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The Tale of our Fatty Knees 8′ Sailing Dinghy

There is a Fatty for Sale!?!?!

“There is no way some kids are going to drive over 900 miles during a pandemic to get this dinghy.” That is what the previous owner told his wife when we said we were on our way. I guess he didn’t know just how badly Jon and I wanted a Fatty Knees 8 sailing dinghy.

Let me back up just a bit. Jon and I have been dreaming about owning a Fatty Knees sailing dinghy for almost 10 years. We have been actively looking to buy one for at least 7 years. I mean how cute does a little lapstrake sailing dinghy look next to Prism… Right? Right! These dinghies sell on the used market for anything from $800 to $3500, with most listings in the $1800 range. These prices are for the dinghies with the sail rig, because why would we even bother looking at one that didn’t have all that jazz?

Okay, over the years, we have had a total of 5, or maybe more close calls to owning this type of dinghy. Yet every time one came on the market, it would slip through our fingers and into someone else’s hands. We even had a guy sell one outright from under us before we got there, because someone walked by and offered more cash than what we had agreed on, such a dick move.

Anyways let us jump to the beginning of April, a few weeks into the lockdowns of Covid-19. Like always, Jon was online looking to see if any dinghies were for sale, and sure as shit as he was looking, one was posted for sale, at 10:30pm. Jon said, “F*ck it, I’m calling him.”

We were the first inline out of 10 people who called him the following day. I’m telling you, these things sell like hotcakes, and it’s a 30-year-old dinghy! Yes, you can buy a new one ( they are still being made), but we do not have 6k to throw at a dinghy, not when Falkor works as well as he does.

Anyways, we told the owner, Brian, that we needed to rent a truck to pick up the dinghy, and we needed a few days to get the rental and then make the drive. I guess he did not think we were that serious. Little did he know we would be on his front lawn less than 4 days later.


Let me break down our 3 crazy days of picking up this dinghy. First up, we needed to rent a truck, but most rental places are closed. Lucky for us, the New Bern airport was still renting cars, and they had one truck left in the lot. ONE! We looked real flashy driving up interstate 95 in the shiny 2019 royal blue Dodge RAM. Not gonna lie, for being a Ford fan, I liked this truck. It drove like a dream, our butts and legs never went to sleep or anything, and we drove straight to Maine from North Carolina in one day. That was over 18 hours of driving, during a pandemic. Jon and I wore our masks, washed our hands religiously, and took care to keep our interaction with anyone to a minimum. Which was easy to do, as no one was out and about. Seriously, the roads were empty. The rest stops and visitor centers along the highway were all but abandoned, which made using the restrooms easy and our interactions with others a nonissue. Before we left, we decided not to drive through NY city, as it was the hot spot of the country for Covid-19 at that time. So we opted to drive up and out towards Albany, then cut across to Maine. This route also avoided all the mother f*ing tolls that NY has. I mean WTF New York, seriously, a total of $68 in tolls to drive through, one way! Ridiculous. During our 18 hour drive, Jon said he was going to finish editing episode #34, but the power socket would not work. At your first stop to fill up with gas, he even took out the fuse box to see if that was the problem. However, it was not, so you will all have to keep waiting for him to finish #34.

The rest of our drive north went by pretty quick. The roads were so empty, so there was no traffic, and all the rest stops were like ghost towns. I had never been to New York, so when the rest stop/ visitor center came up on the right side, we took the chance to use the restrooms and a picture with the I ❤ NY sign. As we closed the distance to our destination, we drove into a snowstorm. It was light and short-lived and did not require us to use the 4X4.


Now, I am sure you are thinking where in the world are we going to stay, all the hotels are closed in this area because of Covid-19. Lucky for us, our friends Jess and Josh were kind enough to set up their airstream for Jon and I to spend a total of 4 hours in. We left New Bern around 8:30am and arrived in Round Pond, ME (about an hour north of Portland) at 3:30am.

The next morning, we decided to have socially distant coffee with Jess, Josh, Vela, and Josh’s parents. Which was so hard to do. All we wanted to do was give each other hugs. We eventually broke down and allowed a good cuddle sesh with the Duder, their dog, who, I love as much as if he was my dog too. Masks and gloves still in place of-course. It was hard not to give their daughter Vela a giant hug and kiss and show her how to braid her my little pony’s hair, which she calls her Shanny Pony! After our visit, we said our goodbyes wishing once again we could be closer than 6 feet, then set off to pick up the dinghy in Falmouth.

We pulled into the driveway and set eyes on what will be our new dinghy in just a few moments. The owner, David, came outside to meet us and show us the Fatty Knees 8′ which his kids had learned how to sail in. She had thick black bottom paint on her, and we could see where repairs had been made in the past. The gel-coat was covered in spider cracks, but nothing Jon and I could not fix in a few days. We did not waste to much time with the transaction and kept our distance from each other. Davids’ son watched us excitedly from the upstairs window, as he had not seen another person for over 3 weeks. We handed over the $900 in cash,  received the sail, accessories, a t-shirt, and even a burgee, then loaded it up in the back of the truck. We had well over 12 hours to drive until we reached Jon’s cousin’s house that night, so we needed to get moving.

The drive back south was nothing special, and seemed to go by very quickly. We made stops only to fill up with gas, and a few rest stops to relieve our bladders. We made it to our families home by 8 pm and were welcomed with air hugs and desserts. Being as tired as we were, we talked for a little while then hit the hay. Remember, we still have another 6 hours to drive till we are back home. After coffee and a light breakfast, we said our goodbyes and hit the road once again. We were happy to be done driving for a while, then remembered we still needed to drive back to New Burn to return the rental. What’s another hour of driving?

Our Fatty's Furling System

The First Sail

You would think that we would have launched the dinghy right away and sailed our faces off, but no. The newest member to our boat family sat dry and alone for over a week while we worked on the other HC33, Dragonquest. Finally, the temptation got to me while I was sanding the topsides. The weather was perfect outside, and the wind was blowing steadily along the Bay River. I looked over to Jon and said: “F this, let’s go sailing.” Jon all but literally dropped what he was doing and started to grab all the sailing attachments for the dinghy. We were down at the waters edge about 15 minutes later.

YES! This is what it is all about. Jon and I both had shit-eating grins on our faces like 2 kids in a candy shop that got everything they wanted. We could tell right away that having this dinghy in the water was really going to slow down our progress on DQ. The temptation to just stop working and go sailing was all too strong.

After a visit from Bill and a few more sails, we took our new toy out of the water. 

Bringing a 36-year-old Dinghy Back to Life

The Before Photos

It all started with removing the old bottom paint. With the bottom paint gone, a mind field of Gelcoat cracks were exposed. What do you think Jons solution was? USE THE PEELER! Before I could stop him, or even before I had any idea what he was doing, our new dinghy was put under the “knife.” Jon’s reasons for the peeler where justified though, those cracks in the gelcoat where not just surface deep but in fact cracks in the laminate. Also the laminate had high levels of moisture content which when the gelcoat is removed it allows that to dry so we get a good bond for the repair. Luckily it was 1000 degrees in the tent so the laminate dried fairly quickly.

In true Prism fashion, we let the “while we are at it” project creep set in. After days of sanding, peeling, and grinding we found a few sections that were more damaged than we thought they were going to be. With Chris, Jons’ little brothers help, we laid up new layers of 1708 with epoxy, glassed-in support stringers, added an aft drain, and created a well/ bilge.

Once all the inside repairs were done, Jon and I flipped her over. We then laid up two layers of 6oz biaxial where the peel had been performed, then one layer of 17oz over the entire hull followed by lots of fairing compound. It definitely took some finesse to get the material to contour to the lapstrake hull, however, with enough thickened epoxy, we made it work. Once the epoxy had cured, I spent the next few days filling, fairing, and long-boarding my heart out. Who knew an 8-foot dinghy could be so big? I felt like it was never going to end. It eventually was as smooth as a babies bottom and ready for paint.

Fill, Fair, Sand... Do It Again

Video Timelapse

The cream paint on the inside of the dinghy was in good shape, so we left that alone. The outside hull got the full treatment of an epoxy barrier coat, a topcoat of Awlgrip Oyster White, and the same goes for the seats and the center line on the inside.

The Tuff Stuff primer went on like glass, then sanded perfectly. When it was time to paint the top coat, we were ready, and the dinghy looked perfect.
The STBD side went without a hitch, but for some reason, the Port bow threw in a wild card. CONTAMINATION! During the final wipe down we must have missed a section that had oil or something on it. AHHH! Well, it is just a working dinghy. So, we quickly wiped it down with the reducer, cleaned up the edges as much as we could then continued to spray the Awlgrip. To our surprise, the boo-boo on the port bow somehow did not end up sticking out like a sore thumb. 

Primer & Dry Fit


We let the Awlgrip cure for a few days, but kept busy turning the rudder into a folder rudder, painting the centerboard, plug, and oars.

Oh, and where we added the locker access, we painted the inside of those lockers with Tile Clad- HS, which is the same paint we used to paint Prism’s lazarette, fridge, and the anchor locker too

When the paint was dry, it was time to put the dinghy back together. We bought a synthetic wood to repace the cracked teak rails, used it for the mounting brackets for the rudder, and also for the mast support crossbeam that was orginally plywood. The final touch was adding the Dacron rub rail.

Fixin' up all the other stuff




Just like that, our fatty knees dinghy was ready for the water once again. It was at this point we were ready to sail our new toy, that mother nature decided to throw a hurricane at us.

Once Isias passed over us and left behind blue skies and good dinghy sailing weather, we launched our new dinghy and named her “Penta.”

Why did we name her Penta?

Reason 1: Penta is the Greek word for 5. This is the 5th boat Jon and I have owned together.
1) Tara – Caliber 28′
2) Prism- HC33t
3) Sandía- Gig Harbor 9′
4) Falkor- Walker Bay 8′
5) Penta- Fatty Knees 8′

Reason 2: Single lens reflex cameras use a Pentaprism to redirect and flip the image to the viewfinder. We like cameras, and our big boat is already Prism, so…….. just seemed perfect.

12 thoughts on “The Tale of our Fatty Knees 8′ Sailing Dinghy

  1. Nice work guys👌 We have plenty of hugs ahead of us and more sailing adventures too! Sandia is going to need the same treatment when we get her up here.

  2. You guys are so amazing 👍
    Such an incredible team 💪
    Love you so much and miss you heaps 💖

  3. Hey guys! Love your time lap on Penta renovation. We need to do the same thing with our Fatty Knee, Petit Bateau! You are our inspiration. Sending you tone of hugs and love from NI. Delphine and Robert

  4. Hard yakka, but what a great result. Impressed that an 8′ Dinghy can fit Jon & Bill in comfortably!

  5. Hello. I was lucky to find my own Fatty Knees sailing dinghy. It is quite old, had new gelcoat and interior paint done about 8 years ago, then put in storage. It sails great, but I have a few issues. First is water in the forward compartment. It seems to be coming from the centerboard trunk. I dont see any cracks or other places it could be entering. Any ideas on how to get in there and repair? I have quite a bit of experience with composite airplanes and so am OK with cutting and replacing foam, doing layups, sanding, etc. Second – I love your furling system. Can you share the components you used and any other instructions on making this? Do you still have battens in the sail?
    Thanks – Your photos are great – We have a Hinckley sailboat which we are working towards cruising.

    1. The water could be coming in from the eye at the bow of the boat where your painter attaches. I wish we had more information about the furling system, but it was like that when we bought it. Penta is with Prism in Curaçao, and we will not be back to them until the end of October.

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