It's possible that Jim and I have the longest history
on CF with hypalon dinghies. (1985 till 2015). When we first left to go cruising, we had a 3rd hand Zodiac
(13 ft.), glued seams. We kept using it till the hypalon started to fail---NOT the seams. It got really thin where we sat, and then, the scrim underneath became visible, and it started to sun rot
. We used it from 1985 till 1991, in the tropics it's whole life, and believed it to be 15 yrs. old at the time of sale
. Sorry I don't recall
exactly, but it's a while ago.
We bought a DSB (Deutsch Schlauf Boot) hypalon dinghy
. Used it also till the hypalon started to get thin. NO problem with seams. Sold
it also. Bought in 1991, sold
it in 2003, and bought a hypalon tubed Gemini
. It proved to be made from inferior hypalon, and thereby lies a story. After the DuPont patent expired, many outfits made a product they called "hypalon", and some of it was better than others. The Gemini
used the same hull
as the Swift, but it was lighter weight, and we bought the Gemini so it would be faster and also, easier to haul up beaches. Big mistake, because the weight difference was because Gemini used lighter weight hypalon, which is thinner and wears out faster. Again, never a problem with the seams. But one thing we did learn along the way, is that most of the glues used on hypalon require low humidity, so unless you can find out whether it is glued up in humidity controlled shops, DON'T trust the seams. I saw a NZ assembled Nouvarania (sp?) hypalon dinghy that I could peal the trim with just testing the seam with a fingernail. Moist assembly conditions.
The Gemini dinghy had a curse on it: it was stolen and set afire; but we recovered the aluminum hull
. Jim cleaned it up, and we took it back to Gemini, and had them put on another set of hypalon tubes. The cost was about 1/2 a new dinghy, and the savings bought the new motor
we needed. In 2015, those tubes had worn out, too, and we then spoke with friends who owned a dinghy repair business, who informed us that just like there are differences in the hypalon they could source, so were there also differences in the PVC.
They were able to source German PVC which they convinced us was of high quality, for us at about half the cost of good hypalon, and so, we went with PVC tubes in 2015. The chaps we made for it then were WeatherMax, and are now coming to the end of their life. [There is a Sewing Group part of our Community, where I wrote about making the dinghy cover, and reported back a couple of times.] However, the PVC is in excellent condition, spending about half its life in the tropics. It is only 5 yrs old, but there is no seam failure at this point, and there is no appearance of the plasticizer going away.
If you want a good hypalon dinghy, you will have to ask a lot of questions: weight of hypalon (thicker and heavier is better); and questions relative to assembly (humidity control.) As close as I can figure out, the Swift hypalon dinghies are the best in Oz; the Bombards made for the French Navy
are the best in France
. Caribes and ABs seem to have good reputations, as well, but ASK THE QUESTIONS.
If you want a good PVC dinghy (and I saw a 20 yr old one in what appeared to be good condition), you will need to ask a whole lot of questions. I really don't know what Highfield are using for their PVC, but if it is -- and stays -- qualitiy like ours, you might get 8-10 yrs. out of it.
Hypalon dinghies of high quality are expensive. It would be really cool if someone from Swift could come and explain why they are so expensive.
Good luck with it...it always helps.