Size of outboard and dinghy recommended for cruisers in The Caribbean

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(This is a thread copied from the OCC Members Facebook Group)

Question for The Caribbean users.
Here in UK, Northern Europe and the Med a 2.5 mtr dinghy and a 2.3hp outboard are sufficient for going ashore and doing the shopping.
what size of outboard and dinghy do you recommend for cruisers in The Caribbean?

o    We’re back in the U.K. now having just spent 2 years in the Caribbean. In our opinion the dinghy is your family car and needs to be reliable in every way. Our FRiB wasn’t good enough and ended up buying a Highfield 3.1 RiB to go with our 15hp 2 stroke. Best thing we did.
o    Depends on the size of your boat to stow the dinghy. Had a 2.5hp on a 6’ aluminium AB for years all the way from Europe to Panama. No issues at all and was up rivers in Panama and at remote isles everywhere.
o    That's how we started, but in the Carib the dinghy is your 'car'. You may have to travel longish distances with supplies and for socialising. You'll not have European tidal streams to deal with however. We bought a used AB Ventus in Grenada when we got across the pond. We also upped from a 2.5 o/b to 6 hp 4 stroke. On reflection we should have gone for a 9 hp 2 stroke - they weigh about the same. If you want a 2 stroke you'll have to go to Sint Maarten AFAIR. Stowage is an issue, and in our case weight of the o/b.
o    We have a 3 meter Carib with a 15 hp 2-stroke. My next dinghy will be an OC Tender. ($$$)
    we have a hard nesting dinghy. It shares many features of the OC buts its 28years old
    we have an OC tender. It’s 5 years old now, but it is excellent and looks like new. Planes easily with two on board with a 9.8 2 stroke.
o    We have a 3.1m fiberglass bottomed rib with a 6hp two stroke motor. It will plane at 15kts with two adults, dog and groceries. Sometimes the anchorage is quite a way out. A planing dinghy opens up places you wouldn't consider going otherwise. (Like 16 miles upriver to visit my mother's home town).
    That is super performance for 6HP. Is there a trick to attaining it? Our 9.9 could just make that
    it's an old Mariner 6hp two stroke. I just put fuel/oil in it at 50:1. It struggles sometimes to get planing, and won't do it with a full load of provisions, or a lot of chop, but we're happy with it. The rib is a West Marine, and it's fairly light.
o    We have a 3,1 m rib with 15 hk t2 Yamaha. I have seen a few desperate persons in small dinges and outboard struggle to get to the boat with risk of blowing /drifting out to sea, not very nice. With a larger dingy you can make longer excursions and also larger provissioning. Your dingy are you workhorse
o    Posters are correct in that a RIB with a 15hp is ideal for covering distance . Do consider the dangers of speed in a harbour though . Lots of snorkelers. So just because it will plane at 20k doesn’t mean it’s safe wise or legal to do so.
o    3.10 w 15 hp. 2 stroke, 2 onbord and food. if smaller, you need a lot of time, to get to and from boat at anchor.
    I’m retired and living on a boat...I’ve got all the time I need!
o    We had a 6hp 4 stroke Tohatsu which was perfectly adequate in the Med, but proved woeful in the Caribbean where distance and speed to cover it is so important. We bought a 15hp Yamaha 2 stroke in Panama city and it has literally transformed our lives, especially now we are in the Pacific. I honestly don't know how we put up with it before.
o    Pretty much the same view as Ian. You need something to plane with load, be it 2 plus stores or for us 2 plus 2kids and bits). Started with a 9’ with a 6hp which simply wasn’t up to transiting Elizabeth harbour unless you were prepared to get wet and take ages to cross from town to anchorage. Wife gave permission to upgrade after yet another ride with a friend with a “proper size” dinghy. Ended up with a 10.5’ AB aluminium ( for weight and for our Pacific time, great protection against mishaps with coral) and a Toshiba 18hp. Would have got the 15 but the 18 was on discount as they wanted rid of it. Same engine just tuned up.
o    We existed quite happily with a 3.5 hp engine since Noah was a lad.
o    We dumped our tiny Honwave and Honda 2.3hp early in our travels and on reaching the USA bought a lightweight Achilles LSi 2.9 air deck and a Yamaha 9.9hp......quick to the plane with two up and light enough to hoist on the davits every night......a super little runabout that served us well in the Caribbean for 5 years without blowing the bank account! Now living a much slower life in the UK
o    Have a 2.9m Avon with a inflatable floor and a 2.5hp outboard. Works fine
o    A highfield 3.10 hypalon with a 20hp outboard , scan anchorages , go grocery shopping, snorkel , just go Without having to worry whether or not you get there if there is some wave action or wind
o    We have friends that row/sail or that have tiny outboards and all do fine.
But if you go bigger, ours is 9.9 and in my opinion only just big enough for two, you have much more flexibility.
We then went off round the world and had to anchor in places that were a couple of miles from the shops. It is going to take you quite awhile with a small engine!
o    We have 2.5 HP on 2.6m Avon. Suits us fine, we load her down and putts along.
o    Agree with above. Some have bigger dinks and bigger outboards. However, they are heavier and that is a downside.
    the OC tender is relatively light.
o    3.8m nesting hard dinghy with 15hp Yam Enduro 2 stroke. Its our dive boat, car, sailing dinghy and a lot of fun
o    We have an 8hp 2-stroke with a 2.9m dinghy. That’s for two adults. We can plane easily if we are exploring or heading to a beach with a light load. The two of us with a really big grocery run, we chuff along looking at the scenery. I might add, think about hypalon for longevity.
o    We managed ok with a 2.3hp two stroke and a 2.3m inflatable. However our pvc dinghy disintegrated due to uv degradation of the glue we ended up buying a hypalon inflatable after the transom nearly fell off. We did not have davits but hosted the boat onto the foredeck every night. We never towed the dinghy in open water ( between the islands) but often did when traversing up the leeward coast ( no one sails up the windward side). We used a long tow line and a long safety line attached to another strong point on the dinghy and never towed with the outboard on the dinghy. The dinghy would not stow to well on deck inflated so we deflated it nearly every day and stowed on the foredeck...this may sound a pain but it wasn’ was good exercise and by the the time we had anchored, put the boat to bed, and inflated the dinghy and had a cup of tea we were either confident that we were anchored safely or not and able to reset the anchor if necessary before going ashore ( to be honest our Bruce anchor only ever dragged once in a season of anchoring in the Caribbean) and checking in (you have to check in with every new island) My advice is 2.5hp is fine but do spend the money and invest in a hypalon dinghy with lifting points (even if you don’t have davits - it helps to hoist the dinghy on deck with the spinnaker halyard). Here in the U.K. we are not use to padlocking our dinghy and Outbard ...everyone does in the Caribbean and not without reason...if yours is not the one padlocked it will be the one that is missing when you come back from your visit ashore and you will have to swim back to your boat.
o    Size depends on what you can carry on board and move on the beach. Go for hypalon tubes and aluminium hull if you can. It’s really up to your preferences, we used an old Avon redcrest and 2.5hp in the Caribbean moving up to a Highfield after experiencing the shallow water and coral in the San Blas islands. We know someone who still uses a redcrest and oars.
o    I have a 2.4' hard dinghy with a 3.5hp motor. I can also row and sail. It is true that we could go further in a big planing dinghy, but we like having a smaller lighter dinghy with a smaller lighter motor.
    why? We can go a mile or more to the dinghy dock carrying all of our shopping. We can head off to dive sites carrying three people and dive gear on the plane. We explored the Bahamas doing lots of miles in the dinghy. We stay dry when the sea is bumpy. Being a hard dinghy is easily drags up the beach even with a 15hp. Being a nester it easily stows on the deck. It tows incredibly well if we want to. It also sails. Its also great fun. We can wakeboard behind it
o    I also prefer a lighter dinghy and smaller motor. So much easier to bring onboard. So many peeps always tow their heavy dinghies.
    our 3.8m hard dinghy weighs 54kg. We hoist with the rope drum on the windlass. Easier than mauling any dinghy onto the deck. Horses for courses I think
    At the beach?
•    pull it up the beach or anchor it. We can also use wheels but rarely bother unless in the UK
o    We managed a five and a half year circumnavigation without a dinghy that would plane. It was a nuisance in one Fijian island. And slightly in Georgetown , exuma. Apart from that it was fine
If starting from new I’d buy a 2 stroke 9.9 and a small aluminium rib ( we have the rib) . We store on deck.
The need for a big outboard is overstated.
    id depends on your requirements. We have a 15 and a 9.9hp. Whilst learning to kite surf it was a rescue boat. You cant do that with a 2.5hp
•    well that’s understandable but a different question. For basic cruising that’s different . If you were a keen diver you might want a more powerful set uptoo
•    we are talking basic cruising, anchorage to shore, to shop and get fuel.
•    it depends on your definition of cruising. If you dont do much as part of your cruising life then just getting ashore is a very basic requirement. If you like to explore, snorkel, dive, carry bicycles, make long trips in your dinghy then clearly you need more than a rubber ring and an egg whisk. Cruising for us would not be the same without a decent dinghy and engine and opens up so much more than just getting ashore. What is the definition of cruising?We spent two times round the eastern Caribbean and once around the west Caribbean with a 10' Porta-Bote and 6 hp 4 stroke with excellent results. This less expensive and lighter weight dinghy option would get up on plane with both of us in it. It holds more than inflatable because there are no tubes to take up room. However, with four flexible water tanks in it or four adults and luggage, it will not plane. No worries about being pulled up on the rocky beach with the hard impact polyprolyene-copolymer the Porta-Bote is made out of.
o    As you see, many opinions.
The big advantage in a faster dinghy is for exploring and going diving a few miles from the anchorage. We do this a LOT more in the Caribbean than we did in Scotland or Norway
For years We had an 8 ft RIB. With 9.9 two stroke. It was OK in Caribbean
Upgraded to 9.5 ft aluminium AB. RIB
MUCH drier. Also modified the 9.9 to approx 15HP by changing the input valve (info on YouTube)
Well worth the upgrade but I would not go larger
    is yours 2st Yam - never found a way to boost the 4st 9.9.
o    Getting on a plane is generally the driest ride.
o    Thanks for the answers, interesting, looks like what we have will do the job and fit the space we have. Our boat is moody 33 mk1 cutter rig, so no space for a rib, don't want davits, might keep an eye out for a 4/5hp 4 stroke engine.
Thanks again for all the info, and personal experiences.
    don’t buy a 4/5 hp 4 stroke
We have that and it’s the worst of all worlds. Heavy and not powerful
Get either a small light little engine 2.5 or wait for a 8.9/9 hp 2 stroke
•    I totally agree. We had a 6hp 4stroke. It was heavy and also available as a 5hp version. Our Tohatsu 9.8 hp 2 stroke weighs the same. Its so much easier to start being a twin cylinder. My wife used to struggle to pull start the 6hp four stroke. The Tohatsu 9.8hp 2 stroke can be purchased new in the Caribbean as low as $1400 when Budget Marine have them on offer
•    I agree. I hope to find a more powerful 2 stroke while I am here in Gautemala. I have a Tohatsu 6 hp 4 stroke, and while it is good for just me, it's pretty damn slow with even just one other person. It would be nice to get around a bit faster!
•    and in local pubs.
•    looked into it, have to carry extra fuel and oil, although oil isn't a problem. I don't like 2 strokes, messy things and Aspen 2 is too expensive. Way to much servicing.
•    what's messy? No crankcase oil. Super simple engines. Carbs are more tolerant off dirty fuel than a 4stroke. Light.
o    You’re likely to do greater distance and the seas can be choppy. Everything is a compromise and there is no perfect solution,ll depends how you will store/ carry the dink. Ribs are the best by a mile and as big as you can manage. We bought a lightweight UL9 single skin aluminum with a 10hp Yamaha 4 stroke. It planes well with 2 people and some shopping or dive gear but any more and it struggles. We can also lift it on Davits with the engine no problem. But on passage it will go across the aft deck fully inflated (center cockpit boat). In the Caribbean the rule is lift it or lose it so you want to be able to lift on davits or a halyard every night. There are times when I would prefer more power but a 10 hp is max rated size for the boat and in US Coastguards have been known to check, also 2stroke is lighter and still allowed in Caribbean but not USA. Hope this heals.
    you can still use a 2 stroke in the US if it was manufactured before 2006.
o    Our 270 inflatable floor died in the UV. We changed to a hypalon aluminium hull with a 15hp 2 stroke ( you can still buy 2 strokes out there). Much better for longer distance shopping trips. Now back in UK there is more advantage in the smaller set up, especially lighter engine.
o    I have to say that during my Atlantic Circuit in 18/19 I made do with a 2.3m inflatable air deck 3D Tender, and a Torqueedo electric outboard. For me the ease of storage and no petrol, oil and outboard servicing were the primary considerations. I don’t regret my choice at all and would do the same again.
o    We have 6hp 4 stroke and found spares were very difficult to find. The locals all have a 15 hp Enduro(Yamaha) 2 stroke or bigger.
I did 10 seasons or so of cruising in the Caribbean in a 36’ Westerly and we managed with small dinghies with slatted floors and a 2.5hp outboard. Yes the distances are longer and it’s windy most of the time, but it’s warm, so worst case you go ashore in swimmers with dry shorts in a rucksack and change on the beach !
o    Nobody seems to have mentioned pitch of propeller. Eg 15hp 2stroke with 11" pitch prop planes great with 2 people, marginal with dive gear and not at all with 4 people...however, same outboard with a 9" pitch prop will plane with 4 adults...that is on a 3m RIB.... Probably best to plan prop pitch to suit chosen dinghy/outboard with two adults and full of stores.
    interesting. I’d never thought about changing the size or pitch of an outboard prop! Duh....
•    the prop max diameter is limited by physical size of the aperture on the engine. If you increase the pitch to far for a given loading the "slip" will increase and eventually all more revs will achieve is blade cavitation. If you go too fine on the pitch (like changing down to a lower gear in a vehicle) the prop will not be loaded enough and you may over rev the engine. If you want to whizz around lightly loaded but also be able to sometimes carry much heavier loads a distance, you may want two different pitched props aboard. Happy sizing.
    perhaps vary props for outboards could be an idea.
o    We have an electrical, Epropulsion, which we love. We have not regret it. It's not fast. We normally go 2 knots but can do 4. Cool thing is that we don't need to store or go in to fill up gas for the dinghy engine. We Love it!
    charging? Set up?
•    We have two batteries. We can charge via 12V, but that take around 10 hours so we usually charge over night. Faster is you're on sure power and use the line voltage fast charger. We get around 5h on one battery if you run on 50 %, 2 knots
•    so wouldn't be an option for us, although we have solar, wind and 4kw generator. We have the system and power to charge two extra batteries. Its not an option (electric outboard) I liked when we looked around.
•    Interested (just curious) in why electric isn't an option for you. To us it seems like your use-case is very similar to ours. We spent 4 month in the Caribbean with ours and have been cruising full time the last 2.5 years (over 20,000NM), and mostly at anchor. Just love
•    How many amp hours does it draw to charge it?
•    we have been cruising for 12 years now, we have nothing on board apart from torches that need batteries, all electric tools are mains powered. When we tried battery rechargeable tools they were always dead and needed charged before use, thus wasting valuable time.
Now we use the inverter or generator and job is done.
We have had no need so far for anything but our Honda 2.3 hp 4 stroke and 2.5 dinghy, which maybe a 2.3. Travelling only short distances in all weather's.
•    Each battery store 1276 Wh of energy. So doing the math, this translates into 106.3Ah (at 12 V). Assuming 12A charge current, this translates into 8.9 hours of charge time. This correspond nicely to our experience. However, we very seldom charge the batteries using 12 volt. Since we get 10 hours use-time out of the two batteries, we can normally go more than two weeks between charges. The likelihood that we have shore power at least once every two weeks is high. We always top up the batteries whilst on shore power. If you're interested, you'll find more on our blog about our electric engine experience.
•    Thanks for the clarification, makes sense.
We accept batteries so we can eliminate storing one more energy source aboard, petrol. We have Diesel, Propane and Electricity. We d
on't want to be forced into civilization just to fill up petrol, and we do not like the fire hazard and the storage space it takes. Just different thinking. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, I learn a lot from hearing views from others, like yourself.
•    no worries we also use Aspen fuel mostly, but will revert to standard petrol when it runs out.
o    Our dinghy can only take max 4 hp, bigger dinghy is not an option due to lack of space.
We are in no hurry don't need a dive boat or a safety boat for kids or paddle boarders or wind/wing surfers so no need for speed or massive distance coverage in less time, we have loads of time, there are and will be only two of us onboard or going ashore for stores/tourism/fuel.
    That's how we see it as well, that's why we love our electrical engine. One time a fast dinghy past us, stopped, turned around and asked if we needed help That's our life, but we love it...
o    Faster boats make the world smaller. How small do you you want the world to be? I'll be rowing, thanks.
o    One other thought for the debate...some cruising areas are becoming more popular, crowded and mooring fields are blooming in traditional anchorage spots. Often one may need to anchor farther afield and be able to travel some distance to obtain supplies. While casually rowing in a few hundred metres, or in a 2m dinghy with a small outboard, works fine, travelling a mile or more to go shopping in brisk choppy seas can be wearing. However, a bigger dinghy/motor can cause stowage problems and sucks the fuel dramatically faster. We set off 12 years ago with a 3.1m Avon rollup inflatable and a 6hp 4-stroke outboard. We still have that outboard but also have a 15hp 2-stroke Yamaha and swapped the dinghy for an AB 3m aluminium RIB....we have cruised extensively in a variety of regions, climates and conditions, we dive, snorkel, go off exploring afield by dinghy, sometimes a distance up rivers, and have found this the best configuration for us. When cruising locally we use davits for the dinghy, when going deep-sea we store the dinghy upside down on just fits.
o    For restful Anchorages best keep engine small 4hp planeing, easier to carry .....No towing....
o    We have an Avon Rover 3.10 with HP floor. We have had a Nissan 8 2 stroke, a Mercury 9.9 4 stroke and now a Mariner 6 4 stroke. It will plane with the two of us, with a little coaxing. I like having a dinghy that will cover ground, we have made 5 mile excursions at times, gone out to reefs, been in strong currents, etc. and the bigger dinghy has been a plus. Quite often, too, the best anchorages are not close to the place where you might wish to land. Rolled up, the dinghy could go into our cockpit locker, but it is always too full of other things. When we do a passage, even just overnight we secure it vertically, rolled up of course, below decks. Other times we tie it on deck. We do tow it sometimes. And, we have a lifting arm on the radar post with a small 4 part tackle to hoist the motor, which mounts on the stern.
o    We have an AB 2.9m with GRP bottom and a 2.5HP 4 stroke Suzuki outboard and a 15HP Yamaha 2 stroke. Which engine gets used depends on distances from boat to shore or whereever. Like Spruce Ohlson we stow the dinghy on the stern arch when cruising locally and on chocks athwartships under the boom when on longer passages - it also just fits - but keeps our foredeck clear and it does not foul the mainsheet when the main is fully let out. We NEVER tow the dinghy even for short distances - it doesnt take long or much effort to lift it.
    agree we never tow
o    Whatever you have needs to be securely stowed for those long passages. Smaller is easier. There is always someone to hire or assist if you need to go a great distance with a load (groceries, boat parts, people). We’ve enjoyed our 8 ft RIB and 6hp in Bahamas, US, carib (eastern and western) and EU
    in my opinion you miss a lot by not being able to go distance in your dinghy. A bit like owning a car or using public transport. The car can take you anytime and place.
Our hard dinghy is nesting so stows on deck in less space than the smallest rib. When assembled it's 3.8m. durable, dry and very capable. It's also a sailing dinghy, rows well with proper 7ft oars. Horses for courses but we could never go back to tiny engines and a deflatable hull.

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We left the UK with a 2.3HP Honda. It died a few weeks ago so now we have a 2.5HP Suzuki.
Worked great everywhere. (Europe, Caribbean, South America, Polynesia). We had been told, that we needed something bigger but never did.
BUT we use it to get tho the beach, go shopping and visit neighbours. Never really go far.
Others use their's all day to go everywhere. Or even to go nowhere. 15HP seems to be the smallest they can accept.

Don't let anyone tell you "You need a big motor in the Caribbean". It is not true.

(Disclaimer: I am writing this on a 36" Rustler which "the armchair experts" also tell me is too small for a circumnavigation)

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