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2. Lifting and Towing

What You Need to Know About Tenders

By Jason Y. Wood

You also need to consider the limitations of your launch system. Some tenders are better suited to being lifted than others, and it all goes back to design. “We pre-engineer the stringers so [the boat] can be lifted by a crane, if you order that option,” says Stephen Heese, president of Chris-Craft Boats, a builder of striking runabouts and bowriders that have caught the eye of boat guys from all over, including some megayacht owners. “We install small lifting rings that are mounted in places where they’re not going to stub toes, and the boat can be lifted with spreader bars from there.” Small boats that are designed to function as tenders will often have these advantages built into them. If you’re having one built, it may be an upgrade from the standard model, but the expense is often worth it.

Confidence in a tender’s engineering can provide peace of mind when conditions get sporty. “When you launch a tender in rough seas and you’re lowering the tender by a crane and a surge of sea comes up, it lifts the boat up in the air and then sets it back down suddenly with a bang,” Heese says. “There’s a lot of force on those lifting rings. We have a fat stringer under the floor in the corner of the cockpit. We put a lifting ring there and have it tied right into the stringer, which makes it very solid.” Owners need to be comfortable with the tender and its launch system. If a feeling of dread washes over you every time you go to hook up the davit, you need to figure out why and solve the problem. Having faith in your equipment is critical, so a good davit-maintenance schedule will help. And a little practice never hurts either.

Another smart option is to keep the tender closer to the water, with a stern-mounted tender-launch system, such as those from FreedomLift or Weaver Industries. FreedomLift (starting at $20,000) uses electric-hydraulic arms to lift a tender and carry it upright behind the transom. The lift can accommodate a wide variety of tenders up to 800 pounds, and leaves the swim platform open.

Weaver Industries makes swing-up lifts for smaller RIBs and tenders, stowing the tender out of the way on the swim platform while the boat is underway. Systems start at $660. Owners pushing their dinghy with an outboard can benefit from the Weaver Leaver, a clever hinged bracket that allows the outboard to be stowed vertically, then dropped into place as the tender is lowered.

Towing is a great way to turn any discussion of size limitations on its head. You may be surprised how large a towed tender can be in relation to your boat and how little it will affect your fuel burn, provided the tender has a slippery hull. But you don’t want to tie a line from an aft cleat to the bow ring on any old boat. Use a purpose-built bridle and adjust its length to the conditions at hand. And keep an eye on the tow—it may need occasional adjustment.

A vessel with a rugged hull, such as the 327 Center Console from Intrepid, will stand up to the punishment of towing. Ask about towing-specific equipment options. “We mill the eyes of the tow package that protrude through the hull back through a solid stainless steel plate so it can be welded on both the back side of the plate and the front side,” says Ken Clinton, president of Intrepid Powerboats. “We weld both sides to make sure that there’s not a failure.”

Click here to view our Photo Gallery of Tender Choices