Modifying this toy raft will get you no respect but it stores in a closet and makes it hard not to smile while gliding by all those shore Ba**ards.
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Several years ago I was at my favorite Chinese store- WALMART and saw a sale on inflatable boats. It was fall and the store was having a clearance sale of 2 and 4 man inflatable rafts. I bought a couple of the 4 man rafts and eventually modified them into very usable little dinghies. I never got them to row very well at all but they took a little electric trolling motor as easy as pie. The lack of rowing was made up by the fact that after I put a plywood floor in the raft I could stand up and pole the raft across the flats if it wasn’t too choppy. A home made sail made using this little boat even more fun if I only wanted to sail off the wind or on a beam reach.
All in all these are surprisingly fun boats once you put in a solid floor. The plywood floor allows you to improvise gadgets and attach gear and make your raft even more handy. The fact that you can rinse everything off and deflate and store the raft away in a closet makes these cheap toy rafts about the handiest low maintenance boat you can have if you don’t mind the limitations.
The biggest drawback is the look of pity and contempt most people over the age of 12 and under the age of 70 will give a grown up that is seen out in public messing with one of these things. The fact that you can take one of these little dinghies and be out on protected water having a ball at a cost that will not pay for even a few gallons of gas is overlooked, as is the fact that most of those boaters that are looking down their nose at you are going to be spending the summer repairing their outdrive, engines and steering, while you will be off gloriously and cheaply messing about.(and if they have a boat in the salt water with an outdrive I can assure you that eventually they will be repairing it)
A little stow in the closet dinghy is ultra low maintenance. When I had my old sloop at the dock I had to check on it at least twice a day to protect it from the weather, chafe, ignorant fellow boaters and local vandals and thieves and trespassing fishermen that would clean their fish right at the spot on the dock I would have to jump on and off my boat. Nothing is more slick than wet fish guts.
An inflatable toy dinghy you improvise into something handy like this is no worries mon. Just don’t expect any respect or to go very far or very fast or to places you might end up in danger with.
I used a piece if ½ ply cut to shape of the inside bottom of the raft and smoothed the edges. A milk crate was bolted down in front and a marine battery installed which gave hours of power to my old MinnKota 27 pound thrust trolling motor. Get a trolling motor used cheap for $40 and rinse it off after every use and squirt a little WD40 on it. My MinnKota has lasted over 10 years now and is still going strong. Made in America too. A peice of bent counduit and wood bolted to the ply floor makes a simple motor mount.
I threw together a quick and dirty little lateen sail with poly tarp, conduit and 1x2 pine. I also made some ply lee boards and attached them to a plank that went across the milk crate, The mast was handy to steady myself when standing up in a chop.
With the sail it was easy to go off the wind and did a reasonable beam reach without making too much leeway. Coasting through the water with a steady breeze is bound to get you smiling at the sheer silliness of it all . I never used a rudder , either I used an oar or I used the trolling motor on low speed to steer and it worked fine.
I was lucky to live on the west side of the bay and when casting off would go upwind against the prevailing Easterlies with the motor and coast home down wind. Usually the wind was from the east or south east so this worked out great. That is a great small boat secret, always go upwind or upstream if you can that way when you are ready to come home you can let the wind or current make it easy to return in style. No sweat.
To protect from oysters and such you could secure a sheet of thick tarp over the bottom and tie it off on the sides of the boat, I have never done it but thought it was a good idea every time I got into shallow water with oyster beds and rocks. It would be easy to attach eyebolts to the ply floor to make attachments for anything you dream up.
I don’t think you will find a cheaper or easier way to get out on the water. The 4 man cost me about $29 a few years ago. It still works fine. Take you an anchor and life jackets or preservers and an umbrella for the sun and extra water and check the weatehr and only go where you have been before so you won’t get any nasty surprises, it will be hard to power or paddle your way out of too much trouble with a raft, but having said that , there are literally thousands of peaceful watery spots a person could have a wonderful time messing around out on the water with one of these dirt cheap rafts.. See you out there...
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