allows--and rigging it should go a little quicker in the future!


Click here to read about how we liked the dinghy during our 2002 cruise.

Outboard Engine

We made a conscious choice to purchase a rowing dinghy, since that's what I prefer--and I happen to like rowing.  Most of the time, rowing is absolutely the mode of choice for me.

However, our long cruise in 2002 highlighted a few situations where it could have been nice to have a small outboard for the dinghy.  In particular, chore days (laundry, provisioning, etc), where many trips back and forth to shore in a busy harbor are required, call out for the help of an outboard.

Also, though I vastly prefer to explore harbors and coves under rowing power, there were a few places we visited where there was simply too much to see by oars alone; I just couldn't get around to everything.  Winter Harbor, on Vinalhaven, was the best example of this.  With numerous nooks, crannies, estuaries, passages, etc., I couldn't even scratch the surface by rowing.

Given these experiences, we made the decision to purchase an outboard to have on hand for the future.  I expect it will live on the pulpit most of the time, but when we want it, it will be there.

During the winter, I did some research on outboards.  It turns out that the most popular small outboards (5 HP and under) are all the same thing, regardless of their brand name.  Nissan, Mercury, and Tohatsu are all the same exact motor beneath their cowlings  (yes, folks, even the small Mercs).  Prices between various retailers for these three major engine brands were widely disparate, as one would expect.

One thing I wanted was a neutral gear option.  With a rigid dinghy, it seemed to make sense, as they are less forgiving to the inevitable bumps caused by forward-only outboards.  This meant that I needed at least a 3.5 HP engine.  Technically, the Fatty Knees is rated for a 2.5.  Shhh...don't tell anyone.  Anyway, the only difference that I could see between the 2.5 and the 3.5 was that the smaller engine features a governor that limits top engine speed--and therefore horsepower.  Again--they are the same basic engine.  I think I'm responsible enough to know whether or not to limit my engine revolutions.

Armed with all this information, I eventually found a place through Ebay that seemed like the best price:  Online Outboards, located somewhere in Tennessee or something.  They sell both Nissan and Tohatsu, and their prices were the lowest I found, far lower than West Marine, Boat/US, or others.  Finally, in the spring, I made the leap and bought a Tohatsu 3.5B engine (long shaft with forward and neutral gears) for less than it would have cost for a forward-only 3.5 at one of the other stores, even with the shipping charge.  The engine was delivered right to my door in short order, and arrived in good condition.

After a couple weeks, the boat was in the water and I decided to try out the engine.  There's an arduous break in procedure that entails lots of boring low-speed running, so as of this writing I have little performance information.  One thing I quickly discovered is that I really need a tiller extension for using the engine in the boat alone; the stern is not buoyant enough to enable sitting back there to operate the boat, so I have to sit more forward--all well and good, except that the tiller is so short that it's nearly impossible to reach!  Other than this minor issue (which I really expected), it works great, and is lightweight enough to make its transport and transfer as easy as possible.

Click here to see the tiller extension that I made.

I worried for a time about where I was going to store the outboard on Glissando.  My stern pulpit seemed full already, with the notable exception of the starboard side, which I choose to leave open since the launch comes alongside there, and people in the launch tend to  grab onto whatever is there to "help" as you board.  Plus, Glissando's topsides are low enough that the outboard could easily be damaged by the launch if it was stored here.  So that was out.  And everything else that was already on the pulpit needed to stay where it was, for one reason or another.

I considered installing my cheap-o outboard bracket on the centerline of the pulpit, but the design of it is such that it was a loose fit on the rail when it wasn't clamped over a vertical support as well, as it is designed to do.

IM007295.JPG (158421 bytes)I finally settled on the port juncture between the top rail and vertical support.  Installing the bracket here involved a fair bit of work, since the GPS antenna was installed there and had to be moved to accommodate, and the stern anchor nearby also had to be moved a bit.  I moved the GPS antenna to the rail centerline, carefully securing its cable along the way, and moved the hanging anchor brackets over until the plastic outboard pad would fit.  

IM007294.JPG (154483 bytes)I installed the outboard  pad and hoisted the outboard out of the rolling dinghy--it was a fairly choppy afternoon--into the cockpit.  Obviously, I need to get a little better at this!  But the outboard fit well on the bracket and in the available space, though the pad is barely big enough.  I secured the outboard with a brass lock through the clamp handles, and tied it in place to prevent movement.ob1-kenobi.JPG (166880 bytes)

Glissando, Pearson  Triton #381

We recommend viewing this site with your screen resolution set to 1024 x 768 or larger.  Problems?  Email the webmaster.

1999-2014 by Timothy C. Lackey.  All rights reserved.  No duplication of any portion of this website allowed without express permission.  Permission may be obtained by emailing the webmaster.