Last fall we acquired a used but cared for 2000 Trinka 10 sailing dinghy (which you can read about here) and immediately splashed it in the water for a sail. Sadly, the shakedown did not go without incident: the mast step broke loose from its resinous base in a moderate breeze, allowing the mast to tip forward and aft precariously. That was the end of the Trinka fun for the fall. I brought the boat home and put it away for the winter.
This spring, as soon as the temperatures were suitable for fiberglass work, I set the PVC pipe insert that supports the mast in a bed of thickened epoxy and then wrapped the pipe with two pieces of biaxial cloth to secure it fore and aft well onto the hull. Here’s a slightly blurry picture of the repair. Working through a small inspection port made the job a tad difficult and getting a decent picture tough.
For a dinghy touted as “The best rowing/sailing dinghy in the world,” I was a bit disappointed by the marginal installation that led to the break. So, here are a few of my observations on the Trinka 10 – the good and the bad – for those who have one or might be thinking about buying one:
1. The Mast Step: Wrapping the base of the PVC pipe step in fiberglass cloth is an easy and inexpensive job. I recommend doing it. Additionally, I believe that water ingress into the advertised “airtight…oil and gasoline-tight” chamber also contributed to the failure during freeze/thaw cycles, so keep that chamber dry, which leads to the second point…
2. Inspection Ports: The Trinka came to us with a standard screw-in inspection port in the stern floatation chamber, but the bow chamber opening was sealed and covered with a piece of what looked like hull material. I removed that and installed a screw-in inspection port to match the one in the stern. During our recent summer cruise, both chambers, initially dry, had water in them. They are not air or water-tight – at least not anymore – and it isn’t due to the new inspection port. Water leaks into the forward chamber through the mast step and into the stern chamber through either the self-bailer or the wood reinforcement on the transom. Of course, it’s entirely possible that water finds its way in around the screws that secure the stainless rub strips to the forefoot and the rear skeg.
3. Hull Construction: This item is related to #2. It appears that Trinkas are constructed in two parts: an outer hull and an inner liner that are glued together. This makes for a nicely finished interior, but it isn’t the most durable, in my opinion. Such construction makes it possible for there to be voids between the two pieces. Water will invariably find its way into any voids. Water will then be trapped in those voids. In northern climates subject to freezing temperatures, that water will freeze and potentially cause damage. Laying the boats up with solid fiberglass might not be as pretty, but it’s more durable.
I should also note that I found a few areas on the exterior hull where the gel coat seemed to be poorly adhered. I’ve seen this before on other boats, and they are little round cracks that will shed a small piece of gel coat if picked at, leaving laminate exposed. I’m not sure what causes this, but a couple spots came loose when I pressure washed the bottom. Perhaps that’s to be expected on a 13-year-old boat. I don’t know.
4. Towing Eyes: There are two standard towing eyes, one high and the other low near to the waterline. They are well secured and stout. The upper eye, however, is inaccessible from inside without drilling through the inner hull liner. The lower eye is accessible through the forward floatation chamber, but not without some difficulty – or a really long arm. This may not be an issue, but such an important piece of hardware should be easy to access and replace.
5.Skeg: The Trinka 10 does not have a full skeg. She has a skeg in her forefoot and skeg in her stern, but she is flat on the bottom in her middle section. We discovered this summer while using her as a tender that the bow has a tendency to dig in, sending her off to port or starboard. The addition of a full skeg would mean better, straighter rowing and towing. All things considered, however, she does row and tow very well. But she could do both better with a full skeg.
6. Automatic Bailer: These things are very helpful – pop it open when towing or hanging the dinghy on davits, and it will purge shipped water – but my goodness are they painful, especially when you’re using her as a sailing dinghy and sitting in the hull. It would have been nice if Trinka had built a small well to contain the bailer. As is, a cushion is the best option for avoiding scrapes and cuts from the sharp corners and protruding screw heads.
7. Gunwale Fender: These things are great! It’s so nice to have a soft gunwale to protect the mothership’s gel coat, especially when kids or inexperienced crew are at the oars. The fender is a definite plus.
8. Sailing Rig: Why anyone would buy a Trinka without the sailing rig is beyond me. Towing a tender is necessary at times, but rarely fun. Adding a sailing rig to your tender actually makes it fun. The rig is well designed, easy to set up, and functional. The sail even has cringles for reefing. The only criticism I have is that there is no provision for retaining the mast in the event of capsize if you don’t have a boom vang rigged – and a boom vang is just too much unnecessary hardware for this boat. I’ve taken to rigging a retaining line through a block at the base of the mast and through the cam cleat on the forward floatation chamber.
9. Rowing: My two boys learned how to row this summer aboard the Trinka and had a blast. She’s easy to row and well behaved. The addition of a skeg would be nice, but she’s fine as is. We loaded two men and two small boys in the dinghy and rowed to and from shore several times. We stayed dry, had enough room, and looked good in the process!
10. Buoyancy/Stability: As far as attractively designed fiberglass/rigid dinghies go, this one is fairly stable. Of course a flatter bottom and broader ends would mean more stability, but they would also mean an uglier dink. For a pretty dinghy, this one has good stability. I was able to haul myself (157 lbs) aboard amidship over the gunwale without taking on much water. And I could just about stand on the outboard edge of the middle seat without shipping water or flipping the dink. Her bow is plenty buoyant, but very unstable. I stepped from the breasthook to Ariel’s transom several times, but I had to be very careful about maintaining balance lest the dinghy tip precariously.
11. Towing: We’ve towed the Trinka over 300 miles without incident. She tows well, provided enough painter (tow rope) and proper placement for the sea conditions. When approaching harbor we haul her in close to Ariel’s transom where she sits very happily. Offshore we tow her at least 20-30′ astern. In following seas we towed her farther astern to keep her from surfing down waves and into the boat. She stays relatively dry while towing, although I think her daggerboard slot tends to ship water at higher speeds.
Overall, she’s a great little dinghy that performs her tasks well and attractively. I loved having her along on our summer cruise, and my boys loved rowing and sailing her around harbor. She also proved to be a good little fishing boat for two young boys.
Would I buy another Trinka? Yes, but not at full price. She’s a good dinghy, but perhaps not the only (or best) option out there for the cruising sailor. A Lyle Hess-designed Fatty Knees is another option, and perhaps a better one. Finding one at an affordable price might be tough, however. As always, it’s about compromise. Even towing a dinghy is a compromise between easy sailing and more convenient access to shore. But that’s a topic for another post.