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Old 04-07-2016, 21:45   #1
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Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Rockhampton, Australia
Boat: Top Hat 25
Posts: 337
Mercury 250 Airdeck HP inflatable and 4-stroke 3.5 hp motor

Towing an 11 foot aluminium dinghy has worked well for me exploring the river my 25 foot sail boat is moored on. However, to go out to sea, I bought another dinghy. This is my experience with it and new motor.

What: Mercury 250 Airdeck HP inflatable and 4-stroke 3.5 hp motor from Waves Overseas, Sydney, Australia [ ].

Initially, the size of the folded up inflatable concerned me. Jeepers, it took up a heap of room in the back of my car and no way could I carry it by myself. I thought I did well to lift it.

In my backyard, I practiced inflating and deflating it, rolling it up and bagging. It surprised me how much I had to learn, never having had or even used an inflatable before. After several practices, I felt more confident with doing it. Also became more orientated to the dinghy's layout and build.

On the eve of a two week trip out to sea, I motored the inflatable out to my Tophat 25 and prepared to haul it aboard. Took the motor off and lifted into the cockpit. I found it hefty but not overly heavy.

With lifeline lowered so it would not be an obstruction, I pulled the dinghy up from the water and into the cockpit. The dinghy is bigger than my cockpit. However, I moved it onto the cabin roof, deflated and rolled it. Wow, it seemed to pack away so tiny compared to fully inflated.

With the dinghy out of the way on the cabin roof, and with nothing being towed, I made my way down the 35 nm of muddy river and delta and headed into beautiful blue water. Not for long. Late on the second day of the trip, I had a head cold developing and a nasty weather situation was quickly forming. Back I went to a safe anchorage, Pacific Creek.

In the creek, I used the dinghy to explore various areas and take me to shore where I went for long walks. With not ever using an inflatable before, I was unsure about its handling and even its puncture-resistance. At first it was all new and at times, strange.

The inflatable impressed me with its stability and lightness (compared to my aluminium dinghy), even its flexibility. Despite a week of strong chop and tricky winds, the inflatable was never a problem when tied to the side of my boat. Under similar conditions, my aluminium dinghy used to end up knocking and jerking, needing to be moved or adjusted.

At the landing area, sharp shell grit and rock worried me. Didn't want to make my blow up boat go pop. I used a fender as a roller so I did not drag the dinghy. Some days I would move it three metres in vertical height. It was easy enough to move it up the slope and down.

The 3.5 hp outboard, which I started to run in on my aluminium dinghy before the trip, worked very well. It pushed the inflatable up onto the plane with some throttle left. I would move my body forward to help it to plane then move back. Achieving 10 knots, I was happy with the speed and the ride.

The ride took me a little while to become used to, being a flexible mat rather than the hard hulls I have had previously. The floor wiggles at times. At first, a bit disconcerting. After a while, it did not concern me.

On the night of a big blow and massive tide flow (5 metre range), in the middle of the night, my boat was smacked by a floating dead mangrove tree. Jumping up into the cockpit, I watched as it slid down the port side of my boat, bigger than the inflatable it was heading for tied alongside. Spikey branches. I was sure it would tangle with the ropes and puncture or rip the inflatable. It did neither. It smashed into the dinghy but the dinghy flexed, bent up. The tree was shunted to the side and careered further up the creek. I hoped it did not come back with change of tide.

A branch from the tree damaged a point on the rubbing strip around the side of the dinghy but did not puncture it. No repairs needed. I was very surprised at the robustness of the dinghy.

By the end of the trip I was very much enjoying the dinghy and outboard. I had no significant issues with either one. The dinghy is out of the way and easy to access once rolled on the cabin roof. Enjoyable when deployed on the water. Light enough to haul up slopes on shore.

The controls of motor I find nice to use, the motor itself runs beautifully at trolling speed and higher speed planes the hull. Easy enough to move around for storing without hurting my back.

With the dinghy, the only niggle I have is with the void under the airdeck floor. Easy out on the creek for rain or other water, or sand from feet, to collect below the floor and be tricky to remove. However, overall, I am very pleased with both dinghy and motor, they are achieving what I was wanting from them, even surprising me with how much I have grown to like them.


More pictures and story in my blog.
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Old 05-07-2016, 18:39   #2
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Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Noank, Ct. USA
Boat: Cape Dory 31
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Re: Mercury 250 Airdeck HP inflatable and 4-stroke 3.5 hp motor

Very nice. Thanks for sharing.
All we ever hear about are saltwater crocs in the Land Downunder. Are they not an issue where you sail?
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Old 05-07-2016, 20:24   #3
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Location: Rockhampton, Australia
Boat: Top Hat 25
Posts: 337
Re: Mercury 250 Airdeck HP inflatable and 4-stroke 3.5 hp motor

Hi Orion Jim, I have seen crocs in the main river and creeks. Very rare to see one. I would not say they are not an issue. The danger is there but not always in your face.

Basically, I am always cautious near the water in the river, I don't wade in the water, I am quick in and out of the dinghy at the shore, I would not fish or use crabpots out of the little inflatable in heavy mangrove creeks. In fact, after rowing my 11 foot aluminium dinghy along a creek and nearly coming across a croc on the bank bigger than my dinghy, I don't row there anymore. Thankfully I had got sick of rowing, started the motor and as I zoomed I saw the croc. [Story and pics in my blog]

Out of the river system and around the beaches, there is a very tiny chance of seeing a croc. Up north, Cairns, Darwin, crocs are a bigger problem.

On the other hand, I have enjoyed crocodile steaks from a local croc farm so having crocs around is not all bad.

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