For years I've been using an aluminium dinghy
as a tender
. It was suitable for my small sailing boat as most of my time has been spent on repairing the sailing boat with some cruising down river. Now I want to cruise
further and am thinking an inflatable
boat is preferable over towing the aluminium dinghy
. So, started doing the research
and Oh My Goodness . . . . The amount said on the Internet
boats is overwhelming! The cost of some of these inflatables is astronomical! The shopping
sites often seem more marketing
hype than giving all the facts.
I have tried to clear my thinking by summarising what I have found.
This summary is just how I am seeing it, maybe I am missing something or not understanding properly. If so, feel free to enlighten me. : )
PVC: Not all PVC is created equal. Some PVCs seem to have a better name, such as Valmex material made by Mehler Technologies. Cheaper PVC can have a noticable shorter lifespan than quality PVC being less UV proof and generally not as tough.
Hypalon: Dupont stopped production of its trademarked product, Hypalon, in 2009. However, other chlorosulfonated polyethylene (CSPE) synthetic rubber compounds as alternatives to Hypalon are still being manufactured. The name 'hypalon' seems to have become a general term for these other products even if not made by Dupont.
As with PVC, not all hypalon is created equal. Some, such as Pennel ORCA hypalon and Achilles hypalon are considered premium. Cheap
hypalon, like cheap
PVC is not as rugged and has a shorter lifespan than quality hypalon.
A hypalon boat may not be all hypalon. It appears some hypalon inflatables have PVC baffles and fittings to reduce cost. A problem may arise if the glue used on the PVC comes apart in a tropical climate.
It appears the method of construction has more bearing on the lifespan of the inflatable boat than the material. Good quality material poorly put together may not last long while an average quality material with quality construction may last a long time.
PVC: May be glued or welded. Glued PVC is clearly not recommended for sunny hot climates, which is mine. The boat comes apart. Welded PVC requires expensive specialised equipment
. However, quality welded seams have the advantage of being stronger than even hypalon seams (which are always glued) and much lower cost than doing hypalon seams.
Hypalon: While it can't be welded and must always be glued, quality of glue varies. Gluing takes time which results in higher cost than PVC welding. It appears that seam failure often occurs before fabric
failure. Seams are the weak point.
Warranties and prices.
Warranties vary between one year and ten. Prices vary between cheap and a king's ransom. Trying to find a price
point which gives most bang for buck is tricky.
One seller told me that the company's PVC inflatables have a five year warranty on the fabric
and while the European warranty on the seam is only one year, he (in Australia) gives five years as they just don't get seam problems (Swift Marine
on Highfield Inflatables). That five years is longer than what other companies have on their hypalon product. He also told me his PVC will handle the tropics.
Another company gives three years on both their PVC and hypalon inflatables however, it was strongly recommended for me not to purchase
their PVC boat as I am in a tropical climate (Island Inflatables).
So far, I have not got over my shock at the prices. My 2nd hand 11 foot dinghy on trailer cost $300 with another $700 spent on stuff like a good set of oars and trailer repairs
. A new inflatable looks like costing $3000 or so (have not seen any 2nd hand local ones and not going to drive all over the country looking).
It seems to me that I could get either PVC or hypalon but I need to make sure if PVC that it is made and guaranteed for tropical conditions. Also, it seems that I can't just buy any old hypalon one and expect it will be good. Just because an inflatable is advertised as 'hypalon' does not always mean it is a quality inflatable.
Hopefully I am making progress in my journey towards owning an inflatable tender
. With so much info, the 'haze' from marketing
jargon, and conflicting statements, it is more difficult than I first assumed it would be to select one.