It turns out that I need a new ship-to-shore dinghy to replace the old one which is too small now that my puppies are actual full-grown dogs. I have tried out a wide variety of different tenders over the years, trying to balance out the conflicting requirements of being lightweight and easy to tow or store, being inexpensive to build, being strong and sturdy and being a decent rowboat.
Here is a list of the tenders I have built or have used so far:
1) 12' Cartopper dinghy.
A stitch & glue Phil Bolger design. This boat rowed fine, but is not laid out very well for ship-to-shore duties. An okay boat, but somewhat compromised by the simplifications required by the building technique.
2) 7'9" Nymph pram.
Another Bolger--essentially a Cartopper with the pointy bit cut off. Adequate, but not beautiful.
3) 7'9" Eastport pram.
Designed by Chesapeake Light Craft, this pram is built plywood lapstrake and incorporates built-in flotation chambers making her unsinkable. A very pretty boat compared to the angular stitch & glue shapes.
4) 11' Shellback dinghy. My brother built this Joel White design. It's built glued lapstrake and very attractive. This one is big enough to be a pretty good rowboat, but shares the problem of being a little too big and heavy for my purposes.
5) 8' Shoebox punt. This is one of Bolger's famous square boats. It went together in nothing flat and cost less than $50. . . .and I'm afraid I have to say it was by a good margin the worst towing, worst rowing, pounding, splashy, ugly and least likeable boat to use in the whole list. I wish I could have that fifty bucks back.
6) 7'8" Lapstrake pram. I built this boat traditionally with copper clench-nailed cedar planking over steambent oak ribs. This is the most glorious form of woodworking from a pure craftsman's standpoint, and this boat turned out gorgeous and was delightful to row and tow. Everywhere we went, people would come walking down the dock just to take a closer look at her. The only problems with this little gem were that, like all traditional wooden boats, she requires a higher level of care and maintenance to keep her happy than I really wanted to spend on my ship-to-shore tender. I have several larger boats that need love and attention already, and I've decided that the sailing canoe--which will live under cover when not in use--is a better candidate for traditional construction than a utility boat that will live out in the open at the marina.
7) 8' Acorn dinghy. This Iain Oughtred design was built traditional lapstrake by Andy Stewart. This is a gorgeous boat and could be built glued plywood lapstrake to reduce maintenance and weight. The 10 footer version was a strong contender for my next boat. . . . .
. . . .but I have decided that the best choice for my new boat was to be another pram instead. The pointy end of a really small tender simply doesn't provide as much useful space for the length of a boat and is less convenient for stepping off the end of the boat onto shore. That pointy bit is also harder on the topsides paint of the mother ship when you're not looking where you're rowing. The rounded, dish-like shape of a properly designed pram makes for very easy towing in rougher waters--less affected by cross waves and chop than a hard-chined hull--and the shape and reserve bouyancy of a correctly proportioned bow transom is essentially immune to the rooting and broaching that a stem-dinghy can exhibit when it gets surfed forward by following waves.
My favorite boat for the money from that preceding list was the Eastport pram. . .but I need a little bigger boat overall. My solution: I have stretched the basic lines of the Eastport, which was designed for construction from 8' long plywood sheets by a whole foot to use the oversize occume marine plywood panels that we can get from Edensaw. I increased the station spacing by 112.5% and re-lofted the curves to get my new plank shapes. This new 9 footer should have all of the great characteristics of the 8 footer that I liked so much while providing that extra stability and buoyancy that I need to get Katie and me and couple of wiggly Springer spaniels safely to shore all at one time.