Inflatable Pirates

Cruising Life — April 2003
By David E. Hunter

Inflatable Pirates

The spirit of those bygone buccaneers lives on the waters of Long Island Sound.


Illustration: Johann Wessels
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: Pirates
• Part 2: Pirates

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I’ve owned a motoryacht and cruised Long Island’s waters for a couple of years now, and some nail-biting approaches to unknown marinas and numerous gelcoat scratches made me wonder how mooring would be as an alternative to docking. I realized I’d need a capable vessel to ferry my family safely to and from our boat to various New England isles. And so begins the saga of Tender Leigh, proof that the skull and crossbones still flies over Long Island Sound.

A RIB seemed like the best bet for styling and performance, so I decided to look for one at one of the winter boat shows last year. In early January I purchased a RIB along with an outboard engine, and my salesman, Capt. Blackbeard, gave me an expected delivery date in March. The off-season dragged on as I anxiously awaited my spanking new white boat. When the calendar turned to April, I became concerned and made multiple calls to Blackbeard, who finally admitted that he’d never ordered the boat because of a “cash flow” problem. Apparently, the treasure chest I had handed him at the boat show was buried at a location he could no longer recall.

Following multiple calls to the United Kingdom (the boat’s country of origin and former home to Caribbean pirates), Blackbeard arranged for delivery of the tender. I commissioned the new RIB as Tender Leigh (after my daughter Amanda Leigh) and had a dinghy lift built for our boat’s swim platform. In July, with the new tender securely mounted to our motoryacht, the crew (my wife, three kids, two dogs, and I) set out for our much-anticipated summer cruise to the islands. This proved to be the worst weather week of the worst weather boating season in memory.

While moored in Block Island’s Great Salt Pond, the tender broke from its line during the fourth or fifth storm. Luckily, my fellow boaters observed its departure and recaptured the vessel during its unauthorized romp. And when it decided to go a’cruisin' again on our scheduled departure day, we, being prudent mariners, decided to stay.

The rain stopped the next day, leaving considerable fog in its wake. I secured the tender to the dinghy lift with ratchet straps, then checked them three times to ensure a snug fit. We made a beeline across the still-turbulent Block Island Sound, and every 15 minutes or so, I glanced behind me to confirm my precious tender was still with us.

About 45 minutes into our crossing, I again glanced aft for a glimpse of Tender Leigh, and a strange feeling overtook me—that same feeling you get returning to your parking space and discovering your car is gone. Somehow she had slipped from her three-time-checked dinghy lift and was gone, probably heading for Spain. The rough seas precluded any search, and so we continued homeward. I notified the Coast Guard and offered a prayer that somehow, someone would spot it.

Next page > Inflatable Pirates continued > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the March 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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