Dinghies need to be redesigned

Letters, Normal

The National, Thursday October 31st, 2013

 I WRITE on behalf of the Trobriand Islanders to highlight the dangers of fiberglass dinghies when used in open water.

On six different occasions in the last few years, Trobriand dinghies have been lost at sea.

An unofficial count has put the number of deaths at 25.

Two  people have been lost without a trace and there have been just 12 survivors.

Typically, vessels have left in good conditions and encountered moderate seas in open water. 

But water from breaking waves pour into the dinghies to the point where the occupants have been unable to bail faster than the incoming water.

Once flooded, the dinghies  take up a vertical, nose-up position because of the weight of the outboard motors. 

In some cases, the outboard motors have had to be jettisoned so as to return them to a  horizontal position. 

Left without provisions and equipment, the occupants have drifted, unable to move or empty the dinghy of water.

I have approached the manufacturers and distributors of these vessels in an attempt to get them to make safer dinghies, but without any effect so far.

There are a number of ways to improve the chances of survival for dinghy occupants.

I suggest the boosting of the buoyancy of the stern by at least 100 litres.

These could be done through changing the moulds or adding a fixed stern seat.

This will prevent the sinking of the motor allowing it to be used to flush the flooding and so recover the vessel.

Life jackets, two-way radios, flares, mirrors etc could be added to the list of compulsory items supplied.

Most coastal communities will have had similar experiences. The lack of pressure for change would indicate an acceptance of the results of going to sea in unseaworthy vessels.


Peter Fewings, Via email