How To Choose the Right Inflatable
There are lots of reasons why inflatables have become so popular: increased bouyancy and stability, more forgiving ride, light weight, built-in fenders.
And there are many different types of inflatables to choose from. An inflatable can be anything between a 7' dinghy and 30+' luxury sport boat.
Here are a few questions to ask that will help you figure out what type of inflatable is right for you.
Roll-up or RIB?
For boaters that have limited space, roll-ups are good because they can be easily folded up and stowed away. Also, heavy duty roll-ups are favored by rescue professionals because they are light-weight and easy to deploy. However, for the recreational boater, rigid-hull inflatables or RIBs are more popular. RIBs ride better than flat-bottomed roll-ups because they have V-shaped hulls that cut through the water. RIBs can also handle heavier, higher horse power outboard motors.
Hull Material and Layout?
If a RIB is right for you, consider the hull material and layout. Fiberglass hulls are an industry standard but aluminum hulls have become very popular becuase they tend to be lighter. The RIBs interior hull layout is either single-deck, where you walk on the inside of the hull bottom, or double-deck where you walk on a flat floor inside the boat. Single-deck RIBs are lighter but they do not have storage lockers in the bow, they will also accumulate bilge water in the V bottom. Double-deck boats have flat surfaces to step into, often have bow lockers for storage and allow water to collect underdeck, keeping your feet and cargo dry.
Tiller or Steering Wheel?
Almost all RIBs under 13' come standard with oars as a neccesary safety feature and for those that choose to row. But for many boaters that use an inflatable as a tender or as a run-about, tiller operated outboard motors are the norm. If you decide to use a motor, the operator of the motor will sit on the tube as they steer. For those that want the added comfort and control of a steering system the alternative is a console boat with a helm and steering wheel. These boats are heavier and more expensive but they offer many more features and are more likely to be used as a primary boat.
Most inflatables have tubes made of either PVC or Hypalon fabric. There are pros and cons to each. Namely, Hypalon is more UV resistant. However, it can be considerably more expensive. PVC is a fine choice in moderate climates and with proper care PVC tubes can have a 8-10 year life span. In hotter climates with year-round boating, Hypalon tubes are a must. In most cases, Hypalon tubes are warrantied for 10 years and can often have a lifespan of 20 years. If you are making an investment in a higher end console boat, or using the inflatable as a primary boat, Hypalon tubes are receommended.
Luxury or Utility?
If you've decided that a console boat with a steering wheel is what you want, consider how well you want it to be appointed. Some inflatbales are designed with luxury harbor crusing in mind and some are more suitable for performance activities such as water sports and being used as chase boats.
Maritime Solutions is here to guide you through the process of choosing an inflatable. We are happy to spend the time and figure out what works best for you.