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What to look for in an inflatable dinghy

Inflatable Dinghy

What to look for in an inflatable dinghy

Carrying a dinghy on board your boat is pretty common for those who enjoy cruising. Using it to get ashore, to get to the beach or just explore, adds a lot to the boat cruising experience. The most common class of dinghy is the inflatable. This is not to say the fully rigid dinghies are uncommon or not as good but we’ll focus on inflatables here. All of these boats are usually sold with oars for rowing, a pump for inflating and one or more seats. design points in selecting this type of dinghy are the following. We will discuss each in turn.

  •  Inflatable or rigid keel
  •  Tube material
  •  Rigid hull material 
  •  Size of tube

There are two major types of inflatable dinghies and several different materials that they are made of.

  • Inflatable or rigid keel

Let’s start with the inflatable keelboats. These boats come with either a high-pressure floor or a hard slat-type floor. Both of these types range in size up to 11 feet and can accommodate smaller outboard motors usually up to 10hp. An advantage of this type of boat is that it can be fully deflated and transported and stored in a smaller space. This type is also less expensive than those with a rigid hull.

  • Tube material

Inflatable boats use either PVC or Hypalon as the fabric for the tube and bottom construction. PVC is less expensive and Hypalon is higher cost but more durable in the sun and can withstand long exposure to UV rays. PVC is often found in boats used in the northeast or pacific northwest, while Hypalon is common in Florida and the Caribbean. 

Rigid Bottom Inflatable

The other common type of boat is the rigid bottom inflatable or RIB. These boats have a hard shell bottom constructed of fiberglass or aluminum and the inflating tubes are adhered to the shell to form the boat. For dinghies, these boats range in size up to 13’ or 14’ feet but typically are found in the 9-11 foot range. Due to the hard shell bottom, this type can handle larger motors up to 20Hp and are faster due to their ability to get up on plane with 3-4 passengers on board. Like the inflatable keelboats, the tubes can be made from PVC or Hypalon. There are pros and cons to fiberglass or aluminum bottomed boats. The aluminum boats are generally lighter while those made of fiberglass tend to be quieter going through the waves. 

Tube size

With both of these types of boats, tube size is an important choice. Tubes generally range from 15” in diameter up to 19” in diameter with 16” to 18” most common. The larger the tube, the greater the carrying capacity and the drier the boat. Smaller tubes are less costly and lighter. Boats with smaller tubes carry smaller engines.

What’s important

What’s important out of these characteristics is up to you. It depends on how you will use your dinghy, where you will use it, how fast you want to go and how many people you will carry. Consider these factors as you make your choice. In a future

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