Sunday, March 24, 2013

Our Dinghy: Walker Bay Odyssey Light 310 SLRX

I've mentioned a few times that we feel like we've really "kicked it up a notch" this time around.  We have a bigger boat, a super sailor baby, water toys and we're eating a lot better (as in, more than rice and beans).  These things have had a tremendous impact on the "fun" factor out here for us.  Not that we weren't having fun before, because we were.  We're just having a little more fun now...

Another upgrade we made that has had an incredible impact was a new dinghy.  When you live on a boat, your dinghy is your "car" and - most important - your lifeline to land.  While I do admire the purists who forego propulsion and row to and from shore in their rowing dinghies, we have found that a fast, powerful "car" is invaluable to us.  Having a planing dinghy has literally opened up a world of opportunity.  We are able to go to so many more places that we were never able to before; neighboring islands, far-flung snorkel spots, and spear fishing reefs to name a few.  It makes shore-side chores like grocery shopping and laundry much easier, gives us freedom to roam in almost any condition, and is a lot of fun to boot.  Not to mention that a reliable, fast dinghy could prove critical in case of emergency (God forbid).  For us, this seemingly minor addition has made a huge impact on our cruising life.

After selling our last one with Rasmus, we knew we wanted another RIB (rigid inflatable boat) and after a good deal of research, we decided on a Walker Bay Odyssey Light.  The decision was made all the easier when they decided to partner with us as sponsors.  So far, we're thrilled with our choice and set up.  If you are interested, you can view all the specs and features of our model here.
Features that we love:  
  • It's light.  Weighing in at about 100 pounds, this dinghy is easy for us to bring up onto the beach and hoist on our davits. It's also less weight hanging off the back of our boat which is nice for peace of mind when in rough seas.
  • It's sturdy.  We love having the fiberglass floor; it's rigid which makes it easy to get in and out of (important with a baby!) and gets up on plane in no time with all of us on the boat.
  • It's roomy.  We have the 10 foot model and we can easily (and comfortably) have four adults in the boat.  Despite it's roominess, it still fits nicely on the bow of Asante for long passages which was essential to us.
  • It's dry.  The bow is designed so that water is deflected away from the passengers in choppy water.  While we'll still get splashed in big seas, we're a lot more dry than we would have been in our other boat.  A dry dinghy is a great dinghy!
What we don't love:
  • The seat.  So far, we're not in love with the seat that comes with the dinghy.  While the stow compartment and drink holder are great, the corners of it rub the tubing in such a way that there is a little wear underneath. We have opted to remove the seat completely to avoid any more wear and tear and inadvertent puncturing.  
Along with our dinghy, we also upgraded to a Yamaha 15 horsepower 2-stroke outboard engine which we love.  It is so nice to have the extra power and the ability get up on plane in an instant is a nice perk.  Dinghies with powerful outboards have also been known to help their mother ships in tight situations like groundings or engine failures, so we consider this set-up "added insurance" as well.

Scott and I learned the hard way how essential a reliable dinghy and outboard is for long-term cruising, so this time around we did it way we always wanted and are reaping the benefits every day.


Carolyn said...

I think that everyone I know with a RIB (or even a roll-up floor) has removed the seat. Now you need some wheels to help get it up on the beach (if you decided to get them, the ones with a spring-loaded quick release mechanism are well worth the extra $$ -- we got ours from Adventure Marine and loved them, had other cruisers always asking about them).

RichC said...

FYI ... we've narrowed down the options on a new ultralight inflatable RIB to replace our Zodiac roll-up between the pricey AB and the Walker Bay. If we go with the later, it will be because of you guys. (pass it on to your sponsor) ;-)

Unknown said...

I bought this boat a couple of months ago. I hate to have to report that it's a terrible product - the worst inflatable I've seen in 20 years and 20,000 miles of sailing and cruising.

Worse yet, the company has been incredibly frustrating to deal with. The boat was practically sinking from multiple leak points on the first two uses. The CSM (hypalon) material chafes at the slightest touch. And the boat is effectively chafing itself. After about two hours of mellow running on flat water, it has chafe points behind the transom. Real usage, it's apparent, would result in a catastrophic failure of the tubes.

Walker Bay reacted to this information initially with care and communication -- from the company president, with whom I had a lengthy, seemingly fruitful and interesting conversation during which he promised to return/refund the boat for me. Instead, what's ensued is 8 weeks of chasing warranty bureacracy, with rapidly diminishing communication, and now a brusque mandate that I take the boat back from the local shop that has had to "rebuild" the boat, and -- get this -- pay that shop storage fees for the time period during which Walker Bay dragged their feet and failed to communicate with me (or with the shop).

Did I mention that Walker Bay has never inspected the boat for themselves to verify my claims of substandard build and materials? Or even queried the local shop that did the warranty work? That's right. I suspect it's because they know the product is substandard. They just want me to go away now.

Terrible treatment, and things were going so well. I won't be going away, in fact. I'm not given to complaining about products or companies, but this one is truly deserving of my online attention. I'd hate for others to experience this kind of treatment, or to get wrapped up in a pretty expensive product that is faulty, even dangerous.

Was mine a one-off defective boat? Possibly. I know you say you're very happy with this boat, so that's one mitigating factor. I believe you.

But Walker Bay is apparently satisfied with the fact that the boat has had to be completely rebuilt just to hold water. So I can only assume that they know the product is faulty.


Windtraveler said...

@Greg - WOW. That is really, REALLY unfortunate. I recall we emailed back and forth a bit about this issue (I actually was going to reference that you were the second person I heard of with this problem, but then checked to make sure I wasn't writing about the same person - alas, it was). Anyway, it's terrible that you have gotten such a run-around from customer service. Ours still has given us no problems (knock on wood) and is as good as the day we got it (minus some normal "wear", stains, dirty...etc) but we have, thankfully, not experienced anything close to what you have. I hope they fix the situation for you and you get a better dinghy - Walker Bay or otherwise!

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