We put our yacht in the water yesterday. Affectionately christened “The Coconut,” our vessel is a four person inflatable dinghy sputteringly powered by a cheap electric trolling motor paired to a ludicrously expensive Optima Blue Top deep cycle battery. I purchased the whole package off Craigslist Miami from someone who had only used it once, so I scored the boat, manual pump, paddles, trolling motor and battery at about 50% of Amazon or retail prices. While we have been near water most of our journey, this is the first time since we started full-timing that we got around to using her. Feeling the pressure to use what we paid for, and seeing as how the conditions at Bay Breeze were strikingly calm, and further that our site was located about 50 feet from the boat ramp, we hauled out The Coconut and went through the somewhat painful process of getting her ready for sea.
This is the problem with having toys that are designed to fold up, deflate, collapse or otherwise shrink down to minimize storage space in an RV: Getting them unfolded, inflated, prolapsed, and otherwise ready for use can seem more trouble than it is worth. The boat is a prime example, but even our folding bikes are a real PITA to manhandle in and out of lower storage without entangling the folded handlebars into the spokes while avoiding the plumbing, wiring, insulation, and everything else down below. Like all difficult tasks, I find swearing at them helps the process quite a bit.
The Coconut is deceptively stored in a compact soft sided bag about 3’x1.5’x1.5′. It weighs somewhere around 77 pounds, and requires pulling it out, manually inflating the four pontoon side compartments, the keel compartment, and the three seat inserts. Oh wait, did you forget to put in the roll up slat flooring before you inflated the sides? Deflate at least two of those, then put in the floor, and re-inflate. Now attach the removable transom to the back and the paddles to their holders. Haul the whole thing down to the water, and separately carry down the deep cycle battery, the trolling motor, and the cooler of beer, all the while knowing you will have to do this whole process, with the exception of the beer, in reverse after your done playing on the water.
But man is it worth it once you are on the water, especially when conditions are as near perfectly glassy as they were for two days on the Gulf Shores. Sure, we encountered another problem while on the water, in that the incredibly cheap little electric trolling motor cut off every time tried to put it in more than the lowest forward speed setting, but with no wind and minimal current we made do.
I am coming to realize two critical aspects of the foldable toy game:
- To reduce your butt-pain, you must make a serious assessment of the value of the collapsibility of the item is vs. the difficulty of prepping it for use.
- If you go for the foldable option you need to experiment with different techniques and storage options to find the one that is the least painful.
For instance, our bikes are not the traditional folding bikes you usually see among RVers. We opted for the Colomba brand from 2KSilver because they offered products that, frankly, looked less dinky and more like “real” bikes. We were able to get a 26″ wheel version for me and 20″ wheel for Rosemarie. And they work great! Particularly since they are our primary means of transportation once in an RV park. But we very rapidly found that the set up and fold up process is rather awkward, immediately abandoning the use of the storage bags since it was so difficult to get the bikes into them. Getting the bikes into the 29″ tall storage compartment, with pipes and wires reducing that height in key areas, was particularly challenging, especially for my bike. Pulling them out was perhaps even more difficult. So at the conclusion to our recent stay in Alabama I resolved to find a better method, and through trial and error discovered that my bike was much easier to manuever in and out of storage longitudinally parallel to the bus rather than athwart ship, and with a bit of reorganizing I could store the bikes apart from each other so that they would not become entangled during the process. Bingo, SO much easier, but it was not intuitively obvious; rather, it took some painful experimentation, just as our numerous storage compartment reorganizations have gradually moved us closer to efficiency.
So too, I hope, with The Coconut. If we had it to do over again I might have purchased an inflatable two person kayak instead, but then I would have to paddle alone while Rosemarie took pictures. Our longer term plan is to replace the whole boating package with a sturdy but light weight inflatible with a built-in transom paired with a Honda 2.3 HP outboard, one of the highest rated light weight four stroke motors. But for now we will work on perfecting the process by which we prep and stow The Coconut, and hopefully you will all be seeing more pictures of us lounging on her spacious decks.