- Stable at rest and underway
- Easily driven
- Capacious cockpit
- Nicely finished and presented
- High-tech construction
- Well engineered
- Smaller model planes with 3hp
- Simple, versatile layout
The cruising yachtie’s tender is a hardworking, ill-treated and vital part of the cruising experience. The OC Tender thrives on the punishment.
Mentioning the ideal tender in the company of a group of cruising yachties is asking for trouble. Like religion and politics it is a topic you avoid if you want to keep it all civilised, or indeed keep all your teeth.
The arguments used to come down to hard versus inflatable, until the inflatable ran away with it all in the RIB. Now the hard dinghy has made a comeback with the development of the Offshore Cruising Tender (OC Tender) thanks to some clever design and windsurfing know-how.
Coming up with the recipe for the ideal tender comes from a lot of time cruising in faraway places. Russell and Karin Carlyon spent six years circumnavigating in their Malcolm Tennant-designed 14m catamaran Moonwalker. Their blog of the voyage reads like a National Geographic photo shoot, but it was the knowledge gained from cruising and being around other cruisers that sparked the idea for the perfect cruising tender.
“We got tired of repairing our RIB. The sun and the rocks played havoc with the pontoons. We got tired of getting wet every time we went ashore and carrying vast quantities of petrol to power the hull that wouldn’t plane unless it had a thirsty 8hp or more strapped to it,” says Russell.
Upon their return home to Paihia in the Bay of Islands Russell set out to consult with his former business partner and genius designer Kevin Trotter. Both Kevin and Russell produced some innovative and world-class windsurfers in the eighties and nineties under the Styrotech label and it was this kind of thinking that formed the basis of the OC Tender.
Once the CAD model was complete, moulds for the OC300 were CNC-machined and transferred to their factory in Paihia.
While the OC Tender may be a dinghy she is built like a racing yacht which makes her both light and repairable. The hull is built over a male mould in foam sandwich construction. Ten millimetre Divinycell foam is laminated in 600-gram biaxial cloth and with West System epoxy which makes for a light and stiff hull.
Unidirectional carbon is used for the bottom and around the transom area where the foam is increased to 30mm to absorb the stresses in this critical area of the boat.
The deck’s constructed over a separate mould and contains a grunty unidirectional carbon ring frame around the cockpit edge and carbon stiffening around high stress areas. H100 Divinycell blocks are placed under the rowlocks and ingenious flexible lift handles are fitted by a cord and bungee system before the deck is laminated to the hull. Once laminated, both the hull and deck are filled, sanded and painted as you would with a racing yacht hull.
Lifting points are achieved through glassed-in, carbon through-hull tubes in the forward sections and on the transom with pad eyes which secure Dyneema lifting strops to accommodate a variety of davit spacing. Compression posts to stiffen the hull and deck under gunwales finish off a well-engineered package.
The OC Tender is a striking boat. The straight stem, sharp rails and closed cell foam rub rails with Sunbrella finish cut quite a dash. A look underneath and the heritage of the OC Tender becomes apparent.
What appears to be a doryish flat bottom section is in fact a cunningly-designed rocker profile similar to a slalom windsurfer that in combination with the rails is the key to the excellent acceleration and handling of the boat.
The cockpit is commodious and after a RIB it takes a while to realize you have a lot more space thanks to the lack of side tubes encroaching into the interior. There are no thwarts across the boat. Instead there is a simple covered foam block that stores under the gunwale and can be positioned for rowing or motoring with a tiller extension so that the boat can be trimmed to perfection no matter the number of bods aboard.
When cargo carrying, the cockpit can absorb surfboards, dive bottles and chilly bins, while still maintaining comfortable seating on the side decks for passengers.
Aiding the clear cockpit is the storage of oars on loop bungees out of sight beneath the gunwales. There are also storage nets on shock cord which allow ample storage away from the spray and wet floor of the boat.
The petrol tank is held neatly in the bow sections where the weight is best placed with a simple fabric bulkhead. Forward of that is a neat fabric anchor well which has an opening in the bottom so that painters and anchor rode can be fastened to the strong carbon through-hull tube in the bow.
On the transom are a pair of Beachmaster retractable wheels which are easy and smooth to operate and hide nicely out of the way when not needed. To protect the bottom of the hull at its aft end there is a 1.6mm alloy plate to take the scratches and abuse of the beach. This can be extended to the whole flat section of boat at the expense of a little more weight to make the bottom bullet-proof.
ON THE WATER
Test day was like a scene from Goldilocks. We had three boats to choose from: the OC300 with a 3hp, another with an 8hp and a larger OC350 with a 15hp.
My eyes have always been bigger than my stomach so I took the OC350 first. The initial impression is of a clean stable hull with plenty of room and plenty of freeboard. Because of this, the ride is dry and the days of arriving ashore with a wet bum look numbered.
With a 15hp on the back the OC350 is a powered-up fun machine. Acceleration is instant with no veed aft sections to dig into the water. I started helming from my favourite standing position and as I laid the boat into the first turn I had a familiar sensation.
Over 20 years ago I used to race windsurfers and the cornering of the OC350 felt just like throwing a nine-foot Styrotech slalom board into a gybe. The sharp rails and rocker profile held a tight grip of the corner and by the end of the day laying down curves is all I wanted to do.
In this configuration the OC350 would take you and all your mates anywhere fast, but for most cruisers it is the 8hp and 3hp OC300 configuration which make more sense. Carrying and sourcing fuel in out of the way places is the bane of the cruising sailor’s life.
Having a tender that will plane with a 3hp is a cruising miracle and it is this configuration which most intrigued me. The tiller extension and the movable seat meant that fore and aft trim is easily achievable.
With the flat bottom sections providing the lift we were planing at least 2hp under what a similar-sized inflatable would require. On top of that the hull is light, stiff and responsive so there is none of the deflated beach ball feeling inflatables develop with age.
Under oar power the OC Tender rows straight and true. The Gaco rowlocks are the best thing to come out of Australia since Ben Lexcen and because the seat placement has infinite variation you can adjust your set-up to suit your body size and stroke.
The load-carrying ability is excellent and even when loaded up the boat remains dry. The
high freeboard and flared rails keep the water where it needs to be.
At rest the OC Tender has great stability, the hard rails preventing any wobbles and the rub rail gives the boat an inflatable-like soft touch on the mother ship. The rub rails and foam sandwich construction also mean the boat remains stable and upright in the unlikely event of the boat being swamped.
Finding slow leaks in an inflatable can drive a sailor to drink. Thankfully the OC Tender can
be repaired with a small tube of epoxy or stick back tape if you are caught short. The closed cell
foam of the core means that water intrusion will not migrate and after a few years of abuse
you can get her back to new with a little bog and some TLC.
By the end of the day I had been converted to the hard tender, relived my youth and felt ready
to wade into any gathering of cruising yachties and bring up the topic of the perfect cruising
tender without fear of losing my teeth.
Packages start at $6500 plus GST.