Love Me Tender…


Since last Saturday Sassy’s tender has joined her at the marina.

It will not be new to the habitués of this blog that Sassy has a very special and tiny tender: the Sportyak II. It is a vintage design from the 1960s – a loveable, able and rebel hippie dinghy that loves “happenings”.

The Sportyak II – renamed “Sportyak 213” in its most recent reincarnation ( – seems to have been manufactured by at least three companies: Dayton Marine Products, Detroit, MI (, KL Industries, Muskegon, MI (, and Bic in France ( Sassy’s – of course – is French.

Sassy’s tender advent to Canada was not without some difficulties: at that time the Bic Sportyak II was being imported into the United States, but BicBoats in the US would not export it to Canada. Hence it was delivered to the UPS outlet in Ogdensburg, NY, from where it was fetched by Sassy’s land-auxiliary (the CRD Jeep) and car-topped across the Saint Lawrence River, through Canadian Customs and all the way to Sassy.

It is 7 feet long, 4 feet wide and weights 42 pounds. It is made of HDPE, High Density Polyethylene – a food-grade and recyclable plastic. Its corrugated bottom floor gives its hull its rigidity and its dual-hull design makes it very stable on the water.

However, this does not go to say that the Sportyak II is entirely foolproof. Boarding the dinghy from a dock or the boat can be tricky mainly due to its tendency for disappearing from under human legs. Experience has shown that having the dinghy secured sideways to the side of the boat or the dock greatly improves the chances of a successful transfer. This can be achieved with a single line attached mid-ship of the tender, for which the oarlock hole at its beam comes very handy. Fenders are desirable but not entirely necessary given the material of the dinghy.

For a heavy and not to agile person, experience has also shown that it is better to step down on the dinghy backwards, by placing a first foot mid-ship while still holding ones weight from a line attached to the main ship. In Sassy the mainsheet purchases at the stern of the boat are the preferred holding structures for this operation. The trick then is to try to bring one’s center of gravity as low and as fast as possible, something not always easy for legs and knees that have seen better times. Climbing back to the dock or boat from the Sportyak is just the reverse of this operation.

In the event of a sudden and unexpected water immersion, the Sportyak can be boarded from the water by using the arms to push one of its sides under one’s buttocks while propelling the torso backwards, as it is possible for a person of average weight to sit on the side of the Sportyak II with the legs in the water without the tender being capsized or the gunnel submerged.

As for rowing, this can be done sitting facing astern on a low seat. The original plank seat was never available in Sassy’s Sportyak II. Instead its seat is an “IKEA Försiktig Children’s Stool” that seem to have been designed with the Sportyak II in mind ( The Sportyak II can also be rowed while kneeling on a pad and facing forward or even sculled using the oarlock at the stern while kneeling facing astern.

For all its capabilities and usefulness, it pays to remember that at heart the Sportyak II is just a toy, a Polyethylene toy made of the same material in bathtub ducklings and other floaters in children’s baths. As such, it is difficult not to “love it tender”, but when playing with it one should also be prepared in case it decides to start behaving like the mischievious and joyful toy that it actually is.