Rigid Inflatable Dingy
Saw one of those Walker Bay dingys with the inflatable collar today. It looks like it might have the best of both the hard dingy and inflatable worlds. Anybody out there have any experience with them. How does Walker Bay stack up?
CruisingDad, moderator here has a WB, I believe he is very happy with it, but I think its a more traditional RIB.
I looked at several RIB's...Avon, WB, Caribe, and Achilles...I choose the Achilles. Bought it through Defender, very satisfied, but then I have only had it one season ;)
I'm not a big fan of the walker bays. They're a bit tippy without the flotation collar. Also, you have to consider how and where you're going to stow it when on passage.
We have a rigid inflatable dinghy. They come in three basic types. Fiberglass, aluminum, and WalkerBay rotomolded plastic.
Here's my analysis of the Genesis, and Walker Bay Customer Service:
Walker Bay Genesis and customer service review
We bought our Genesis dinghy based on several factors:
It had a folding transom, allowing one to deflate it and reduce the size of
the height when stowed on deck. If we ever did a long passage, likely
that's where we'd put it.
It has a very forgiving bottom. It's the same sort of flexible plastic
which they use in their "hard" dinghies, immune to pulling up on a rocky
shore. It will scratch, but it won't break. That same relatively soft bottom makes for a more forgiving ride in chop than a fiberglass or aluminum dinghy.
The tubes were another plus, as they are replaceable without major surgery,
sliding into slots in the hull, should the occasion be required, either by
time (no inflatable tubes last forever) or circumstance (damage, etc.). In
our prior same-sized fiberglass dinghy, to replace the tubes would have been
very close to the cost of the WB.
Having been a competitive rower in the past, I was impressed by the oars in
two respects. First was that they could be feathered. The are free in the
sleeve which attaches them to the pin section. Second was that the blades
were cupped, to increase the efficiency of rowing versus the effect of a
flat sectioned oar, much like a winged or bulb keel increases the efficiency
of a keel.
It was the lightest of the hard dinghies in the class, other than aluminum
(not available, of course, from Walker Bay), which nearly doubled the cost
had we taken that option.
It has wheels on the stern which allow easy movement by one person over hard surfaces.
It was notably less expensive than our other options at the time.
We've come to regret the decision. In the end, I'd have been happier, I
think, replacing the tubes in our original fiberglass dinghy, despite it
being heavier than the Walker Bay in the end. In addtion to the basic
similarity (somewhat less - but the Walker Bay would have been new) in cost,
it would have had two major advantages over our experience with the Genesis, the tubes and lifting discussions seen below:
The tubes would have been bigger. Every hard inflatable we've seen, without
exception, has notably larger-diameter tubes. That would make for a better
ride, both in flotation (not that the WB is short on flotation) and in
WB has apparently a very thin Hypalon skin on the outside. The slightest
abrasion causes separation to the tube, exposing the fabric underneath.
This applies to seams as well as main-tube sections. Accordingly, iin our
about 25 months of use, this dinghy has required umpteen patches to keep it
inflated, and more keep coming.
I know from conversations with other cruisers that WB's initial tubes were
supplied by someone else than is current, and they had some problems with
them. However, we bought from a very high volume dealer, well after those
problems were presumably resolved by switching suppliers, so I doubt that to
be our problem.
Like most inflatables, the Genesis rows like a pig. However, of more
concern, and the cause of my bending one of the oars in my first outing, is
that the oars compress - sliding into a larger sleeve. You control the
length of the oar by sliding it to the desired length and then tightening a
collar. To get the oar long enough to actually put much of it in the water
without having the handles at your head, you have to extend it far enough
that there's not much left in the sleeve for strength.
So, not only do I have to take it easy, I have to - as tall as I am - have
the handles at a much higher-than-efficient level to row it at all. As a
result, the oars are only for emergency use. I confine my rowing to a
PortaBote which I specially modified to where I can actually use carbon
fiber sculls (10' long), the same as would be used by a racer. That's really a side issue, as no inflatable rows very well, so I discount that. We've used the oars only a couple of times since the replacement.
WB has had some problems with delamination of the tube glues, primarily (at
least as known to us) in the rub strip and, more significantly, the place
where the transom attaches.
Tank tie down is a positive. Both versions, the economy (notable by a single rub strip on the side) and the deluxe, have a "bilge" floor, allowing your feet to stay dry. It's held in place by latches of the sections, which interlock. The economy version has a flat bow piece, with a hole in it for running the gas line backwards to the engine, and the tank secures with strap pins. The deluxe version has a lazarette in the raised section, rather than flat as in the economy version, and the tubes have two rub rails.
Strap pins rusted almost through, however, on our deluxe version...
A friend of ours pursued, at great length, and over most of the Eastern
Caribbean, the resolution of his transom and rub rail problems. In the end,
he was given a new dinghy after the first replacement (or dealer-fix, I'm
not certain about which) of his transom also failed, this time not by paint peeling off, but by the attachment point glue failing.
That's greatly to WB's Customer Service' credit. That it took so long to
We personally have had no issues with delamination of the transom attachment points, and, only when soft (see above about leaks!) do we notice any (very small) delamination of the rub rail.
The transom is aluminum. The paint basically isn't sticking to it, flaking
off in great chunks, inside and outside of it, after first bubbling,
presumably due to corrosion which afflicts all aluminum in a marine
environment. As this isn't a safety or use issue, I let it go as a mere
Another nuisance in the transom, not safety-related, is that their
(presumed) rubber strip across the top is going totally gummy due to UV,
and, as well, when the motor is placed on the transom, it cuts it. So, not
only is it missing some small pieces, any time I put my hand on it, it comes
Walker Bay's customer support initially appeared very good. I'd bent the
first set of oars supplied to us, and the lifting points which required a
strap system caused, by the straps lifting, a departure of one of our seats
as the strap pressed against it during some heavy weather. I met Chris
Carroll, the VP of sales, at the Annapolis Boat Show in 2007. He arranged
for the local dealer to replace both for us, a very satisfactory experience.
However, we've had what I consider to be a severe safety issue. The factory
recommended solution to our lifting problem, apparently frequent in others'
boats, due to the inability to attach lifting points inside the hull at
other than the transom and bow ring, as supplied, was to attach eye bolts to
the floor system (ours has the removeable sectioned floor "bilge" feature,
keeping your feet dry if water gets in). He claimed that they've filled the
dinghy with water, put 4 men in it, and successfully lifted it without
failure. That certainly seemed like an extreme test.
Our experience has been that the floor system, over time, distorts (it's the
same flexible plastic as the hull), raising concerns for the locking system
failing. Worse, the bow section, being secured by their locking points at
the stern part of that section, and by the bow ring about 18" forward of
that, has lifted to the degree that there are failure tears developing next
to their floor locking points. We never lift the dinghy with motor or fuel,
so it's about as light as it can get, but, at this point, I fear for a
catastrophic failure. Thus, we're towing it everywhere, not attractive on passages, rather than lifting it in the davits.
I have a similar time problem as our friends', with my primary issue - there
are others, seen above, not time-sensitive, as I've not raised them with
Chris. I first mailed Chris on May 5, 2010. Getting no response, after
another email a month later, I also mailed my dealer, and also copied Chris
on June 21. However, my first contact with Walker Bay, after getting no
response from Chris, was to email everyone I could think of by title (many
bounced) and as ferreted out from their website, copying Chris at the same
Initial contact came from several of the generic titled emails
(customerservice, warranty, root, president, etc, @walkerbay.com). They
passed me off to various other folks who said they'd look into it. A couple
of weeks after that contact, now nearly 6 months ago, Chris followed up to
say he'd make sure it was done, asking for pictures in expansion of my
complaint. I sent him about a dozen, from all angles, clearly showing the
Nothing happened for a couple of months, so I again mailed those who'd
initially responded, along with Chris. A quick response from him followed
on August 30th, to wit:
"Apologies, I will follow up with the appropriate people. I am thinking
that as it went to several people I think each one of us thought the
other would reply. I will champion this through the process."
Nothing happened for an additional 5 weeks, despite my having mailed Chris
again on September 20th. On October 3, I sent, and then followed up weekly, requests for what was happening, both to Chris and the two parties who'd responded to my first "broadcast" letter.
Finally, I heard from customer service and Chris, who explained that he'd had to fire the previous CS manager for reasons similar to my experience. They promised to bring up my issues at the meeting in a couple of days.
Since that time I've asked, weekly, for what is happening with my issue, for what is now 6 weeks. Though I get "read" receipts (the message was displayed on the recipient computer) from CS and Chris, I've yet to hear back from them AT ALL, let alone how they propose resolution.
YMMV in all respects, but right now I'm a VERY unhappy camper.
That said, if it weren't for the lifting and thin skin issues, I'd be very happy with our boat. The wheels on the stern are used from time to time; they allow easy pulling up a ramp, even with the engine on. The plastic laughs at rocky beaches, not possible with soft inflatables or fiberglass (or, in the case of fiberglass, some very serious damage possibilities or adjustments to the keel at extra cost).
It's relatively light, fast on the water, holds LOTS of stuff, and dry feet are nice.
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"Believe me, my young friend, there is *nothing*-absolutely nothing-half so
much worth doing as simply messing, messing-about-in-boats; messing about in
boats-or *with* boats.
In or out of 'em, it doesn't matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that's
the charm of it.
Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your
destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get
anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in
particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do, and
you can do it if you like, but you'd much better not
Per the OP, he's describing the hard dinghy with the inflatable collar, not the RIB version of the Walker Bay. Stowing one of these is more of a problem than stowing a RIB, since the hull doesn't fold or flatten in any way.
As with any dink it really depends on what use you intend to get out of it. If it's putting out to your mooring with one or two people it'll be fine. If you're going cruising you should go with a RIB. Those little WB dinks are useless for long hauls or lugging groceries, diesel, or more than 2 people. If you're going cruising get the biggest RIB you can and a 15 hp Yamaha 2 stroke.
No Walker Bays here.
Sorry for also being OT, but when we were out cruising we met several people who had quality issues with their Walker Bay RIB. One even ended up getting a deal to replace it with an AB. We have an AB and their quality is great, as is their customer service. When we had a problem with ours (front handle fell off) after a year we took it to an AB dealer and, without a question, it was fixed.
Great writeup Skip! I have the WB Genesis. Not sure if ours is the Deluxe or regular. It is about 9 mos old now, so relatively new. We haul ours up with the motor on and have not had any of the other issues you have described... thankfully. I will keep a lookout for it though.
RIB vs Rigid with collar
Bought a real RIB summer before last after struggling with an older rigid boat with collar (Walker Bay) for a year. Although the Walker Bay was easy to use, it felt VERY uncomfortable in rough seas, or even heavy chop, and rocked much more than a true RIB.
I choose the Brigg model over several other and have been very happy with my choice, but it all comes down to need and preference. I really wanted a fiberglass bottom, not plastic, and was willing to forgo the convenience of a folding bottom for the stability under speed and comfort of a solid v-hull. I am glad for the slightly heavier weight when the water gets rough or the ride is long.
As stated many times above, it all depends on your intended use. I really enjoyed the Walker Bay in the marina for short trips, playing in the sun, or ease of use for kids.
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