06 January 2014

Dinghy Troubles With The Zodiac Zoom 230 Aero Oar Locks

If you read about our latest trip out to Western Coromandel, you'll know that we've had a spot of bother with our dinghy. Well, more than a spot of bother to be honest. One of the key features of a dinghy is the ability to row it. But if your oar locks keep breaking, then rowing becomes difficult which pretty much makes your dinghy about as useful as a turnip. And if you've spent NZ$900 on your dinghy, then you pretty much expect it to be more useful than a turnip.

Our dinghy is the Zodiac Zoom 230 Aero slatted model which you can roll-up and stick in a bag. We bought it last year when our previous dinghy (which came with the boat we bought) developed an unfortunate tendency to deflate itself rather continuously. Our previous dinghy was a hard bottom one (which made it easier to row) and we debated whether to get another hard bottom one but decided in the end to go with the slatted floor version for a few reasons including cost, the ability to roll-it up and size. It all seemed so very sensible at the time. But if only we had known that the oar locks on our particular dinghy were not as robust as they should be then maybe we would have made a different choice.

We've had two issues with the oar locks. The first is that the plastic tube which holds the lock in place in the mounting on the dinghy keeps popping out. This actually first happened to us last summer and the tube fell into the water. Once this happens, your oar lock is of no use to you whatsoever. We assume this happened because the screws were too short to hold the tube in firmly. When it first happened, we got a replacement one from the dealer and Scott repaired it using longer screws. We assumed everything would be A-Okay going forward.

And it was...that is until this summer when it happened again in the middle of the water, with strong winds working against us and the threat of drifting out into the harbor. After trying to do a temporary fix in the middle of the water, Scott ended up having to row us back with one oar, canoe-style. Once back on the dock, Scott jerry-rigged a fix for it with longer screws and some twine. (By the way, twine is a jerry-rigger's best friend. You can use it for so many things, including fixing toilet seats.) We assumed everything would be so-so going forward.

But then the next time we were out on the water in the dinghy the entire oar lock itself cracked in two. So not only did we have a problem with the plastic tube which keeps the oar lock in place, the oar lock itself broke. More one oar rowing and a lot of swearing. Scott headed over to the dealer to get replacement parts. The guys there are nice, but for some reason they thought Scott might be trying to do Olympic style rowing in an inflatable dinghy which is why it broke. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm really not sure why they confused a middle-aged man with an Olympic rower. All he has been trying to do is ordinary rowing so it isn't like he has been putting an enormous pressure on the oar locks. And any dinghy that is sold as a tender for boaties should be capable of withstanding normal rowing (against the wind when needed) without breaking. Especially when you pay NZ$900 for it.

In the end, I think the guys at the dealer realized that Scott isn't an Olympic rower and gave him the replacement parts. So, he has spent more time fixing the dinghy again. Our dinghy is still under warranty and we've emailed Zodiac to ask them, "What the heck is up with your oar locks?" We'll also mention two other issues with our dinghy: (1) the oar handle doesn't lock firmly in place and spins when Scott is rowing and (2) the foot pump has a plastic O-ring that likes to fall off rather than stay firmly in place. We'll see what they say.

This is what the oar lock looks like when it is intact.

The plastic tube is inserted into the oar lock and screwed in place on the oar lock mounting.

Using the outboard seems like a good option when you have oar lock troubles. Unfortunately, that just isn't always practical.


  1. Hmm...good to know about the "quality" of the Zodiac Zoom. I've got a dinghy that came with our boat but it has that same inflation issue and I'm trying to decide if repair or replace is the better option. Hope Zodiac comes through with a more permanent fix for you.

  2. Sorry about your on-going dinghy troubles, but I guess it is still an improvement over deflating, even if less useful than a turnip. Let me know if you sail into Gulf Harbour, and come for a coffee.

  3. I have had exactly the same problems with my Zoom. Both of the plastic tubes (plastic!! In an oar lock!) have broken. (I replaced them with copper pipe - won't break again!) And both my oar locks have broken as well, in exactly the manner you described. I replaced them and one of the new replacement oar locks broke on its second use. (Like Scott, I also am not an Olympic rower.) I'm now on the hunt for an aftermarket oar lock that is made of something other than plastic so it will actually work as intended. So far, no luck.

    1. We are so glad to be rid of our Zoom. We sold it to the guy that bought our previous boat. Gave him full disclosure about the oar lock issues, but he still seemed happy to take it. We have a Caribe now with our new boat, but haven't tried out rowing it. We've pretty much only used the outboard. Hopefully, the oar locks will be a lot more robust on the Caribe.

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  5. HI All,
    I have a solution for torn nylon rings on the Zodiac Zoom Oar Locks:


    I just didn't like the idea of selling it with what I considered a major safety issue. So I spent a year working on a fix for it. Note that this is a re-post with updated information.


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