A Bug’s Life

We’ve written several posts detailing our many adventures aboard “Firefly,” and now I’d like to share some of our adventures in and around our dinghy, “Bug.”

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Bug!

Chris and I built “Bug” ourselves, which was simultaneously stressful and amazing, if that makes any sense. Chris wrote a post back in October with some of the details, but at that point, we hadn’t even splashed her yet.

Chris and I picked a John Welsford design called “Scraps” for three reasons: 1. She’s pretty! 2. She’s small! 3. The plans said it would take about 18 hours to build (Ha!)! It took us at least three times that, mainly accounting for newbie errors, lack of proper tools, possibly exhaustion, etc.

Real quick, we used 4mm plywood for the topsides, 6mm plywood for the transoms and bottom. We used 1×1’s (ripped down to a slightly smaller size) for the gunwales and frames. We got all the materials at Lowes. We lofted the pieces on some marine plywood, cut out out the parts, put everything together, glassed it, painted it, and Chris added some corner braces.

I originally wanted to call her “Inara” after one of the characters in the show Firefly, but as soon as we started putting her together, I knew she was a “Bug.”

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The moment we knew she was a “Bug!”

Once we finished building and painting, we had to install oar locks and find some oars. Paul, the Boatyard Manager at Regent Point Marina, where we kept “Firefly,” gave us a tip about having oar locks in two spots: One for when one person uses the boat, another for when two people do. The weight distribution changes dramatically, so you have to be in a different spot while rowing in each case. Thanks Paul! Chris found oars at a marine consignment store.

I was pretty terrified the first time we tried to get into the dinghy; I was sure we’d swamp her. I couldn’t relax at all. The first time I had fun in “Bug” was when Chris took me for a moonlight row around Locklies Creek (right near Regent Point Marina) on a flat calm evening. We had been so stressed out trying to get ready for the trip, to move out of our house, etc. It was so nice to hear the oars moving through the water and to see the waterscape in the moonlight.

And so, “Bug” just fits on the cabin top when we need her to, and is very light and easy to tow. We’ve had our fair share of adventures in the little boat, that’s for sure!

“Bug” on the cabin top vs. being towed. When she’s on the cabin top, we have to do what we call “boat yoga” to get down the companionway. When we tow bug, if we hit any kind of big wave or wake, we always yell “Hold on Bug!” 

Chris is the primary rower; he’s been rowing since he was a kid. I’ve really only tried once, and it was pretty laughable. So I’m pretty much cargo.

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“Bug” and her motor.

Landing the dinghy can be an adventure depending on where we are. When we were anchored in Lake Worth, the dinghy landing area was pretty crowded. We had been told that dinghies were being stolen and that we definitely wanted to lock ours to the poles provided. However, upon landing, the tide was up past the poles. So Chris had to lock the dinghy and climb a wall to get to the little beach. After first dropping off the cargo on dry land of course!

Chris climbs to dry land. Cargo snaps photos.

Another time also in Lake Worth, after having a rollicking time with the crew of “Calista,” we were rowing back to “Firefly” (again, when I say “we,” I mean Chris!) and one of our oars broke in half (they are collapsable so they’re built to come apart) by accident… this was at 4am in what I would call a light chop. Luckily, Giles, captain of “Calista,” had decided to dinghy over to make sure we made it alright. We pointed at our oar half and yelled to him, and he zipped over, scooped it up, and then towed “Bug” back to “Firefly.” Thanks Giles!

On a related note: We keep our oars on “Firefly’s” cabin top when we are underway. This one time, when we were getting ready to pull into the St. Augustine Municipal Marina on a windy, choppy, nasty day, I was frantically running around trying to get docklines and fenders set up while trying to talk to the dockmaster on the VHF to figure out where they were going to put us. I (in my frenzied state) accidentally knocked an oar, just enough for it to go overboard. Chris, at the tiller, saw this happen, leaned over, and managed to scoop up the oar while we were moving!  Later, the guys in the dockmaster’s office were like “nice catch, man.”

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This photo shows where the oars live.

We’ve also had to use the dinghy in less-than-ideal rowing conditions. For example, when we visited my brother in Titusville, we had to row back to our boat in a quite a nasty chop (against the wind of course) in the dark. This was the first time I really thought we might capsize. I was screaming obscenities at every wave that soaked us (and we did get pretty soaked), AND we weren’t sure which anchor light was ours… so it took us longer than usual to get back to the boat and dry clothes.

One thing that can be a little difficult with a hard dinghy vs. an inflatable is that when “Bug” bumps into “Firefly” both boats can be harmed, and the noise wakes us up. This usually happens if we have any kind of wind-against-tide phenomenon. “Firefly” with her full keel prefers to face into any current. “Bug,” being very light, gets blown around by the wind. So, if the wind is against the tide, “Bug” will get blown into the transom.  In that case, we usually pull her up to our hip and tie her there with a fender keeping her from bumping.

The night we were anchored out in a gale in Long Key Bight, “Bug” alerted us to the fact that we were dragging. We weren’t really sleeping because the wind was so loud and the boat was swinging so much, but all of a sudden we hear “Bug” slam-slam-slamming against “Firefly.” Chris and I got up and Chris realized at that moment that we were beam-on to the wind and therefore dragging. So “Bug” was kind of our watchdog.

When we pulled into the marina in Tavernier in mid-January, we both noticed that Bug was looking pretty beat-up. So, one day when we had some time, we decided to do some repairs.

Before Pics

We pulled off the old corner braces, made new ones, covered them in epoxy this time, then repainted. We also added some cleats, and then the sailing rig (Chris linked to a video of him sailing “Bug” in high winds an earlier post).

After Pics

She’s looking pretty good these days!

I must say, when I look at “Bug” I am always filled with a warm, fuzzy feeling. Not only has she been completely necessary on this trip, but I think she is beautiful. My husband put at least 3x more hours into building her than I did, but having had any part at all definitely gives me a strong emotional attachment to her.

One more story: I ordered lettering for her transom before we left. It simply said “bug.” All lowercase, same font as “Firefly.” I thought it was super cute and I was really excited about it. We hauled all our boat and trip related stuff out to “Firefly” before we left, and somehow the lettering got lost.

Over the course of the trip, we’ve realized that it can be hard to see our boat name when we tow “Bug.” She gets in the way a bit (she’s such an attention hog!). So, recently, I decided to re-order letting for her. This time it would say “bug T/T Firefly.” (T/T means “Tender To”). That way, people would know who we are! I ordered it a while ago, and expected it when we got our mail forwarded to us in Palm Coast, FL. We got the package, and I was all excited and then… the lettering wasn’t there. At all. I still don’t know what happened to it. Instead, I had a jury duty summons.

It seems the universe wants “Bug” to have a blank transom!

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7 thoughts on “A Bug’s Life

  1. I have known “bug” since her infancy and have seen her grow into the buccaneer companion that she has become as she has tenderly tendered my daughter-in-law and son to and from their many adventures. “Bug” is way up there in my affections.

  2. I am proud that I was there for a few hours of the build and have been incredibly impressed with how Bug has performed it’s duties!

  3. Iove it, nice job! By the way, it took ME about 18 hours to build the original, but then, having just built “Offcuts” and sold it to Annie Hill, I’d had practice for “Scraps” and also, being the designer knew what the guy who drew the plans intended.
    Great to see Bug filling her intended purpose, all the best on your adventures.
    John Welsford

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