Pre-Launch Dinghy Checklist (16+ Crucial Steps)

Getting the chance to use a dinghy while out sailing can be a fun way to explore your new surroundings and change things up. Dinghies also help a lot when needing to taxi to and from your sailboat when anchored out somewhere. Before getting into that dinghy, you’ll want to make sure that everything is in order and that you and your crew are safe to launch.

So what is in the pre-launch dinghy cruising checklist? Your dinghy should at least have:

  • A working engine
  • Tools and spare parts for the engine
  • Safety equipment and supplies
  • Paddles/oars

Here we’ll be focusing on power dinghies, as opposed to sailing dinghies, as they’re essential additions to any sailboat of sufficient size. These types of dinghies are commonly found either at the stern of a sailboat to keep it out of the way during normal operations on the sailboat or strapped down somewhere near the bow. Either way, the following pre-launch procedures will be helpful for anyone preparing to use a dinghy when on a sailboat.

Basic Pre-Launch Checklist for a Dinghy

Before you take your dinghy out for a nice little cruise around the surrounding area, you’ll want to run through this basic checklist to ensure you’ll be safe going out and coming back in. However, ensuring you and your dinghy crew are safe doesn’t take much effort as long as you follow these basic action points.

The basic pre-launch checklist for a dinghy includes:

  1. Check that the outboard motor is firmly attached to the stern of the dinghy.
  2. Make sure the safety cable or chain is properly connected to a sturdy point on-board the dinghy.
  3. Keep safety, signaling, and personal flotation device (PFD) equipment safely stowed and readily available.
  4. Ensure your fuel tank is full and positioned properly to encourage good stability and balance.
  5. Check the anchor and the “bitter end” (end of the line) are functional and securely attached to the dinghy.
  6. Remove all excess water in the dinghy.
  7. Make sure the drain plug/bung is in the correct position.
  8. Bring enough food and water for the duration of the voyage.

If you’re able to cross off every one of the items on this basic pre-launch checklist, you’re likely going to be safe while aboard your dinghy. There are certainly more parts of the dinghy to inspect more thoroughly and processes to follow before putting your dinghy in the water along with yourself, but covering these means you’re off to a great start.

Getting a Dinghy into the Water

After you’ve followed the basic pre-launch checklist for your dinghy, you want to start working on getting it into the water safely. Now, there are ways to do things and ways not to do things, so here we’ll be covering how best to get your dinghy into the water without any issues.

If your dinghy is located at the stern of your sailboat, then you won’t have much difficulty getting it into the water. Regardless of how it’s attached, you’ll be easily able to detach it and safely lower it into the water. Some sailboats will have davits where the dinghy is attached to, so removing the dinghy from them is quite easy. Some sailboats have a mechanical device that lowers the dingy directly into the water, which is even more convenient.

Dinghies that are stowed on the deck of the bow of a sailboat may require the use of a halyard to help lift the dinghy over the lifelines and into the water. If this is the case, you’ll want to make sure that the outboard motor is not attached to the dinghy until getting the vessel into the water. Larger yachts often have a mechanical crane that allows for easy transportation of the dinghy to and from the ship.

Once the dinghy is in the water, one person from your crew should get inside the dinghy and ensure that it’s secure alongside the sailboat. If your dinghy was placed in the water without its outboard motor, you’ll need to lift the outboard motor over the lifelines using a halyard and lower it down into the dinghy.

After all of that, your crew should be able to properly attach the outboard motor onto the dinghy. You’ll also need to pass down the fuel tank in the same way in case you placed your dinghy into the water without its outboard motor.

Starting and Stopping a Dinghy Motor

At this point in time, you should already have your dinghy in the water and at least one crew member inside of it. If you’ve followed all of the previous steps and everything went as planned, then you’re definitely on the right path of having a fun and safe time on your dinghy.

Making sure your dinghy’s motor is working properly means that it must be able to start, run, and stop properly. To ensure these basic actions are met, you’ll want to start inspecting your dinghy while it’s in the water by crossing off the items on the checklist below. Some of these items may be redundant based on what you’ve already checked, but it’s better to be safe than sorry when out on the water.

The basic motor checklist for a dinghy include:

  1. Make sure the fuel tank is full.
  2. If you have a 2-stroke motor, shake the fuel tank to ensure the oil and gasoline/petrol are mixed.
  3. Check that the fuel lead is properly connected.
  4. Press the primer bulb a few times so that it’s firm to make sure the engine is primed.
  5. Ensure the motor is firmly attached to the dinghy.
  6. Make sure the tilt mechanism works properly and that it’s set in the “run” position.
  7. Connect the kill cord to the motor.
  8. Shift the motor’s gear into neutral.
  9. If the motor is cold, enable the choke before attempting to start the motor.

After you’ve crossed off all the items of the list above, you’re ready to start your dinghy’s motor! At this stage, you’ll be sure that the motor is working properly and is safe to use when out on the water.

Before starting the motor of your dinghy, make sure you know perfectly well how to stop it. Most outboard motors have a red button that’s clearly placed on the outside of the motor which simply needs to pressed and held for a few seconds to shut down the motor. If you’re short for time and need to turn off the motor quickly, pull the kill cord.

Once you know how to properly turn off your dinghy’s motor, engage the throttle in the “start” position and start up the motor. To start up the motor, you’ll either have to pull a starter cord quickly and firmly, turn an ignition key, or hold down a button. If the motor isn’t turning on the first few attempts and you haven’t yet enabled the choke, turn on the choke, give it a few tries until the motor starts up, remove the choke, and throttle down the motor.

Once the motor’s been running for a few minutes, it should be all warmed up and ready to ride. Ease into the throttle when you’re ready to head out and enjoy your time on your dinghy!

Common Motor Faults

Sometimes firing up the outboard motor of a dinghy isn’t always as smooth as we’d like it to be. Like any other mechanical device, there’s bound to be some issues that come up that need to be addressed. Luckily, there are a few common motor faults that you can easily identify and solve.

One of the most common reasons for an outboard motor not to start is due to the fact that there’s no fuel flow. Simply put, this means that the fuel is not flowing at a sufficient volume or at all to the motor resulting in insufficient energy. The most obvious cause could be that there’s not a sufficient amount of fuel left in the tank. A lack of fuel flow could also be caused by the fuel line not being properly connected and primed. There could even be something obstructing the fuel flow causing whatever fuel there is to be either bottlenecked or completely held back from the motor. Another solution could be to clean the fuel filter in the power head.

Another common reason for a dinghy’s outboard motor to refuse to run or start up properly is that the kill cord or the electrical parts of the motor aren’t properly connected. Obviously, you want to make sure the is connected to the motor before attempting to start it up. However, the fuses inside the motor might be either blown or not connected properly. Another potential cause could be that the battery is either not connected properly or it’s dead. Also, you’ll want to make sure the spark plugs are clean and properly firing when attempting to start the motor.