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Old 17-11-2021, 11:35   #1
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Inflatable Dinghy vs...

Maybe this has been asked before, but I haven't found it. I'm new to the sailing idea, only recently realized its a viable option, which quickly moved it to the top of my lists of lifestyle changes. I don't have a boat, I'm still in the learning/comprehension phase, if that's a thing.

To the question... why does most everyone have inflatable dinghies? There seems to be a huge selection available for sure, so that market is strong, but why not fiberglass boat? Maybe a 14'...15' skiff to fish off of when at anchor in "the spot". I've seen a couple plastic boats, rotomolds and such, and of course the big yachts have serious tenders, but there's no mistaking that the inflatable dinghies are the most popular choice.

I was assuming it because they can be deflated and stored in a smaller area, which makes perfect sense, but...in looking at many different manufactures, there are lots of offerings of "rigid" dinghies, which aren't really foldable short of a 3 or 4 hour disassembly. Then down that rabbit hole, if you was to puncture the tubing on a rigid, how could you replace it?

Anyways, back to the OQ, why choose an inflatable dinghy instead of the many other small craft options?

Thanks,
Brandon
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Old 17-11-2021, 12:08   #2
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Re: Inflatable Dinghy vs...

Some of us choose differently. My dinghy of choice for over a decade has been a portabote.
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Old 17-11-2021, 12:31   #3
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Re: Inflatable Dinghy vs...

Inflatables and RIBs have more weight capacity in small sizes and they're more stable for getting in and out of them. Plus they don't scuff up boats they bump into. For a lot of people, those advantages are worth it.

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of inflatables. Mostly for the poor rowing ability and looks. Our current dinghy is a 12 foot aluminum semi-v skiff. Honestly, I'd love a Dyer Dhow (preferably with the sail rig), but the aluminum boat carries about as much weight (albeit with a larger footprint) and can go a lot faster under power if desired. Plus, unlike the Dyer, it was quite cheap.
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Old 18-11-2021, 06:28   #4
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Re: Inflatable Dinghy vs...

Quote:
Originally Posted by BNorthern View Post
Anyways, back to the OQ, why choose an inflatable dinghy instead of the many other small craft options?
With an outboard, the inflatable dinghy is probably the sweet-spot for what you get a different price-points. They can carry more weight, deal better with bigger engines, are cheaper and are easier to stow.

If you want to row, then I found kayaks (rigid kayaks if you have the space to store them) a lot better. I even find stand-up paddle boards more fun for rowing in calm weather. For sailing, inflatables aren't a real option, go with a classic wood or fibreglass boat.

And then you have a collection of alternatives like Portabote. They sometimes fill a niche, but if you don't need the aspect where the alternative shines, are usually either more expensive or worse that an inflatable dinghy. Sure, if I had a big enough boat with space or davits and money was no issue, I would prefer an Ocean Tender or something similar. But those are easily more than double than inflatables.
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Old 18-11-2021, 07:20   #5
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Re: Inflatable Dinghy vs...

I've just been through the process of making this decision. The shortlist was the default inflatable Highfield Class 310 that Amel recommend, and the hard OC300 carbon fibre tender from Offshore Cruising Tenders. I chose the inflatable Highfield for the following reasons:

* Less risk of it and the mothership scratching each other.

* I can drive it against the hull of the mothership as an emergency thruster.

* The soft sides look more comfortable to sit on.

* For long passages, it can be deflated to take up less space.

I'm ordering a Torqeedo Cruise 4.0 and the 48-5000 battery for it. We'll see how that works out...
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Old 18-11-2021, 07:30   #6
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Re: Inflatable Dinghy vs...

A 14' or 15' dinghy, particularly a rigid dinghy, can be difficult to store on all but quite large cruising boats. Too big to put on davits or on the foredeck, and you don't want to be towing your dinghy when offshore. Most dinghys are in the 9' to 12' range.
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Old 18-11-2021, 07:38   #7
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Re: Inflatable Dinghy vs...

You would need a very big yacht to carry a 14/15Ft dinghy.



I used a number of dinghys over 20+ years & found the inflatable the most practical. My dinghy was stored inverted over the forward hatch. The inflatable did take up more room, but you could sit or even walk on it when working on the fore deck.


The next best was a 9'6" 2 piece nesting sailing dinghy taking only 5Ft on the deck. It was not a great sailing boat if going to windward, but with a pocket luff & free standing mast it was easy to set up, & a lot of fun to muck about with. It was a good rowing & out board boat, & I still own & use it occasionally with the grand kids.



Otherwise I had numerous fiberglass dinghys of various abilities but all limited. The best was one I layed up myself in a borrowed mould, using a clear gel coat for about 6Sq Ft on the bottom. This allowed more light through the forward hatch when loaded aboard, but was not clear enough for coral viewing.


I did use a 12Ft white water canoe at one time, which was quite good, but had one problem. When being towed it would promptly turn over if it's natural hull speed was exceeded. As the yacht was a couple of knots faster than this speed, it meant towing, even in still protected waters was not practical.
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Old 18-11-2021, 07:54   #8
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Re: Inflatable Dinghy vs...

A lot depends on size of the boat you are thinking of and how and where you indend to use it. Big difference in a 45 cruiser going to the islands vs a 28 coastal cruiser wanting a dinghy for the annual week long cruise. For local cruising in protected waters, towing the dighy works. Not so with the offshore cruiser who will need to bring the dinghy onboard with davits, tied down inflated on deck, or deflated and stowed somewhere.

Most go with an inflatable of some sort for a variety of reasons. I have an 8 ft Achilles with a wood floor. I tow it (with motor on the stern rail) when cruising locally on LI Sound and southern New England waters.
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Old 18-11-2021, 08:06   #9
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Re: Inflatable Dinghy vs...

The choice of dinghy very much depends on your mothership and your particular needs and priorities. Inflatables have many advantages, and a number of disadvantages. For us, the disadvantages outweighed the advantages, which is why we chose the Portabote (after having a number of inflatables).

In many ways, these botes straddle the space between an inflatable and a true hard dinghy. They can be stored on deck without the need for davits. They row well, and move easily with a small outboard. With only a 3.5hp engine my 10' bote easily planes with one (fat) person in it. They even take a small sailing rig which is fun to play with.

The other advantage is that these botes are very tough. No worries about a hard landing on a rocky beach, or bounding against a gnarly dock. And they are relatively light, so dragging them up said beach is no bid deal.

There are disadvantages as well. The botes feel tippy to those without canoe/kayak experience. You can't stand or sit on the gunwhales the way you do with an inflatable. This makes entry/exit a bit more challenging. And they need to be fendered-off when tied to the hull, otherwise they will bang and clunk against the hull.

Anyway... since the OP is asking about options, I hope all this is helpful in the consideration.
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Old 18-11-2021, 08:37   #10
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Re: Inflatable Dinghy vs...

I'm also searching for a tender. I won't have davits initially, and so I want something that can be stored away. I want something with a hard bottom. A traditional inflatable may or may not be storable on the bow deflated since I'll have a self-tacker (J=4.34m).

I've not thought of anything other than inflatable, but then I didn't know about portabote. It's an intriguing idea. It certainly should store well under the self-tacker, but I'm keen on how it would look.

The leading contenders for me are a FRib or a Takacat. I like the FRib's hard bottom, but I can get the Takacat in hypalon.

Directly to the OP's question - I never considered a non-inflatable dinghy. Storage is too difficult.
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Old 18-11-2021, 08:46   #11
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Re: Inflatable Dinghy vs...

The basic equation is how will you use it and how will you stow or tow it. If used mostly or only as the basic tender when anchoring close to shore or services, then a smallish hard shell that you can row and that tows well might be the ticket. But these can be heavy to muscle aboard to the foredeck. If you envision the need to travel far from the yacht and carry a load of people, equipment, and stores then you’ll likely want an outboard on a planing hull such as a RIB. But again, these are heavy and awkward to move around or work around if on deck. Since the majority of folks, especially those among the inexperienced, want one model that can do it all, or nearly, they (we) then look to the inflatable with an outboard. So, there is a big market for them as the best overall product for the broadest range of applications and “functionality” with regard to stowing and/or towing.

One other thing. A 36-ft yacht with stern davits for the dinghy will probably pay for slippage of a 40-ft yacht. Many places do not allow much overhang past slip boundaries. There’s a fellow across from me with a nice 36 but must keep the too-large RIB suspended over the foredeck even though the boat has davits. It hangs too far out from the stern when on them. Either pull the RIB off the davits and stow it somewhere or move to a 40 ft slip of which there are none available were the options. A inflatable with air floor you could just deflate and put in a locker, etc.
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Old 18-11-2021, 09:08   #12
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Re: Inflatable Dinghy vs...

Our old SunSport 240 punctured earlier this year, not bad considering it came with the boat and was 12 seasons old. I sold it to a guy who will repair it fo £100.00 and put this towards a German Talamet lightweight 230.
The weight is important as we store it on our pilothouse roof when underway. It is half the weight of the SunSport it replaces. The SunSport was inflateable vee floor, the Talamet has an inflateable flat floor.
Motors OK with our Suzuki 4HP outboard and rows acceptably. It packs down REALLY small compared to the SunSport.
We are well pleased. Inflatables suit our cruising needs, rarely in them for more than a few minutes unless exploring.
We did take a 1 hour trip from Malpas up the Tamar to Truro to the Supermarket there for a major stores top up and we also did the tourist bit from Fowey to Lostwithiel, a lovely trip of over an hour.
First Mate and I, mid seventies, find the new lightweight job pretty much perfect for our needs.
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Old 18-11-2021, 09:32   #13
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Re: Inflatable Dinghy vs...

Quote:
Originally Posted by shimari View Post
I've not thought of anything other than inflatable, but then I didn't know about portabote. It's an intriguing idea. It certainly should store well under the self-tacker, but I'm keen on how it would look.
We're a cutter with a staysail that makes forward deck storage difficult. I store our Portabote on the side-deck, tied against the cabin. Many people tie them to the stanchions. I dislike this for fear of a boarding wave, but it does work for many.

The other thing to consider with these botes is where to store the seats. I have a bag which contains them (along with the transom ... older model). This sits against our cabin facing forward.

Here's a couple of pics that give you an idea.
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Old 18-11-2021, 10:16   #14
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Re: Inflatable Dinghy vs...

Quote:
Originally Posted by acunningham View Post
I've just been through the process of making this decision. The shortlist was the default inflatable Highfield Class 310 that Amel recommend, and the hard OC300 carbon fibre tender from Offshore Cruising Tenders. I chose the inflatable Highfield for the following reasons:

* Less risk of it and the mothership scratching each other.

* I can drive it against the hull of the mothership as an emergency thruster.

* The soft sides look more comfortable to sit on.

* For long passages, it can be deflated to take up less space.

I'm ordering a Torqeedo Cruise 4.0 and the 48-5000 battery for it. We'll see how that works out...

I made the other choice and bought the OC310 (glass not carbon).

  • The OC is wrapped in fender material, so no chance of scratching the mothership.
  • I could drive the OC against the hull as an emergency thruster (but would I ever do that?).
  • The hard sides of the OC are less comfortable to sit on in a bouncy chop (hard to beat a giant air cushion).
  • The OC has storage under the sides. It can carry more cargo than a similar length RIB.
  • The OC weighs just 100lbs, less than half of a similar length RIB, which makes lifting it really easy, even with the motor on it.
  • The lighter weight requires less motor to push it. It planes easily with 2 adults and our SCUBA gear with a 9.9hp.
  • The OC rows quite well and comes with real wood oars.
  • The OC cannot deflate. No pumps, no patch kits, no sun rot.
There's no single right answer here. I've been cruising with my OC for a year now and I'm happy with it. Most RIB owners I talk to are also happy with their choice.
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Old 18-11-2021, 10:20   #15
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Re: Inflatable Dinghy vs...

Quote:
Originally Posted by BNorthern View Post
Maybe this has been asked before, but I haven't found it. I'm new to the sailing idea, only recently realized its a viable option, which quickly moved it to the top of my lists of lifestyle changes. I don't have a boat, I'm still in the learning/comprehension phase, if that's a thing.

To the question... why does most everyone have inflatable dinghies? There seems to be a huge selection available for sure, so that market is strong, but why not fiberglass boat? Maybe a 14'...15' skiff to fish off of when at anchor in "the spot". I've seen a couple plastic boats, rotomolds and such, and of course the big yachts have serious tenders, but there's no mistaking that the inflatable dinghies are the most popular choice.

I was assuming it because they can be deflated and stored in a smaller area, which makes perfect sense, but...in looking at many different manufactures, there are lots of offerings of "rigid" dinghies, which aren't really foldable short of a 3 or 4 hour disassembly. Then down that rabbit hole, if you was to puncture the tubing on a rigid, how could you replace it?

Anyways, back to the OQ, why choose an inflatable dinghy instead of the many other small craft options?

Thanks,
Brandon
-Inflatables don't bang up the sides of your boat. It's amazing how bad a hard dingy can do that quickly.
-Inflatables are very stable.
-A small rigid dingy can be a very wet ride with a load of groceries coming back from town in a wind chop. Granted an inflatable can be too to a lessor extent, but at least you aren't bailing water!
-A small hard dingy can swamp fairly easily. But you mention some bigger ones and those can be pretty good. Might work if you are just traveling locally for day sails.
-Many here have a horror story of towing a dingy though.
-With a RIB and planing motor, you have a long distance taxi. Anchor the mother ship and go visit some great places that you cant get to with the big boat. Even 20 miles away.
-If you like rowing and are just going short distance to shore a hard dingy rows better.

But often choices are based on how big the mothership is rather than what dingy type is desired. Compromises.
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