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Old 13-01-2016, 04:33   #1
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Choosing an inflatable dinghy: A journey in itself.

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 about inflatable 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. : )

Construction material.

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.

Construction method.

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.
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Old 13-01-2016, 06:02   #2
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Re: Choosing an inflatable dinghy: A journey in itself.

You seem to have at least a good a handle on it as I do, or more likely better.
For that reason, when you do decide, mind sharing your thoughts?
I'd only add if you do go PVC, I have it on decent authority that if you go with chaps right off the bat, you will greatly extend it's life.
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Old 13-01-2016, 06:27   #3
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Re: Choosing an inflatable dinghy: A journey in itself.

Ive been toying with the idea of getting a super cheap pvc inflatable and a set of chaps.

Ran across the saturn brand and was intrigued by their narrow inflatables, they call the KABOAT as in a kayak boat.

I was wondering if anyone had any experience with these or with the Saturn inflatable catamaran?

I have yet to figure out what to do about my tender. I dont have any room on the deck to put one. SO im considering davits for inshore use and rolling it up for crossings.
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dinghy, inflatable

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