How to Safely Use an Inflatable Tender

Whilst marinas are convenient and usually provide shoreside facilities they are also more expensive than a river mooring or anchorage - and certainly less private. A tender is therefore a sensible addition to your yacht’s inventory, although unless you have a larger yacht, an inflatable rubber tender is probably your only real option.

The use of a tender can make alternative plans available to your schedule including nights at anchor off a remote beach or a short river commute to the local pub. Alternatively, you might use your tender to reach your pile mooring (and save a fortune in mooring fees as a result).

However you intend to use your tender, be aware that of the yachtsmen lost at sea every year, there are a disproportionate number lost from tenders. When close to land it’s easy to forget that danger still exists for the unwary or unfortunate. Here is a checklist which should help keep you safe;

  • When inflating your tender always make sure it is tied onto your vessel or the shore. A gust of wind might cost you more than just your pride.
  • Before entering the tender make sure you have stowed the following aboard;
    • oars / paddles
    • dinghy pump
    • engine - if applicable (with dead man’s switch)
    • fuel for engine
    • bright white torch
    • handheld VHF (charged)
    • flare pack (worth considering)
    • mobile phone (charged and perhaps in waterproof casing)
    • Consider taking a lock for the engine and a bag for the accessories
  • Make sure that someone on the yacht knows where you are going and when you plan to be back and leave them with a means of communication
  • ALWAYS wear a lifejacket when in a dinghy
  • Dress for the weather and take a jacket in case the weather turns
  • Always enter a dinghy by sitting on the pontoon or yacht’s transom with your feet in the dinghy and slide your bum across to the centre of the dinghy, staying low. The heaviest person should enter first.
  • If you have an engine, start it before casting off. If you have oars make them ready before leaving.
  • Be aware of wind, tide and current when leaving and on your return.
  • Remember, if using a tender at night, carry a bright torch to make yourself seen.
  • If returning from a pub, consider allocating a driver for the night (just like ashore) and make sure everyone is wearing lifejackets and understands your rules.

The safe use of a tender is part of the RYA Competent Crew course.