For the first time in ten years, we can attend the US Sailboat Show and tell several thousand people that YES, we DO offer a nesting dinghy kit.
There's the "Take-Apart" version of the Passagemaker Dinghy, of course, but that isn't a true "nesting dinghy," where one piece disappears into the other to reduce the storage footprint on the mothership or wherever.
(The Passagemaker Dinghy design was commissioned by Passagemaker Magazine, which caters to the million-dollar trawler crowd. They agreed that a nesting version wasn't really necessary, since the smaller part of the Take-Apart version would hide easily in a locker on the big trawlers.)
But plenty of ordinary sea-going folk need a really good dinghy that stows in the smallest possible space. (We'll not go into the many failings of inflatable dinghies here.) I've been eyeballing a true "nesting" version of the Eastport Pram and Passagemaker Dinghy for years.
One thing that's kept me away is that so many nesting dinghies are only good at one thing: nesting. The interiors are so cut up and compromised for the nesting function that they eventually end up abandoned for the dreaded inflatable. I took my first shot at a really serious nesting dinghy back in 2003, after I bought a 26-foot sailboat with negligible on-deck storage for a dinghy. Inspired by a novel Phil Bolger dinghy design, I devised a 6-foot-long dink that came apart longitudinally, with the side sponsons storing in the center hull. This looks good and I got most of it built, but I never finished it so we'll never know how well it worked.
In 2005 I drew the Passagemaker Take-Apart, which again doesn't really nest, but has been a boon to builders without much storage space. It also fits inside our Ford Econoline van, so it goes to almost every show. I tell you, sawing one of these things in two tests the nerves of the steeliest boatbuilder. I've heard from PMD Take-Apart builders who got to that step and just couldn't bring themselves to take up their saw. I know my hands shake.
In a few days, I'll be sawing up the first Nesting Version of the Eastport Pram. This one took a lot of design time. I'd done about four hours of drafting work before I discovered that the bow piece did not fit inside the stern---no way, not a chance, impossible. Had to start over from the beginning with a new cut point, slightly further forward. Now we have a dinghy that stores in a 57" x 50" footprint. It needs 21" of height, but if you cut off the largely decorative top edge of the stern transom, that drops to 18-3/4".
Lots and lots of sweating over the interior layout. It's faintly possible that I could have retained the stock Eastport Pram's curvilicious seat layout, but it made the nesting version a lot harder to build. Instead, we'll have removable thwarts with foam blocks beneath them. (The stern thwart has to come out for tight nesting.) This arrangement is lighter, has more buoyancy when swamped, and it's faster to build.
Some of the potential builders with whom I've corresponded argued strenuously for a sailing rig, and at length I worked that in. The new boat will carry the stock Eastport Pram rig, and should be just as fast and handy.
The complicated joining bulkheads don't break any new ground, design-wise. The very first run of PMD Take Aparts had some sorrowful breakages while being towed, earning me several well-deserved plates of egg in the face. Like later PMDs, the new Eastport Pram's take-apart joint is fastened with lots of heavy stainless-steel bolts and massive epoxy and timber reinforcement. It'll tear the towing cleat off the stern of the mothership before it comes apart. But the total weight should come in right around the same 65 pounds total as the stock Eastport Pram.
As they say in the boat design business: We'll see. Stay tuned for construction and launch news.