The Dinghy

14 Feb

Virtually every sailboat and large powerboat includes a dinghy so that the crew can get to places inaccessible by the big boat, like into a town dock, or to explore up smaller creeks and tributaries.  And most all fulltime RV’ers, at least domestically in the US, carry some type of tow vehicle, called a toad.  That way when they get to their destination and setup camp they can easily then go explore or go out into town more easily.  Well in our drive around the world, I believe we’re going to need something similar.

Based on the offroad/bad road locations I want to travel to, I don’t think towing another vehicle would really be appropriate.  Plus it would just make our vehicle that much larger and more difficult to maneuver and get into smaller places as well.  But I do think we’ll need something.  A web search yielded some great options to this problem.  Check out this video below from Action Mobil where they actually fit the car into the back of the rig!

There are a lot of custom US manufacturers offering garage space underneath the rear bedroom of the larger Class 7 and 8 motorhomes, but they are at the expense of ground cleaance and departure angle as mentioned in a previous post.  These are mostly used for people taking their race car around the country to track circuits and the like.  Where they would never dream of taking their rig off the road surface.  But that Action Mobil clip shows it inside a true 6×6 Expedition Vehicle!  The problem here is it just eats up waaaay too much precious interior volume.  I actually tried to figure out a layout early on that would work with some small cars.  Here’s my Mark1 Solidworks layout including a car in the back which is approximately the size of a Minicooper (needs to be able to sit 5 people after all.Mark 1



So that shows the telescoping lifting roof model with the cabover bunk and the garage in the back.  The two spare tires fit right along side the car in the back.  That truck was a monster however, before I settled on a desired lenght in the ~30’ish range, as well as the complexity of that telescoping cabover.

This didn’t seem to work for me, so back to the internet for some more benchmarking.  Then I came across this Tatra 6×6 that this guy uses to host people in South America to come watch the Dakar rally race.  “Chase the Race!”  He actually gets people to come and stay with him and his wife and they follow the race from checkpoint to checkpoint for the duration.  It allows for some great offroad viewing platform, and if you were into the race there wouldn’t be a much better way to see it.  And then it allows this guy to pay for probably close to half of his annual living budget by offering up his mobile Bed and Breakfast for a month per year.  Simply a brilliant idea.  But they also have a Dune Buggy strapped to the back of the truck to really get up close and personal with the action.  I love this idea as well.Dakar2


Although just looking at it, it seems to really mess up your departure angle with the buggy in place, and not to mention increasing your overall length quite a bit.  I was intrigued though.  From there, I thought what if you had a car small enough that it could be loaded onto a rack sideways on the back of the vehicle.  Well there’s only one car available in the US that’s small enough length to fit inside the 8′ width of the camper box, and that’s the Smart Car.  Unfortunately they’re only available as a coupe, and due to the shortened overall length, there is physically no backseat, so the 3 kids would be on their own for that one.  But I did uncover a whole subculture of people who tow 5th wheel trailers in the US using Class 8 Trucks where they make a custom bed on the chassis to hold the 5th wheel pin and then load a smart car on sideways!

Smart Loader


There were even some that lengthened the chassis and had a Jeep Wrangler up there lengthwise on the truck followed by a 35′ long 5th wheel.  Those things are a bit over the top as far as length, but it was fascinating to find the Escapees Class 8 Heavy Duty Truck Forum.  With some more research I found out that the shortest car available in the USscion iq with a backseat (albeit a small one) is the Scion IQ.  Unfortunately it was about 15″ longer than the 8′ width allowed. on the road.  I started to design this mount system where it could be on an angle (stored not horizontally, but tipped up 20deg or so) off the back of the truck so that the maximum width would be less than the required 8′, but it got a bit out of control.

What seems to be more typical in the world of expedition campers is a motorcycle or two strapped to a rack on the back side of the camper.  Some models even have very small garages under the rear bed in the unit where you can store a 4 wheeler as your explorer dinghy. ATV I think in areas where you want to get into town or a city for some shopping, this isn’t really practical.  However exploring the backwoods, it wouldn’t get much better than this one.  This Unicat model even comes with a folding boat.  In the picture you can see the outboard engine strapped up next to the spare tire on the back of the rig along with the rolled up folded boat for a true dinghy on your expedition camper.

folding boatBut the most popoular attachments definitely seems to be the motorcycle or dirtbike on the back.  Even Shachagra used a Vespa scooter which winched up inside a compartment on the back of their rig.  Here’s a few more photos.

My favorite implementation though has to be the Action Mobil hydraulic lift mechanism as show in this video.  I should definitely be able to design that mechanism.

I’m picturing a platform on the back that includes 2 spare tires and a rack for my dinghy functioning exactly like the one int hat video.  But what about my dinghy.  I don’t think a motorcycle is the way to go either for us.  We still have the problem that we need 5 of us to be transported places, and even with two motorcycles there wouldn’t be enough room for 5.  Then it hit me, what about bicycles.  In most of the world, people just use their bicycles to get around anyway, and it would be a great way to get us some exercise as needed as well.  We just need a rack off the back of the camper big enough to hold uThulep our 5 bicycles.  Imagine then something like this Thule hitch mounted 918xtr rack connected to a receiver on the lifting spare tire frame mount.  Hitch mounted we could remove it and place it inside the vehicle if needed for security or long side trips away from the camper, or even when the rig length needs to be measured for shipping or ferry tolls.  But otherwise all 5 bikes could be just hanging off the back of the rig.  But with just a bike, I am worried that we would want to go some place further afield or simply not feel like riding a bike into town to get some groceries.

With that, enter the idea of an electric bike.  After a bit more research, I came to the Pedego Interceptor 2.


This baby has a 500 Watt motor, 48wh Lithium Ion Battery, good for 20mph, and 20 miles of unassisted range, 40 miles if I am helping.  It even comes in neon orange, my new favorite color.  I think this would be perfect with some baskets mounted to the sides of the battery rack back there for picking up some fresh supplies from the bodega in town or just touring the countryside when we get to our destination.  At this point I am envisioning 2 electric bikes, one for me and one for Joanne, along with three smaller manual bikes for the kids.  All of them hanging off the back of our Thule rack built into the receiver on the dual spare tire rack on the hydraulic lift on the back of our camper.  We would need some type of tarp cover to conceal them from prying eyes, as well as protect them from dust which shouldn’t be too hard to come up with.  Another benefit for mounting them onto the hydraulic spare tire lift is that we won’t need to pick up these massively heavy electric bikes each time you want to use it as the lift will put the rack right on the ground.  Then once all bikes are loaded, a press of the button will lift them into the air to preserve our ground clearance and high departure angles, and hopefully make them more difficult to steal up in the air.