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Old 01-14-2009, 08:39 PM   #1
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 10

Forgive me if I'm opening up an age old controversy, but I am stymied by what choice to make re: an inflatible. Something tells me others have pondered this question before me.

I have a 33 foot sloop with plans for moderate cruising distance. She'll be moored when at home port. I need transport to and from the mooring as well as to beaches when traveling.

I'm looking for something that can move 3 to 4 people and a small amount of baggage with a minimum of hassle. On boat storage is limited.

I've looked into inflatible with; air floor, rolling aluminum floor, wood floor, and RIB. Tend to rule out the RIB due to weight and storage considerations. Any thoughts on the inflatible air floor? It has appeal due to smallest impact on storage. BUT: Will it stand up? Will it be damaged by the paws of a gentle mid size dog? Any issues with stability? Grateful for any insights you might share.

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Old 01-15-2009, 05:28 AM   #2
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Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 333

Just some observations that might find helpful:

We had a 2.8m Zodiac with an inflatable keel that sat under a wooden removable floor. The idea was to roll it up and store it down one of the quarter berths for our passage from Perth to Cairns across the top of OZ. We couldn't store it on deck as our sloop was barely 25' long and 2' of that was bowsprit.

We ended up inflating and de-inflating it twice before it simply got too hard and we ended up towing it the entire voyage. Attached to a 2-point bridle it was fine apart from once when we had a large following sea and it surfed over the stern and landed in my lap in the cockpit!

When we moved ashore it stayed inflated and we simply stored it under the house when not in use. Yes - a pain loading and unloading it onto the roof racks but not as painful as having to unpack, inflate and assemble every time we wanted to use it.

It was heavy and the keel was prone to coral nicks but it served us well as the wooden floor withstood a fair apart of rough and tumble with anchors, scuba tanks and all the sundry bits and bobs you tend to drop into it.

Our new yacht had a 2.8m Force 4 RIB with an aluminium floor & keel and removable tubes. It went like a rocket and took a hell of a beating without a scratch. No coral nicks, no floor dents - strong and reliable. Like the wooden floored Zodiac I could knock over my fishing tackle box or toss my speargun aboard and be certain I hadn't just turned the floor to swiss cheese. Unfortunately it also weighed a tonne and required a sizable pulley system using the topping lift to haul it aboard. Swings and slides.

Last week we retired the Force 4 due to the age of the tubes and deterioration of the seams as our little dinghy was a good 12 yrs old. We looked at having new tubes manufactured but the costs came out almost on par with buying a new RIB.

We've now purchased a 2.8 RIB with a fibreglass keel and floor. It's half the weight of our original Zodiac and doesn't take the two of us swinging on the topping lift to haul it aboard.

2 pens down from us another vessel purchased an inflatable with an air floor. It also went like a rocket until they accidently dropped their reef anchor onto the floor and punctured it.

I know of a many who also have air floors and have taken the option of installing some light weight, sealed, ply panels for added protection.

As you rightly point out - its always going to be a trade off between storage, assembley, durability and convenience. Me? - the only punctures I want to repair in the future are on our fold-up bikes

Fair winds,



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Old 01-15-2009, 09:30 AM   #3
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Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 120

I did some calculations several years ago and decided that a small RIB would pay for itself in about a year, if cruising. This is because the better speed and greater comfort while travelling (Drier!) would substantially reduce the number of days spent on expensive moorings and marinas, as anchoring off would be feasible.

Any thoughts?


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