I went into the chandlers to buy a toothbrush and…

My new toothbrush

…I ended up with an Avon Dinghy!

It wasn’t totally spontaneous because I had been looking for one for about three years but my eBay searches only led to a few leads and then we were outbid. Such is the demand for simple old fashioned quality.

My new-to-me Avon 7 dinghy!

So when I saw this little beast leaning up against the Chandler’s wall with a £275 price tag on it I simply marched up to the counter and said “I’d like this toothbrush and that dinghy”.

You might ask why I was searching so desperately for this particular type of dinghy and was willing to pay £275 for a second-hand one when I could buy a new tender for not much more. It can partly be summed up with one word “Hypalon”. The old Avons were made from Hypalon and they seemed to last for – almost – ever. The Avon Redstart that I currently own is at least 31 years old and that is assuming it was new when I bought my yacht Sumara – and I suspect it wasn’t. After 31 years of hard graft including several Arctic voyages and a season in the Caribbean it is still serviceable and holds its air. My only reason to try to get a newer one is my old Redstart rubbing band is beginning to crack and as I am planning a trip to remote Milneland next year, it would be fairly catastrophic if the thing decided to pack up on me in Greenland.

Just painted “Sumara” on the new dinghy with an old pot of Polymarine Lettering Paint. Finding carbon paper nowadays is a nightmare!
My old living room. Checking over all the gear prior to a long trip.

There are other reasons that I have a penchant for Avon Redstarts. Actually, the one I’ve just bought is called an Avon 7 but it looks exactly the same*. (*see the end of the post for the difference between an Avon Redstart and an Avon 7)

So these are my reasons why I believe the Redstart is at least my perfect dinghy:

  • The rowlocks are indestructible, they will not snap. They definitely will not snap, no, never ever! The flimsy rubbish rowlocks I see on a lot of inflatables don’t look like they would withstand a serious row. Some of them even depend on using their own make of oars. I like a good long ash oar to pull against the current. A rowlock is a critical safety component.
Can you spot those rowlocks!
  • The Avon Redstart will fit into an Ortlieb 85 L waterproof rucksack. To put it another way it rolls up quite small. I use the Ortlieb waterproof rucksack to store it on deck, then, when we row ashore, all our kit can go into the waterproof bag to keep it dry even if we get rolled in the surf.
  • I like round tail dinghies. They are much better if you are rowing – and I never use a motor. All the bags in the front, one person rowing, and two people sitting on each aft quarter in comfort without a sharp transom digging into your bottom.
  • I need to know the dinghy is tough enough to drag over sharp rocks. It is interesting that the straps on walking gaiters are normally made of Hypalon and they need to put up with a lot of punishment. It doesn’t matter too much if your dinghy bursts in the Solent but it is a major disaster if it bursts when you are somewhere like Jan Mayen, you could even be stranded.
Cape Verde Islands 1996 with seven of us onboard!
This is me in around 1980. This Avon was the tender to my yacht Jose of Dover. Amazingly, I had it moored in Wapping just downstream of Tower Bridge. Those were the days!

In my research I think I established that the Redstart is still made for the army but with no rowlocks. I believe it was possible to have them added. I’m not sure what the costs would be, but I suspect a couple of grand. You can maybe see why I snapped up the dinghy from the chandlers.

I now need to find a nice home for my old one with so many happy memories attached.


Hey – Look at what I have just found!

A lovely old Avon Booklet – Full of useful tips such as those below!
How about this description of handling an Avon in rough water? Continued below
Part 2!

Times have certainly changed, I doubt any dinghy manufacturer would suggest negotiating weirs or attempting journeys so edgy that it is suggested you tie the painter around your waist in case on capsize to prevent the boat from being blown away in the wind. Those were the days. A truly delightful little booklet!

I have loaded to full booklet to the “Downloads” section of this website under “Instructions”. Click here to view the PDF.


I was wondering why my new Avon 7 seemed easier to stow into my Ortlieb Duffle Bag, and now I know why!

Difference in specification between an Avon 7 and an Avon Redstart

It looks the same as the Redstart, but it is slightly shorter and 1.5 kg lighter. Strangely, it is 1″ wider but the internal dimension remains the same indicating slightly larger tubes, although the spec. says they are the same. In any case, lighter is all to the advantage for a roughty-toughty go anywhere dinghy. I love it!

It is times like this when you really appreciate the little Avon dinghies. The Hypalon fabric makes them bullet proof yet they are light enough to haul up the rocks. You wouldn’t want to try this with a RIB and outboard.

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