The main advantage of every inflatable boat is its inflatable buoyancy tube. This most important part of every inflatable gives some incredible features to them : The boat becomes about 2 times wider, which sufficiently increases stability. The combination of the inflatable buoyancy tube with medium-V or deep-V bottoms makes its seaworthiness really fantastic. The boat has a multi-chamber tube with an incredible buoyancy volume. It guarantees unbelievable safety, carry and passenger capacities.
The main body materials are light and flexible. It makes the boat light, portable, easy in storage and transportation. But all the inflatables have a bit shorter lifetime and need more care and maintenance in use. The reason is: the main flexible material is much more sensitive than the piece of metal. But with years this problem becomes less and less important: technical progress in chemical industry offers better and stronger materials.
So, you have decided to buy an inflatable boat ! Congratulations !!! Now we’d like to give you some recommendation about your boat size matter. Please consider some things:
• If you need a tender for your yacht or power boat – make sure that you exactly know the maximum dimensions of the tender, available for your yacht and the maximum loading capacity of your boat lifting system.
• The size of the boat is in the direct connection with MAX engine power, MAX passengers & carrying capacity.
• If you are going to use your boat for water skiing – the boat should be able to be equipped with the engine 25 HP at least.
• Passengers : mostly the Maximum passengers capacity, set in Technical Specification for the boat, and a number or real seating places in the boat are different. First decide how many people you will need to carry, and then check how many seating places the boat has.
First of all some words about the materials for inflatable boats in general. To reach the maximum of air tightness the main material for high-quality inflatable boats usually has 5-layers design:
• One central internal layer: it’s a reinforcement cord – cloth base, made of strong synthetic fabric,
• Two internal layers: coating of cloth base with airtight flexible material, which makes the fabric airtight and has high adhesion level to the cloth base.
• Two external layers: coating with airtight flexible material, which opposes the abrasion and increases UV
resistance and air tightness.
The most popular material for reinforcement cord is POLYESTER cloth base with the density parameter 1100 DTEX for recreational boats and 1680 DTEX for professional ones. The coating materials can be different and it’s the main subject of your choice. At the moment there is a lot of different names and trademarks of the materials for inflatable boats, but all of them can be combined into TWO main groups: ELASTOMERS and PLASTOMERS.
Elastomers are the thermo-reactive materials, which never become plastic when heating after they have been produced – mainly they are all sorts of rubber. And there are two materials, which are undoubtedly leading elastomers materials for inflatables in the world: HYPALON and NEOPREN.
HYPALON has an excellent chemical resistance and stability against UV-rays, but it’s still the most expensive one. NEOPREN has no such outstanding stability as HYPALON, but its stability is high enough, which in combination with more than attractive prices for raw material, makes its use guaranteed. Mainly these materials are used in combination: NEOPREN – inside the boat and the tube, HYPALON – outside. Such combination is the most popular for recreational boats. Only HYPALON-coated fabrics (on both sides) are used for military or some commercial purposes, where the price is not so important as other characteristics.
One of the most important characteristics of the both materials is their high maximum working temperature up to 140 deg. C. Plastomers are the thermoplastic materials (they can become liquid when heating). The main specimens are PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and PU (polyurethane). PU has unbelievable abrasion resistance – an excellent material, but too expensive to be a leader. The leader is PVC. You can meet a number of different names of thermoplastic materials, but all of them are PVC with slightly different compositions. And the price is SUPER! So, speaking about the materials for inflatables the choice is : either HYPALON or PVC.
PVC vs Hypalon
UP TO 10 YEARS
UP TO 30 YEARS
In the number of parameters these materials are very similar: modern technology and improvements of PVC are minimizing the difference step by step. From the practical side the most important differences are : – TEMPERATURE RESISTANCE. It makes HYPALON very preferable in hot climate areas (equator, sub-equator, tropics and some sub-tropics), where the boat surface temperature can easily reach the level of 80-90 deg C. PVC is also very useful there, but you have to be more careful to your boat. In medium and cold climate areas this difference disappears at all. – LIFETIME. PVC is more sensitive to UV radiation than HYPALON. But now the special chemical additives in PVC have nearly solved the problem – 10 years lifetime for PVC boats is more than realistic. – PRICE. HYPALON materials now are 5-6 (!!!) times more expensive than PVC. As a result, in comparison with a PVC boat a HYPALON one costs nearly a DOUBLE (!!!) price for foldable boats and 40-60% more for boats with a rigid hull. The difference is more than sufficient.
ASSUME : Take HYPALON if you are going to use it in HOT areas, if you are looking for the HI-END and do not care about the price. In all the other situations PVC will serve you perfect !
Foldable boats are the classic examples of inflatables, which originate from the first inflatable rowing dinghies and army rubber boats. Of course modern foldables have been sufficiently improved: transoms for engines, solid floorboards, V-shaped bottoms and a lot of excellent features appeared. Everything is fine, except one point – the bottom. It’s soft! In some situations it can be good, but in some – bad. Soft bottom gives you a chance to land on a wild coast line and do not worry about hull damage – it’s soft! All the foldables are collapsible and very portable when stowed. Super! But … But every foldable just dreams about the features of RIBs : RIGID INFLATABLE BOATS – INFLATABLE BOATS WITH A RIGID HULL. RIB is a combination of inflatable and conventional boats – something in the middle. RIB is an attempt to combine all the advantages of inflatables and conventional boats and eliminate all their demerits. And it seems like a successful and very promising attempt.
• The resistance of soft bottom move in water is higher than any hard material like metal or plastic – so, a foldable is not the best racer. Top speed is for RIBs.
• The soft material nature allows only quite simple forms of foldable boat bottoms. Even if the bottom is V-shaped, a number of great ideas of hydrodynamics theory are not available in foldables. But it can be easily realized on RIBs.
• Another point: comfort and feeling of rigidity. Foldables are excellent for sporty use, when there’s nothing extra and everything is quite ascetic. But you can find a real comfort on RIBs – they have much more possibilities for that.
• Next point: assembling! With a RIB you do not have to train you muscles every time you go boating – everything is ready, just inflate and go!
A RIB is not just another type of inflatable boat – it’s another level of enjoyment. In practice most people became the RIB fans after they tried them ones. Of course, a RIB is more expensive and heavy, takes more space and care, but it’s a thing to think about.
A foldable inflatable boat with a hard deck (wooden or aluminum floorboards) is a tradition of inflatables. Usually it includes some floorboards (made of marine grade plywood or aluminum) joined by means of some cross and ateral aluminum profiles, which also work as a reinforcement. Slatted deck is the most simple version of boat flooring : wooden strips on flat bottom. It’s very light, do not need much care, but has quite low performance as the bottom is flat. An air deck (or an inflatable floor) is an innovation, which came to us just about 10 years ago and quickly became very popular. The heart of an air deck is so called a “double-wall ” or “drop-stitch” fabric” – a brilliant technical idea, which allowed to realize this project on a high technical level. Two airtight layers of reinforced PVC (or HYPALON) coated fabric are fixed 40-50mm away by an innumerable quantity of threads (2-5 threads on every sq.cm). After the perimeter is closed airtight it becomes a very hard and strong plate, when inflated. To inflate it, you need a special high-pressure pump, because the nominal pressure for air decks is 4-5 times more than for the inflatable tube. Two best features of air decks are:
• Low weight ( 7 kg – 15 lbs air deck for a boat of 3.5m(12′) long against 24 kg – 53 lbs of a floorboards set).
• You can forget the mechanical assembling of the boat at all – just inflate to make it ready! But unfortunately these are the only pluses. The reverse side of this medal is not so good:
• Air deck is a very delicate, being sensitive to intensive use and abrasion, which sufficiently decrease the lifetime. With an air deck the boat is not so solid as with floorboards.
• And finally the air-deck boat is 20-30% more expensive than the boat with floorboards.
Floorboards, Air-Deck and Slatted Deck comparison
• You may choose the foldable boat with Air deck just in case you need something VERY LIGHT and do not want to spend your time for boat assembling. Maximum care and delicate use – that’s what this boat will ask you for !
• Slatted deck is good alternative to air-deck as it’s also LIGHT and PORTABLE. It allows much harder use than an Air-deck. Think about that if you need a small PRACTICAL tender and if the speed performance is not the most important point for you. • A boat with floorboards is certainly the best choice for the most of other applications !!!