Olsson: The Ultimate Yacht Dinghy Davits
My wife and I love the Olsson Davits we have on our Peterson 44' Cutter.
During 35 years of continuous cruising in the South West Pacific we towed our dinghy for local lagoon cruises and removed the engine and put the dinghy on deck for offshore or rough lagoon trips. We left our dinghy in the water day and night when on a mooring or at anchor and had to take off the outboard, turn the dinghy over, and clean off the fouling every so often.
We are never in a marina; always on a mooring or the hook. So having a good dinghy - not one of those little plastic bathtub toys with a tinker-toy motor - is essential for getting stocked up for a couple of months of cruising, diving, hydrograhic surveys and photography for the Rocket Cruising Guide to New Caledonia. From 1999 to 2008 we had a really sturdy 4m Zeppelin Commando Dinghy - weighted about 90 kilos - with a 15hp Mercury on the back. At about 06:00 the morning of 21 September 2008 I went on deck and our Commando was gone. The SS anti-theft cable with it's sturdy padlock was still there but it had been cut with bolt cutters about 1 meter from it's attachment.
It was one of those inspirational. life changing moments. First the blank stupid stare, then disbelief, folowed by the shock like someone punched you in the gut, then anger and a solid resolution to find a way to hoist the dinghy out of the water every night so some dickhead could not sneak by at night and steal it. That day I ordered a brand new Novurania 360TR dinghy from Australia and started looking for davits.
I looked at all the "usual" dinghy davit and hoist designs on yachts here in Noumea and worked out the cost of building an arch to hoist out a 3.5 meter dinghy. It was going to be big, ugly, and super expensive. My wife, Freddy, didn't want to spoil the beautiful lines of our yacht with a stainless jungle gym on the stern and neither did I. Plus I'd seen lots of guys with arch-dinghy davits struggling to hoist their dinghy out of the water and doing all sorts of Jungle Gymnastics getting it hooked up and hoisted. I couldn't help noticing most of the yachts with arch or pully lifting systems left their dinghys in the water all the time anyway.
One morning I was going by the Visitors Wharf in Port Moselle Marina and I saw two elderly people (in their late 70's or early 80's) come up to the back of their yacht in a 3.5 meter long dinghy. They had a really cool looking davit system on the yacht so I stopped to watch. Well, it was a thing of beauty. He snagged the line from the port side davit arm, she grabbed two lines from the starboard davit arm and as if by magic the davits lowered themselves down so they could hook the lines onto the dinghy lifting rings. Then... you are not going to believe this.... they sat back and the davits hoisted their dinghy, with them in it, up to the back of the boat. They stepped out of the dinghy onto the aft deck and went into their cabin.
Smooth, easy, no effort, clean looking davits and, best of all, the davits looked like they would be super simple to mount on Moira's transom. I stopped by their yacht to have a closer look at their automated dinghy davits and ask them where they got them. They said they bought them many years before from Olsson Mfg. Inc. The company was in Seattle, Washington and they have a Website for their automated dinghy davit system http://boatdavit.com. I ordered the Olsson RS.5 davits the same day and had them delivered to us in Noumea by sea freight. Including the freight and duty the Olsson davits cost less than half what I would have paid to have an arch - or even a knock-off imitation of the Olsson Davits - fabricated in New Caledonia.
the olsson dinghy davits hoisting our 240kg dinghy aboard
Our 3.6 meter Novurania with (now) a 20 hp 4 Stroke Yahmaha motor with Freddy and fuel etc aboard weighs in at roughly 240 kilos. Our Olsson davits has lowered it into the water every morning and hoisted it out every afternoon for 12 years; effortlessly, easily.
Freddy stays in the dinghy to hook up the davit lines.
Here is the bow attachment point:
Here are the stern attachments (and the winch).
And the dinghy is high and dry for the night.
I'm 81 years old and hoist the dinghy in and out with one finger.
When heading out into the lagoon we secure the dinghy so it can't swing from side to side with a bow and stern strap hooked to a big U Bolt amidships on the top of the transom. The straps have stainless ratchets to tighten them (made for strapping down an outboard to a trailer). Plus we have a bow line and stern line to the stern cleats. The original davit design puts all the strain on one line from the electric winch. We now use 4 pulleys, two on the stern rail, two on the davits, so the load on the winch is divided by 4 (60 kg of pull on the winch instead of 240 kg) and more evenly distributed to the (reinforced) stern rail. After the dinghy is up we tether the davits on both sides with Dyneema lines and then ease the load off the motor for the night or when cruising in the lagoon. The dinghy is happy on the Davits for lagoon cruising even with a 1 - 1.5m swell. If there is going to be more wave action than that in the lagoon we wait for nicer weather. For blue water passages or in cyclone conditions, we take off the outboard and hoist the dinghy on deck, as we did for so many years.
EVERY night since the Great Dinghy Robbery in 2008, our dinghy and outboard has been out of the water safe from the lowlife (and fouling). We turn off the electricity to the davit winch after the dinghy is aboard so it is impossible for someone to slither by at night and steal our dinghy without waking us up and endangering themselves at the same time. And of course the outboard is solidly padlocked to the transom.
The Olsson Automated Dinghy Davits are made with super quality Stainless steel - they have not rusted or lost their shine in over a decade. The original wiring, relay box and remote up and down switch are still in perfect condition. We had to replace the Rule windlass after many years because we wore out the gears. We replaced it with a WARN Vantage 3000 winch because there is a WARN dealer here in Noumea and it fit easily on the existing stainless winch mount.
Would I get these davits again? You bet.