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Old 13-05-2019, 07:13   #1
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Lets talk inflatable boats

Hi everyone, new to the forum.

Unfortunately I need to start looking for a new boat, I went on a maiden voyage on a Johnsen 11 and that boat sucks big time, didn't like it at all, very unstable so now I'm looking for an inflatable boat with a hp rating of 15hp to 20hp and 4 to 5 person capacity, what should I look for. I'm familiar with fg bottoms but I know there are aluminum one too. What I like about fb that I can always fix it myself. Back in the 80', the popular ones were zodiac, Avon, Achilles, at least in my area.

I have been doing some research the past week or so and understand the difference between PVC and Hypalon so I decided to go with Hypalon. We live in Ga and do our boating in a lake and the occasional trip to Jacksonville Fl, that's with a whaler 15 but with the inflatable boat, we are expecting to use it more every time we visit FL, especially in the Tampa area. The main use would be for our son to start learning and so he can play in our cove as much as he wishes, we already have a 15hp engine. Although the boat would be used only about 6 months of the year I would like to get something of good quality as our plan is to keep it as long as we can. Will make a cover for it to use during the week we don't use the boat and when we store the boat in the winter time as I really like to take care of my stuff. During the summer we would keep it on a jet ski lift and winter on its trailer.

I've been looking at AB 9vs, Ab 9vl, Caribe c9x, Achilles and now Highfield but with this last brand I don't really feel that comfortable since they are basically new in the game. I know probably I don't need this more expensive brands and might be overkill for us but I do want a long lasting boat. I would like to spend the least if possible and that's why I'm here for recommendations. I do would like to have FG or Aluminum hull, would love to have a double hull and locker but depending on price. The brands and models I mentioned are more than I would like to spend (we are having a hard time spending that much) but I will buy if that is basically the best options. I know we could save some money by going the PVC route but after some reading, I don't really want to even consider it.

I used to have a zodiac back in the late 80's and it was a good one back then.

I'm not looking for anything fancy, just nice very good quality long lasting inflatable boat.

Thanks for any help for any input.
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Old 13-05-2019, 07:19   #2
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Re: Lets talk inflatable boats

I think you pretty much have it figured out. If weight is a big issue, go aluminum, otherwise fiberglass is fine.
There are a lot of Highfields, havenít heard much bad about them, I would have gone with one, but they wonít sell a bare aluminum, and I wanted the aluminum bare, cause itís my belief that any coating on aluminum over time, will fail
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Old 13-05-2019, 13:49   #3
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Re: Lets talk inflatable boats

Quote:
Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
I think you pretty much have it figured out. If weight is a big issue, go aluminum, otherwise fiberglass is fine.
There are a lot of Highfields, havenít heard much bad about them, I would have gone with one, but they wonít sell a bare aluminum, and I wanted the aluminum bare, cause itís my belief that any coating on aluminum over time, will fail
Thanks for replying, I read something about that and I believe AB is doing it that way for that reason if I'm not mistaken. Something tells me to just go with AB but the price tag is what it's holding me back. I would like either the AB 9VS which is the fg version with a locker but I see is at $4653 or the AB 10AL but its almost $6? which is the same but aluminum and a bit bigger with a 20hp max hp.
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Old 13-05-2019, 18:34   #4
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Re: Lets talk inflatable boats

Quote:
Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
I think you pretty much have it figured out. If weight is a big issue, go aluminum, otherwise fiberglass is fine.
There are a lot of Highfields, havenít heard much bad about them, I would have gone with one, but they wonít sell a bare aluminum, and I wanted the aluminum bare, cause itís my belief that any coating on aluminum over time, will fail
Metal and saltwater in all cases is a recipe for eventual failure if neglected.
Where most people do poorly, is they neglect their tenders frequently and only maintain the mothership. Once the powdercoating has a few chips, it becomes susceptible to moisture intrusion. A little paint to seal it up goes a long way. With the right owner, they can be made to last, just like there's plenty of steel hull boats on the water from days of yore.

In the case of the current generation of Chinese origin aluminum hull RIBs (Highfield, Achilles, Zodiac, and others), the powdercoating is actually part of the "primer process". The tubes are adhered to the powdercoating rather than the aluminum itself. It is extremely difficult to bond plastomers or elastomers to aluminum. Worse set, the adhesive are very susceptible to failure from oxidization unless an ethanolamine corrosion inhibiting primer is utilized.

Enter powdercoating ; a hot melt thermoplastic. It is magnetically applied as a powder and melted in place in an oven. Usually before spray up, the hulls are etched in an acid bath and degreased to promote adhesion. The important part is that the hull is powdercoated soon after the acid etch, otherwise the oxides start to re-form... nothing bonds to oxides, not even welds. Usually this is treated as a 24 hour window between etching/abrading and coating/welding processes.

After the powdercoating is melted on and cured, the powdercoating can simply be sanded and wiped with a solvent, and bonded to, much like any other thermoplastic or elastomer material. Because the powdercoating acts as a primer, not special techniques are required. The bonding strength meets or exceeds the strength of bonding directly to the aluminum.

You can see here in AB's promo video, the chloroprene rubber (CR) backer of the Orca CSM/CR material actually bonds better to the powdercoated surface.

Note as well though, AB does not use the adhesive manufacturer recommended ethanolamine primer for cross bonding CSM/CR to metallic surfaces.

https://youtu.be/INzDjyEzoKM?t=126
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Old 13-05-2019, 18:38   #5
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Re: Lets talk inflatable boats

We've been down this road. After suffering for 9 years with a lesser brand, we just bought a new AB. We looked at them all. The quality of AB's fit and finish is just head and shoulders above the rest. We had a Highfield on a charter, and while it was on a charter boat, it was nearly new and the tube was already separating from the hull, and leaking. Again, it might just be that it was in charter use.
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Old 13-05-2019, 18:42   #6
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Re: Lets talk inflatable boats

Quote:
Originally Posted by KD8NPB View Post
Metal and saltwater in all cases is a recipe for eventual failure if neglected.
Where most people do poorly, is they neglect their tenders frequently and only maintain the mothership. Once the powdercoating has a few chips, it becomes susceptible to moisture intrusion. A little paint to seal it up goes a long way. With the right owner, they can be made to last, just like there's plenty of steel hull boats on the water from days of yore.

In the case of the current generation of Chinese origin aluminum hull RIBs (Highfield, Achilles, Zodiac, and others), the powdercoating is actually part of the "primer process". The tubes are adhered to the powdercoating rather than the aluminum itself. It is extremely difficult to bond plastomers or elastomers to aluminum. Worse set, the adhesive are very susceptible to failure from oxidization unless an ethanolamine corrosion inhibiting primer is utilized.

Enter powdercoating ; a hot melt thermoplastic. It is magnetically applied as a powder and melted in place in an oven. Usually before spray up, the hulls are etched in an acid bath and degreased to promote adhesion. The important part is that the hull is powdercoated soon after the acid etch, otherwise the oxides start to re-form... nothing bonds to oxides, not even welds. Usually this is treated as a 24 hour window between etching/abrading and coating/welding processes.

After the powdercoating is melted on and cured, the powdercoating can simply be sanded and wiped with a solvent, and bonded to, much like any other thermoplastic or elastomer material. Because the powdercoating acts as a primer, not special techniques are required. The bonding strength meets or exceeds the strength of bonding directly to the aluminum.

You can see here in AB's promo video, the chloroprene rubber (CR) backer of the Orca CSM/CR material actually bonds better to the powdercoated surface.

Note as well though, AB does not use the adhesive manufacturer recommended ethanolamine primer for cross bonding CSM/CR to metallic surfaces.

https://youtu.be/INzDjyEzoKM?t=126
Wow, that was very informative. Than you for taking the time, will watch that video for sure later tonight.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bstreep View Post
We've been down this road. After suffering for 9 years with a lesser brand, we just bought a new AB. We looked at them all. The quality of AB's fit and finish is just head and shoulders above the rest. We had a Highfield on a charter, and while it was on a charter boat, it was nearly new and the tube was already separating from the hull, and leaking. Again, it might just be that it was in charter use.
I'm looking at them right now and I'm really starting to consider even more the aluminum version. I'm not going to consider Highfield any more, I can't spend that much money on something that's has been on the market for only 7 years, rather go with proven brands.

Ho wabout the Defender brand, any good?
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Old 13-05-2019, 18:49   #7
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Re: Lets talk inflatable boats

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Ho wabout the Defender brand, any good?
They're on par with most other Asian imports. Defender stands behind their product, although obviously if you have problem in Timbuktu, it may be a little harder to bring it back to them for a warranty kind of situation. This is where Zodiac shines, because they have a huge service network whom is mostly trained for inflatable service. Saint Thomas, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Trinidad... service stations everywhere.

You often get what you pay for, but paying a lot more doesn't always mean you get a lot more. It's up to you on what you want to spend.

I like Defender's bigger CSM rollups.
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Old 13-05-2019, 18:56   #8
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Re: Lets talk inflatable boats

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They're on par with most other Asian imports. Defender stands behind their product, although obviously if you have problem in Timbuktu, it may be a little harder to bring it back to them for a warranty kind of situation. This is where Zodiac shines, because they have a huge service network whom is mostly trained for inflatable service. Saint Thomas, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Trinidad... service stations everywhere.

You often get what you pay for, but paying a lot more doesn't always mean you get a lot more. It's up to you on what you want to spend.

I like Defender's bigger CSM rollups.
I just noticed that you are in Charleston, I live in Augusta about 3 hours away. I really like AB over every other brand, by looks, design and what I have read in the past week or so. Just learned about defender brand and have not read much really. What's your opinion between ab and defender brand, they don't have the same feature like double hull and locker and probably a few other things and the price difference is huge.
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Old 13-05-2019, 19:06   #9
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Re: Lets talk inflatable boats

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It is magnetically applied as a powder and melted in place in an oven.
It's thermostatically applied but there is a technique for applying to sheet which uses what is called thermostatic magnetic brush coating.
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Old 13-05-2019, 19:12   #10
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Re: Lets talk inflatable boats

Defender is the largest inflatable boat dealer in the US. They put together their own "brand" a few years ago, and the owner posted here on CF to talk about it. You might be able to search and find it - it has LOTS of info from folks who really know.



I talked to everyone. At the Miami Boat Show, they were all there, side by side. It's easy to see why ABs cost what they do. I had about an hour conversation with the US AB distributor a couple of months ago. He actually suggested that I not by a 2018 leftover, as it has a thinner hypalon than the 2019 models. He was the sales manager at Achilles for many years. I talked to Defender. Again, they were fantastic. They won't recommend a particular brand, but they know everything.



Personally, we decided on a fiberglass boat. My thought is that if I damage the glass, I can fix it. If I damage the aluminum hull, I can't weld AND it will require tube removal.
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Old 13-05-2019, 19:48   #11
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Lets talk inflatable boats

We had an AB 9.5AL that came with our boat and it was OK but not great. The double floor is very nice to keep a dry interior, but of course adds weight. With a 2stroke 9.8hp it just planes with two adults. The deep V hull and high bow handles rough water well. Tubes do delaminate after some time and the repair is a pain. Like all rigid hull inflatables it is very unstable at rest - you canít really just stand on a tube.

Weíve gone in a different direction with a soft-floored catamaran inflatable with open bow. Very lightweight, stable at rest and at speed, very easy access from the water, planes very easily and handles rough water well. Deflate fully and keep in a large bag - easy for transport and storage. Ours is a https://truekit.nz/products/true-kit-discovery. It is PVC, so we keep it covered or packed when not using it. And cheap! 15hp will fit on it, but not for an inexperienced operator. To see what cats can handle check out https://www.thundercatracing.co.nz/
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Old 13-05-2019, 20:31   #12
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Re: Lets talk inflatable boats

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It's thermostatically applied but there is a technique for applying to sheet which uses what is called thermostatic magnetic brush coating.
Oops, Itís late, I meant electrostatic, not magnetic.

Still though, powdered plastic to be melted soon after
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Old 14-05-2019, 04:38   #13
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Re: Lets talk inflatable boats

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I just noticed that you are in Charleston, I live in Augusta about 3 hours away. I really like AB over every other brand, by looks, design and what I have read in the past week or so. Just learned about defender brand and have not read much really. What's your opinion between ab and defender brand, they don't have the same feature like double hull and locker and probably a few other things and the price difference is huge.
Without going in to to much detail, I work for a RIB manufacturer here in the Charleston area that I could happily give you a tour of and arrange for factory pickup if you chose to order one of our products. You can PM me for details if you want.
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Old 14-05-2019, 09:03   #14
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Re: Lets talk inflatable boats

I have owned a Caribe and never had any problems with it.
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Old 14-05-2019, 09:09   #15
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Re: Lets talk inflatable boats

Regarding Defender inflatables, I have serious issues about product quality, in particular the adhesion of the various attachments to Hypalon. The inflatable in question had seen four seasons in the Bahamas, of 3 months each. It was stored undercover when not in use. Over a 3-month period, every attachment failed when the material was not more Hypalon (some kind of plastic for oar rowlocks and holders, rope holders, handles, etc). Note: the glue remained on the Hypalon, not on the attachment--basically peeled off. The side rubbing strips are also coming off. Hypalon glued to the transom is separating. Also some HYpalon to Hypalon joints are separating.



I would call this a systemic failure. I should also mention that the dinghy was covered with 'chaps'



Since the inflatable was out of warranty, Defender denied responsibility. I would NOT buy another one.
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