“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

We Bought a Boat at the Boat Show


No we didn’t get rid of Smitty.  We love her too much for that.  But we did purchase a new inflatable.

We’ve been having ongoing inflatable issues ever since we have had one.  Our first inflatable, named Smitty Ditty by my Bride, was a 10-foot fiberglass RIB.  We got Smitty Ditty with the purchase of Smitty and that came with a 5 hp Nissan 4-stroke outboard.

Smitty Ditty

Smitty Ditty

We very much had a love/hate relationship with Smitty Ditty.  It was our first inflatable.  And she did take us almost everywhere we wanted to go.  But she weighed about 140 pounds and was too big to fit on the bow inflated and not be in the way for the anchor locker.  She also leaked water no matter what I did.  I reglued her 3 different times with no luck.  She was also having a problem holding air and had two large (over a square foot) patches on the rear of each pontoon.

Enter the Limo!


We purchased the Limo because we wanted the motor.  Our friend Stu has the Tohatsu version of this engine (Nissans and Tohatsus of this era are the same motors with different stickers and paint).  Our 5 hp 4-stroke weighs 54 pounds.  This 9.8 hp 2-stroke weighs 57 pounds.  Essentially we doubled our horse power for 3 pounds and the inconvenience of mixing gas. Done deal.  The motor just happened to come with a 11-foot inflatable rated for 1,545 pounds.  It was huge and you could easily put 6 adults and a dog in the boat.  You could have a large cooler in the middle of the boat and still sit people around the outside.  The party bus of dinghies.

The Limo came at a good time.  We put the new motor on Smitty Ditty for some test runs.  By the time we made it back to the dock it was apparent that the Ditty was no longer holding air.  I had just repatch one of the large patches on the back and the patch wasn’t taking.  In addition, the hull was now leaking water into the area between the two hulls so it now weighed close to 200 pounds.  We sold her to someone at the dock and used the Limo for the rest of last season.  The Limo isn’t bad, just big.  We lost close to 1.5 knots when towing it and there is no chance of having it on deck. It also has a soft bottom so beaching it to take Summer for a walk is dicey.

So this year we planned to make a big purchase, a new inflatable.  We didn’t want to mess around with used, patch inflatables for when we head out cruising because it will be our connection to land and all purpose vehicle.  We knew we wanted a hard bottom so that Summer could stand in it with no problems and we could beach it.  The length had to be 9.5 feet or less because that would fit on deck.  We also wanted it to weigh as little as possible so that putting it on deck wasn’t a big deal.  We also came to the conclusion that we wanted hypalon as opposed to PVC since PVC didn’t seem to last in the Caribbean sun.

After weighing all these options, an aluminum RIB was high on the list.  They are lighter than the fiberglass and more durable for beaching.  There are several that you can get in hypalon.  The only down side is the cost.  AB was the prime builder we liked with 9.5 foot aluminum ribs in single floor weighing 70 pounds and double floor with a  bow locker weighing 118 pounds.  But these come in with hefty price tags of $3,800 and $5,300, respectively.  Also, the AB aluminum hulls are painted white and the paint peels in the hot sun.  So now most people are getting the hulls bear aluminum and that can get hot on a sunny day.  I don’t wearing shoes and Summer doesn’t either (not that I ever tried).  We had a few fiberglass RIBs we were considering too that were less money but more weight.

Last September we saw the Highfields aluminum RIBs at the Newport Boat Show and thought they looked good.  So when we went to the New England Boat Show this weekend we sought out the Highfields along with any other RIB at the show.  After seeing the Highfields side by side with the others we were looking at we decided we really liked the boat.

We purchased the Highfield Classic 290.  It’s a 9.5-foot double floor model with a bow locker in ORCA, a type of hypalon.  The weight is 108 pounds.  We decided against the single floor ultra light models for two reasons: the single floor isn’t flat and could be difficult for us and the pup to get in and out of plus stand; I have read reviews from people with really light inflatables that say they feel less safe in high winds and chop due to low weight in the bow.  Highfields powder coats their aluminum hulls instead of painting them so they don’t have the same issue with flaking.  We got a good deal at $3,200 with a cover, under seat storage bag, pump, patch kit and dry bag.  It will be ready for us to pick it up in March.

Here are some photos of the 10-foot version they had at the show.


Flat floor with non-skip on powder coated aluminum


Transom support plus a bilge that reportedly will hold 10 gallons before your feet get wet.


Bow locker that you can lock with a pad lock unlike the AB.

No formal name yet but we (or should I say my Bride who gets to name the boat) are leaning towards Smitty Ditty II.

I can’t wait to add a few key features (fuel filter, drink holder, fishing rod holder, lights for night time dingy missions) and get it out on the water.  At 108 pounds our little 9.9 hp motor should get her up on plane no problem and move her along at a nice pace.

11 thoughts on “We Bought a Boat at the Boat Show

  1. Sweet, having basically given up on our old Achilles I feel the same pain and I am very happy for you getting the new ding. Very nice…

  2. That is a serious dinghy and with the 9.9 it’s gonna fly! Enjoy!
    But I can’t say I’m jealous of the 108 pounds (and the price tag). What’s your technique (how do you plan on) for getting it on deck. Cradle and halyard? How do you fasten it?
    Long live Smitty Ditty II !

    • The dingy has 6 lifting points (4 on the transom, two inside low and two high on the outside; 2 inside low at the bottom of the bow locker) so I plan to rig a 4 point lifting sling. Attach that to the halyard and one of us can crank while the other pushes it out away from the hull of the boat. Once above the life lines it should be easy to get into place.

      I also plan to use a similar system to lift the dingy with the motor and then secure it to the side of the boat at night while at anchor. A security measure. It’s harder to steal a boat that’s in mid air then in the water.

      Our stanchions and bow rail are decently placed for tie down locations. I will be rebedding these particular ones sometime in the next two years. So I will probably take advantage of my cousin’s machine shop and make a modification that will add a more substantial tie down location.

      Big chunk of money but I think it’s one of the wise places to spend a little given how much we will use it.

  3. Coincidentally I bought the next smaller size of that same dinghy (except that I got the PVC) at the N.E. Boat Show last month as well. I am up in Portland, ME and sail a Caliber 38 with davits so size and weight are an issue. I assume you also got yours from Monahans in Weymouth. Do you know if they are available yet and have you picked yours up? If so did they notify you or did you have to check in with them? I also got a six hp Yamaha to go with it but am thinking about going up a size to the eight. After doing a fair amount of research on Aluminum RIBs, one day I came across the Highlands and found out that they were on display at the show which was already half over by then. So my wife and I headed down to Boston the next day to see them and we made a deal. I was very impressed with the quality, design and prices of the Highlands. We have never been to a show that large and really enjoyed it and plan to go again next year.

    • No, haven’t picked it up yet. They told us it would be available in March but they haven’t called us yet.

      Did you go with a 2 stroke or a 4 stroke? I highly recommend a 2 stroke older model due to the lower weight.

      The Boston show used to be twice as big. I thought this year was pretty small. The best one around here is the Newport RI show in September.

      Fair winds,


      • I did know about the weight reduction for 2 strokes but I thought they were not sold in the US anymore. I would definitely consider a 2 stroke if available. We did talk about Newport after going to this show. Is it a manageable trip (parking, crowds, etc)?

      • Really big weight difference. We had a newer Nissan 5hp 4-stroke. It weighed 54 pounds. We now have a little older (probably 2000) Nissan 9.8hp 2-stroke that weighs 57 pounds.

        You have to buy used to get the older 2-strokes that weigh less in the US. You can get them out of the country new. In the Caribbean all the charter fleets have new versions of this same engine. Stupid but that’s how it is in the US.

        For the Newport boat show, if I was coming from Maine I would make a weekend out of it and get a hotel. As far as the show it’s self, they have good parking offsite at one of the local beach lots. I think it costs $10 for the show. And they have free shuttles to take you to the show. There are way more vendors selling stuff at Newport. We have made some really good buys there like inflatable life jackets for $35, good deals on foul weather gear, etc. Go during the week if you can as it will be less crowded than the weekends.

  4. Pingback: Highfields CL290 Aluminum RIB « s/v Smitty

  5. Pingback: Great Service on our Highfields Inflatable |

  6. Hey Guys, I am looking at purchasing the CL290 as well. It probably would of been smart to try purchase it at a show. The pricing up here in Canada, isn’t as good. Also I believe the weight is 126lbs (minor detail). Hope you enjoy it!

    • Yeah, it’s interesting that the weight and Max hp of the engine has changed since we bought it. Although we were recently at a boat show and looked at the version of the boat there and its specs were closer to ours. As far as when to purchase, who knows. I think we caught it before the curve. So good luck.

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