…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.
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.
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. 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.
- 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.
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!
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!