Lake Powell + Inflatable Boats
= Fun

Sea Eagle-14-SR Runabout - Photo: Courtesy Sea Eagle

If you haven’t looked at inflatable boats in a while, you are going to be amazed at what you find.

They are no longer just an inexpensive alternative to more conventional vessels or a simple dinghy on the deck of a large pleasure yacht.


You may find books on inflatable boats at Amazon.com by clicking the link below.

Inflatable Boats

In fact, they have become so seaworthy and reliable over the years that they have been used extensively by drug and law enforcement, special military operations, for search and rescue operations and as emergency lifeboats.

Photo: Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

Reasons to buy an inflatable:

• Portability – When deflated they take up little space and can be carried in the trunk of a car.

• Storage – Great for apartment dwellers with limited space

• Lightweight – Can use a smaller engine which uses less fuel

• Stability – There is no tipping when entering an inflatable which makes it easier to enter from the water.

• Unsinkable – They are almost impossible to sink

• High Load Capacity – The large inflatable tubes allow for a high load capacity

• Low Draft – They are able to navigate shallow water

• Low Maintenance – They require little maintenance

Obviously, all of the above reasons do not apply to the larger boats and the Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs).

As the boats get larger, they also become heavier.

And, as they get larger and heavier they may need to be transported by trailer or by a truck with a long bed.

Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboards (SUPs):

Although, strictly speaking, SUPs are not considered to be a boat, I feel like I would be remiss if I did not include them in this discussion.

After all, they are a marine vessel capable of taking you to many places on Lake Powell. (Some would argue that they can take you to any place on Lake Powell).

Inflatable SUPs are great for those people who have limited space available for storage or limited capability for transporting the board.

They can be tucked away in their carrying bag and stored in a closet and can be carried in the back seat of a car or in the trunk.

Zoom By Zodiac 310S Solid Floor Inflatable

History:

Inflatables have a long history going back almost 3,000 years.

Our earliest written records tell us that airtight animal skins were used by both the Assyrians and the Chinese for crossing rivers.

Following the Great War, entrepreneurs in both Britain and France were experimenting with rubber flotation devices.

Reginald Foster Dagnall, an Englishman, gave his initials, RFD, to his own company which experimented with flotation gear used in aviation and marine safety equipment.

RFD became synonymous with “Rapid Flotation Device” and the company built some of the earliest dinghies.

In the 1930s Dagnall improved his design, and this boat became the ancestor to the one-person inflatable life-raft.

Sea Eagle Catamaran Deluxe

Across the channel, in 1934, Pierre Debroutelle, an engineer for Zodiac, designed a prototype for a small inflatable kayak and an inflatable catamaran.

It didn’t take long before a floor was attached between the buoyancy tubes and the modern day Zodiac was born.

During World War II, inflatable rafts were used in the transport of men and equipment and in rescue operations.

In his book D-Day, Stephen E. Ambrose describes the dramatic rescue of some fifteen soldiers after their landing craft hit a mine during the Normandy invasion:

“Bacon got a rubber raft into the water; he got aboard while they pitched onto it a radio set and medical packs plus their weapons and ammunition.

As machine-gun and rifle fire whined past their ears, they pushed the raft through the obstacles to shallow water, then unloaded the contents on the sand.”

After World War II, two new synthetic materials, Hypalon and neoprene, were coated onto nylon fabrics using a new generation of glues.

With this development, they were now able to cope with the harsh natural elements without becoming brittle, as natural rubber does.

In addition, they were impervious to salt, UV and petrochemicals.

Click here for great boats

As the popularity of inflatables grew and materials and manufacturing techniques further developed, boat users recognized the potential for combining the inherent buoyancy and stability of the inflatable boat with the speed of modern planing hulls.

The Headmaster at Atlantic College in Wales, Rear Admiral Desmond Hoare RN (retd), appreciated the inflatable for its inshore rescue qualities, and he and the college are credited with conceiving, designing and constructing the first RIB.

As heat-weld seamed pvc and vinyl materials continue to be developed, the manufacture of smaller inflatable dinghies, tenders and kayaks has moved into the mass production era.

At the same time, there is also a number of low volume customized RIB builders who continue to push the boundaries with larger and even more capable inflatable boats.

Between these two entities, the future for RIB’s, inflatable boats and other inflatable marine products seems to have no limits.

PVC or Hypalon:

Whether you choose a roll-up inflatable or a RIB, you are faced with choosing between two different materials: PVC or Hypalon.

Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

The following information was taken from Jane Anderson’s article, Inflatable Boat Material Choice Can Determine Price, Durability.

”PVC: Less Expensive and Less Durable

PVC is difficult to repair outside of the factory, and some owners of PVC inflatable boats find they cannot fix even a small leak in a seam themselves and must pay a shop to have the boat repaired.

PVC inflatables don't last as long as hypalon. PVC is much more vulnerable to ultraviolet (UV) sun damage than hypalon.

PVC can be damaged by certain chemicals, including common cleaning supplies

Warranties for the best PVC inflatables generally run only five years for air leaks, compared to up to 10 years for hypalon models.

Hypalon: Higher Upfront Inflatable Boat Cost, But Longer Lifespan

Hypalon offers strong resistance to UV, and many inflatable boat manufacturers use hypalon as their exterior coating, with an inner layer of neoprene rubber; according to BoatUS, this combination provides superior strength and excellent air-holding ability.

This durability comes with a price: Because PVC inflatables are cheaper to mass-produce than hypalon boats, they're cheaper to buy initially; new PVC RIB inflatable boats, for example, can cost up to 30 percent less than comparable hypalon rigid inflatable boat.

Hypalon: Higher Upfront Inflatable Boat Cost, But Longer Lifespan

Hypalon offers strong resistance to UV, and many inflatable boat manufacturers use hypalon as their exterior coating, with an inner layer of neoprene rubber; according to BoatUS, this combination provides superior strength and excellent air-holding ability.

This durability comes with a price: Because PVC inflatables are cheaper to mass-produce than hypalon boats, they're cheaper to buy initially; new PVC RIB inflatable boats, for example, can cost up to 30 percent less than comparable hypalon rigid inflatable boat.

Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Inflatable Sport Kayak

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References and Resources:

All Inflatables
http://www.allinflatables.com/support/general.html

Funding Universe
http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/Zodiac-SA-Company-History.html

Rib Store
http://www.ribstore.co.uk/cms-assets/documents/12724-448824.history-of-inflatable-boats-and-ribs.p

Sea Eagle
http://www.seaeagle.com/default.aspx?keycode=MC&adGroup=inflatable+boats

Suite 101.com
http://suite101.com/article/inflatable-boat-material-choice-can-determine-price-durability-a227021#ixzz1wgX03Q4K

Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reginald_Foster_Dagnall

Zodiac
http://zodiacmarineusa.com/


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