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Have You Ever Lost Your Dinghy?

What happens when two Bay Area sailors, who split their time between their home in Petaluma and their boat in Mexico, lose their dinghy and have to leave the boat before it is found? The story below caused us to wonder how many of us have woken up and realized, “We lost the dinghy!”?

Late last night, after rowing our 10-foot inflatable dinghy 200 yards through the surf and boisterous bay of Yelapa, Mexico, we finally arrived at Tally Ho, our moored Nauticat 43 sailboat. It was all I could do to stumble aboard with the rest of the inebriated crew, tie the dinghy to the rail, and say nite-nite. The following day — no dinghy.

“Someone stole the dinghy!” Chava quipped.

“Probably not,” I groaned, my head squeezed in a Raicilla hangover-induced vise.

“I’m sure it was the poor excuse of a knot I tied last night,” I added. We scoured the beautiful Yelapa, Mexico, bay, with binoculars yielding zero results.

Tally Ho's dinghy crew
The crew rowing to shore in Yelapa before the mysterious dinghy disappearance. From left to right: Laura Brazil, Rich Brazil, Kristy (Christina) and John (Jack Crevalle) McDill.
© 2023 Rich Brazil

The raucous crew of Tally Ho consists of Rich and Laura Brazil, Sal “Chava” Taormina, John “Jack Crevalle” McDill, and Christina “Kristy” McDill. Our eight-day sailing adventure from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, would culminate in Barra de Navidad, 200 miles south.

We spread the word to everyone we encountered for the duration of the trip — Puerto Vallarta, Yelapa, Chamela, Tenacatita, and Barra de Navidad. We became “that boat” that lost its dinghy.

After arriving in Barra many days later, our good friends John Schulthess and Monique Boucher of the Lagoon 44 Baja Fog made it their mission to help us recover our runaway dinghy. They notified Dino, the Barra de Navidad harbormaster, and Isabel, his assistant. We, in the meantime, flew back to Petaluma, California, with our tails between our legs.

Tally Ho at her dock in Barra de Navidad.
© 2023 Rich Brazil

John, from Baja Fog, called me the following week with the great news of a dinghy recovery in the Sea of Cortez and excitedly asked me to help identify it. No luck, as it was a different make and model. Two weeks later, a fellow sailor/cruiser named Greg, whom we’d met in Tenacatita, called to say a missing dinghy had arrived in Las Hadas Marina, near Manzanillo, Mexico, courtesy of a local sport fisherman. Greg kindly gave me the contact email for Marco, the Las Hadas harbormaster. Could this be it? Las Hadas Resort? The site of our honeymoon and several other anniversaries?

I thanked Greg profusely, promised to buy him many beers, and emailed Marco, the Las Hadas harbormaster, and Dino, harbormaster from Barra. Several back-and-forth emails produced the appropriate proof that, indeed, it was our three-weeks-out-at-sea dinghy!

Marco then asked us to pick it up. Hmmm, small problem: We weren’t due to fly to Manzanillo for another month. Enter Pancho, our amazing friend from Barra who tends to Tally Ho and many other boats in the Barra Marina. Pancho offered to rent a truck, drive one hour to Las Hadas, load the dinghy, and return it to Barra.I granted permission to Dino and Isabel from Barra de Navidad and Marco from Las Hadas, giving Pancho authority to retrieve the wayward craft. Pancho arranged his arrival to coincide with the fisherman being on hand to receive a tip for his help. Are you following me so far?


From L to R, harbormaster Marco, the man who can’t tie a knot, Laura, and fisherman Patricio.
© 2023 Whye Waite

Pancho arrived in Las Hadas and learned from Patricio, the fisherman, that our dinghy was approximately 23 miles offshore when found. Patricio reported trepidation in approaching the floating object for fear of what he might find inside. Luckily only two items were aboard: one broken oar, courtesy of Chava’s enthusiastic rowing in Yelapa, and another, fully intact oar. Pancho drove back to Barra, washed the soon-to-be-punished-for-running-away dinghy, and reinstalled it on Tally Ho’s dinghy davits. He even sent me a video of the naughty dinghy’s raising.

We are grateful for and humbled by the combined efforts of these fantastic people. We are constantly impressed with the kindness shared by the cruising community. Friends helping friends. Our heartfelt thanks go out to all involved.

Thank you, Monique and John. Thank you, Greg. Thank you, harbormaster Mario. Thank you, harbormaster Dino and Isabel. Thank you, fisherman Patricio. And a very special thank you to Pancho. You are the man!

Pancho, “El Hombre.”
© 2023 Pancho

We can only imagine how it must have felt, having to leave the boat to return to the US with the dinghy at large, somewhere in or near the waters of Mexico. This writer has experienced a missing dinghy after a shackle broke during the night. Fortunately it occurred in a man-made lake in the middle of a canal system, and the wayward dinghy had not drifted far.

Has anything like this happened to you? Share your missing-dinghy story in the comments below, or send us an email at [email protected].


  1. Jean Ouellette 3 months ago

    Many years ago, a couple of friends and I delivered a Pearson 365 from Oakland to Suva, Fiji. We were anchored in Suva Harbor, and typically used either the dinghy or a sailboard to commute to and from the Royal Suva Yacht Club.

    On the morning that two of us were scheduled to fly home via a puddle-jumper flight across Viti Levu to the airport at Nadi, we discovered that the dinghy was gone. Ferrying ourselves and our duffels to shore on the sailboard was a nonstarter.

    Fortunately, a friendly local person located the dinghy where it had drifted following an inept tie-up by a crew member who won’t be identified: much preferable to having the boat misappropriated. To our great relief, we were able to shuttle ourselves and our impedimenta to shore in time to connect up with our transportation.

  2. Roger Briggs 3 months ago

    After the 2006 HaHa, we were anchored in La Cruz, almost due north of Yelapa. We had taken our dinghy ashore to go to some local food markets and then catch some music at Philo’s. We left our dinghy on the beach in the care of local kids, who we tipped with a few pesos. This was back when the marina breakwater was under construction. Late at night, in the dark, we returned to our dinghy on the beach and it was clear the kids had been playing all over it (lots of sand). The painter was sprawled out from the boat across the sand. That was to be expected; we were just glad everything was there. We went back to our boat and I secured the painter to the bow cleat so our dink wouldn’t bump against our aft cabin. I got up in the night to check the anchor and such. I was shocked to see our painter hanging straight down into the dark water, and no dinghy. I’m sure my heart rate, BP, and sweat glands all went hyperactive. I walked back to our center cockpit but saw something out of the corner of my eye at the stern. I went back to the poop deck and there was our dinghy, tied to our stern pulpit with the plastic covered wire (with loops and a lock) that we used when we wanted to lock our boat to a dock. We surmised that fisherman (who regularly went out of La Cruz in the wee hours of the morning in their pangas) had come across our drifting dinghy and grabbed it. They must have looked for the only boat in the anchorage that didn’t have a dinghy – us, and returned our dink. Amazing! We also figured that the kids had untied my bowline on the painter to play with the line and then probably retied it with a granny knot that we failed to check. Our dinghy was new just before our trip, as was the 8HP Yamaha outboard. It was worth many thousands of dollars and yet it was returned by the kind and ethical locals. A great testament to our host villagers. My heart recovered.

  3. Murphy Sackett 3 months ago

    Lost one north of Cedros bashing north on a motor yacht with a hydraulic swim step.
    Swim step failed. Had a brand new Yamaha 40 boss was not pleased. But probably made some fishermen happy.

  4. Steve 3 months ago

    In 2012, our Achilles LSI88, with her pink painter, was stolen off the beach in Hanalei Bay, Kauai. We filed a police report, walked the neighborhoods, monitored Craigslist, but never saw her again.

  5. Tom Corbett 3 months ago

    Great story of loss and recovery of a very important part of cruising life…your dinghy! What also comes through in Rich’s story is the warm, gracious and reliable nature of the beautiful people of Mexico. Thank you Rich and Laura.

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