“Laughing Baby, she am no more…”
Not completely, but nevertheless it’s a sad day for us. The West Marine 310 RIB we lovingly called Laughing Baby has reached the end of her working life and it’s time to put her out to pasture. (What’s the marine equivalent of pasture…lagoon?) She still floats and as of today doesn’t leak at all. But the wood transom is starting to go and it makes us nervous to put the big 8hp on her these days and worse, the dinghy guys say the vinyl is nearing end-of-life. And since we charter her and the Never for Ever as a team… well she just isn’t up to snuff anymore.
We’ve been keeping an eye out for a good used RIB but haven’t seen anything come on the market that was suitable. Oddly enough there are lots of inflatable bottomed tenders, but the sharp rocks and oyster-filled shallows of the PNW make that just a bit contra-indicated.
A lucky find?
I was checking out kijiji in BC the other day and came across a Highfield 290 UL for under $3000. That was way more than I had in the budget, but the more I looked at it the more intriguing it was. The UL stands for ultralight which means it had an aluminum bottom which was both tougher and lighter the fiberglass of the current boat. At 9’7″, the 290 is about 7 inches shorter that the current RIB and comes in at 86 lbs vs the 113 lbs. But it will still handle the 8HP and fit 4 people comfortably.
I figured if buying new might now be on the table, then I should do my due diligence and call around. At the time I assumed the 2021 Vancouver Boat Show was off (turns out it now is being held virtually in late February) so it thought waiting for a show deal was off the table. I checked out a bunch of dealers and talked to Nanaimo Chandlery — which is run by the same people as Nanaimo Yacht Charters — to see if they could get me a deal but it seemed this Highfield’s price was as good as it first appeared.
So I called SG Power in Victoria to get the scoop. Turns out it was a 2020 floor model and yes, it was still available. So I bought it.
A Small Problem
So now I had a problem. Actually a couple of them. I was in Alberta, the marina was in Nanaimo and the new tender was in Victoria. And we weren’t going to be on the coast before May at the earliest — and even that was up-in-the-air with the Covid situation. The fellow at SG Power was, rightly so, reluctant to commit it to commercial shipping as it was out of the box and it would be hard to ensure it made the trip intact. He did however volunteer to store it for me, even after I told him worst case was us not making it out until spring. Great service and a pleasure to deal with these guys.
The other problem was I really didn’t think Laughing Baby deserved to be unceremoniously discarded as she still had a lot of life left, albeit perhaps not zooming around at high speeds. So now we had two dinghies.
I talked to a few friends on the island but none of them had the facilities or vehicles to help with the problem and the people at NYCSS didn’t have any trips to Victoria planned—although they did generously offer us use of the truck when we finally made it out. So we had a fallback plan but I was hoping to get it dealt with earlier. Then I sent a note off to Matt from Gudgeon to see if he knew anyone. Matt is back in Victoria after he left his boat in Mexico Sadly she is now for sale). He said he would ask around and actually sounded semi-hopeful. I offered a trade of transportation in exchange for Laughing Baby just in case someone with a truck was looking for a cheap dinghy. Fingers crossed.
In the meantime I am talking to a few other contacts/friends and if I have to, I will pay for a rental truck—although that solution still leaves me trying to find a home for the old dinghy.
What’s in a Name
First world problems: another conundrum is what we name the new tender? The original was a compromise, because we thought Laughing Baby wouldn’t play as well on the VHF as Never for Ever, so the I suggested we assign that name to the tender. And that deal still stands. But do we keep the name as is? Add a “Two” or “II” to the end (or “Too” as some people go for.)
I guess we will wait and see—these boating rituals are sometimes a puzzle.
So that’s that. Hopefully we have some fun oaring ahead of us and maybe even a bit of zooming. Finally here are few final images of the adventures we’ve had with the original Laughing Baby over the years—and if you know anyone who will give her a good home, let me know.