All last winter the faded red Achilles inflatable floated in an empty slip, a rose with its bloom most definitely gone, abandoned, I was told, by a cruiser who’d moved up to a RIB. In the autumn gales she filled with rainwater and in the coldest New England months she cradled a massive block of ice within her tubes. Yet those same Hypalon tubes had held air for the six months she’d been floating there, and the Achilles pedigree had to count for something. I was looking for an inexpensive tender, and this one was free; perhaps she was worth saving.
One spring afternoon I pumped the water out of the dinghy and pulled it onto the dock. The plywood floorboards were, of course, delaminated and spongy, except for the triangular piece at the bow, and the varnish on the transom was peeling off in sheets. Flipping it over, I recoiled at the fragrant wilderness of barnacles, mussels and weed encrusting the bottom. Twenty minutes with a plastic scraper followed by a power-washing took care of all but the barnacles and some particularly clingy marine grass. Aside from a lone patch, the tubes looked to be in good condition; the seams were still bonded and the tubes were securely attached to the wooden transom, which showed no signs of rot. I pumped up the soft tubes till they were fit to burst and left them overnight. Next morning they were still drum-tight. So far, so good.
The maker’s plate revealed the dinghy to be an LS-4, 8ft 8in long and dating