Laguna 290

New Ideas in Inflatable Options

They’re ubiquitous in the cruising lifestyle: dinghies bobbing behind your boat or lashed down at the bow for a transit. They can be the bane of our existence (hello, slow leak) or a regular part of our morning routines (coffee always tastes best after a dinghy ride).

But today’s tenders look nothing like those of our parents, thank the boating gods. New advancements in design have created more possibilities for cruisers, allowing for greater customization due to specific needs. For those who are tired of hauling the tender onto davits, easily inflatable dinghies allow for stow-and-go operations. For longer trips, media consoles and more comfortable seating create a party platform where we once had a barebones method of transport. 

We’ve profiled three new inflatables hitting the water this year, just in time for the boat shows. 

Laguna 290 

Available through Annapolis Hybrid Marine

Inflated Dimensions: 9’5″ L x 5’7″ W

Deflated Dimensions: 44″ x 24″ x 16″

Max Payload: 1,100 lbs

Packaged Weight: 85 lbs 

Max Passengers: 2-4

Transom height: 15″

The Laguna 290 is perhaps one of the more exciting tenders to hit the fall boat shows. Originally built in California by Further Customs, the catamaran-style dinghy addresses many of the issues cruisers have dealt with over the years. 

Sally Reuther, owner of Annapolis Hybrid Marine, says that the Laguna opened up more options for her own cruising. “When we’d cruise our 38-foot sailboat, we had a regular dinghy. Taking dogs, getting on and off, that was all problematic for us. When I first saw the Laguna, I thought the open bow would make it easier to pull up on the beach. Stepping in it is also easier, and since it’s wider than most other dinghies, it’s much more stable.” A closed-cell foam floor is much like a paddleboard, and is a solid platform for ease of entry, pet guests, and any standing you may need to do while on the water. 

Reuther notes that the Laguna can be deflated in minutes. For cruisers who don’t want to store their dinghy on davits, the Laguna can be stowed below and forgotten about until it’s time to reinflate (which takes just 15-20 minutes). For cruisers envisioning lengthier passages, this setup is a game changer. 

Annapolis Hybrid Marine is debuting the Laguna at the boat shows this fall, offering demos of the tender along with the Spirit 1.0 electric outboard motor. The Spirit is a great companion to the Laguna, Reuther says, because of its ease in operation. “You don’t have to carry a gas can, and it has plenty of power to make 3-4 trips. You just plug in the battery while you’re waiting for your coffee, and you’re set to go.” 

MiniCat Guppy. Alex Caslow sailing off the beach at Gunpowder State Park, Hammerman Area in Maryland. 

MiniCat Guppy

Available from Redbeard Sailing

Dimensions: 9’10” x 4’11

Mast Height: 14’9″

Water Draft: 6″

Total Weight: 60 lb

Carrying Capacity: 529 lb

Assembly Time: 10 minutes

Takacat Inflatables are some of the most popular tenders on the Chesapeake. Stable and versatile, Takacats bring an elevated sense of style (and ease) to the world of tenders. 

Taking this a step further, the MiniCat Guppy is an amalgamation between the Takacat tender and a personal sailboat. Designed to make getting on and off the water easy, the Guppy is a lightweight catamaran that’s meant for the whole family. 

“Once you’ve done it a couple of times, you get hooked,” says Alex Caslow, owner of Redbeard Sailing, who will have the brand new 2023 model in his booth at the show this year. “You start with a bag the size of a golf bag, and ten minutes later you have a fully rigged sailboat ready to go.” 

The Guppy can be easily stored belowdecks, but it’s also perfect for families enjoying the “Land Yacht” lifestyle. “It’s essentially the same size as a piece of checked luggage, so we have plenty of families putting them in camper vans so they can take everyone sailing having to pull a sailboat behind you.” And the Guppy can actually be pulled behind you: its bag has small wheels that allow it to be rolled like a suitcase. 

The European-built Guppy retails for less than $5,000 and is comfortable sailing with up to three people. 

Highfield CL340. The Highfield CL340 offers an optional wheel-steering station, a unique feature for such a light boat.

Highfield CL340

Annapolis Inflatables / Fawcett Boat Supplies

Dimensions: 11’1″ x 5’8″

Total Weight (boat): 134 lb

Maximum Load: 1,462 lb

Max People: 6

Highfield Inflatables, sold through Annapolis Inflatables, has a wide range of classic, dependable boats. Small tweaks to design offer a greater range of versatility for boaters who want a customizable tender. 

“The Highfield range gives you the most bang for your buck when it comes to features,” says Jesse Tucker, sales manager at Annapolis Inflatables. One of the biggest selling points is the wheel-steering option paired with a lightweight boat. “For sailboats and catamarans that don’t have the lift capacity to carry a traditional wheel-steered tender, this is a great option without the weight associated.”

Highfield is also upping its electric game when it comes to outboards. This makes a significant amount of sense to Tucker. 

“Being electric, you don’t have to carry an extra fuel source around,” he says. “They’re extremely quiet and practically maintenance free. The standard first service for an electric motor is five years, whereas with a gas-powered outboard it’s generally within the first year.” 

Tucker and Annapolis Inflatables will have the 340 Classic at both the Power and Sailboat shows. 

MacDuff Perkins lives in Annapolis, where she is the owner of Groundswell Yoga Studio. She and her family enjoy sailing their Sabre 42 around the East Coast.