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I am looking for a new inflatable and am debating between different floor types. I don’t have davits and don’t plan on getting them anytime soon so minimizing weight while maximizing payload is a major priority as I am normally carrying four people. I like the idea of a RIB, but to get a flat floor you need a double-hulled model, which adds considerable weight. I’m not sure how annoying or impractical the interior V-shape of the single-hulled models would be in normal use(?), though I don’t like the idea of everyone’s feet and all the payload sliding to the bottom of the V.

If I could get a lightweight flat-floored RIB, the decision would be made, but the weight savings and flat-floors of soft bottomed inflatables are making me give them serious consideration. I’m curious what other people’s experiences have been with air floor, aluminum roll-up floor, and aluminum or plywood panel floor varieties? They all seem to get very mixed reviews with no clear consensus on what’s best. This is for weekending and occasional longer cruises on the Chesapeake, so I don’t need a fulltime liveaboard’s dinghy, but something that will transport my family in safety and relative comfort.

Let’s keep the discussion focused on inflatable bottom types. I’m not wanting to get into discussions of other dinghy types, motors, PVC vs. Hypalon, etc.
 

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We chose an aluminum hull RIB mainly for durability considerations. The area we cruise in we are often beaching the boat on rocks, barnacles, mussels and oysters. I suspect an inflatable bottom boat would get shredded in short order.

Our 8'6" rib weighs less than 100lb. I have never found the shape of the floor to be an issue, although if there is any water in the boat any gear you have with you might get wet. A double floor would provide a "bilge" area that will keep water away from your feet, but as you say, that luxury comes with a cost in both money and weight.

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Following along, Patches needs replacement.
 

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Double floor alum 10' RIB... I am not beaching the boat... but with a motor it's pretty damn heavy. I use a lifting crane to raise the motor to the rail... boat either is tied to stern cleats or suspended along side with a halyard and bridle. I tow.. and will never add davits.
 

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I’m not sure how annoying or impractical the interior V-shape of the single-hulled models would be in normal use(?), though I don’t like the idea of everyone’s feet and all the payload sliding to the bottom of the V.
The advantage of the deep V single hull is a greater distance from your seat to the floor. Much more comfortable, especially for longer legged riders. The disadvantage is almost guaranteed collection of water.

If I could get a lightweight flat-floored RIB
This is why aluminum RIBs have become so popular. Inflatable hulls are called for, when there is no choice but to roll it all up for storage. Having that setup on my parent’s boat, as a kid, and being the inflator slave, I’d never go back.
 

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My Achilles has a four piece plywood floor and an inflatable keel bladder. This gives the bottom a nice Vee shape versus the flat bottom of a slat bottom dinghy with little weight penalty. The disadvantage is it is more difficult to assemble and inflate. But the sturdy flat floor and better performing Vee bottom are worth it.
 

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I have had a soft bottom one and now have a hard bottom (fiberglass). I think the hard bottom for being all worried about putting a hole in it.
 

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Patches has an inflatable floor. It is like walking on jello. The next dinghy will have a hard floor and a bottom that can't be punctured by dragging it up on a beach. Also budget comes into play when considering a unit to carry 4. A locker would be nice. And it should fit nicely on davits behind our Hunter 36. Any suggestions?
 
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The soft or inflatable floors are both crap imho. Totally untennable for 4 adults.

The aluminum hulls are lighter but the beam less - NOTE this is often hidden by the manufactures.

AB 9' UL UltraLight (directboats.com) 9'1" x 4'11"


9' VL Lightweight Tender (directboats.com) 9'6" x 5'5"

And its that extra 6 inches width that makes the huger difference. I have the VL in preference to the UL (alum)

Now, to flat floors...
The VL has a flat floor but not to the gunwales. but its flat enough to be good for us.

The totally flat floor is a different dinghy all together so much heavier. But they do have the lockable locker forward which would be very nice.

Take a long time ti decide because this decision is important.
 
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Since you’re not planning any offshore trips, it seems like you don’t need for it to fold up to bring it aboard. I really like my aluminum flat floored RIB. It’s lighter than my fiberglass one was and I can pull it up on the rocky areas we call beaches here in Maine but I realize you don’t have that problem where you are. Mine also has a lockable bow locker that’s a great place to keep an anchor and patch kit and a 15’ length of stainless steel chain that I can use to lock the dinghy to my boat or a dock or to improve the performance of my anchor. I’ve never locked the locker so far but suppose I could if I wanted to leave anything valuable aboard while I went ashore. The locker is also useful as a step when climbing aboard a boat with higher freeboard. It feels more stable than stepping on an inflated tube. Mine is 12’ long and with 4 adults and a couple bags of groceries the 20hp outboard barely gets it up on plane but once it does we can go about 20mph. I like the ability to plane because it allows me to really cover some distance and go exploring once the sailboat is anchored and I would think doing that might be interesting in the Chesapeake with its shallow areas and creeks feeding into it. Ribs plane easier and handle more like a real boat than the ones with inflatable floors do. So, my perspective is that it’s worthwhile to get a flat bottom with bow locker but to save some weight get aluminum rather than fiberglass.
 

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Your dinghy choice is informed by a number of factors and those factors have different weights in the process.
If you're doing passages in the ocean towing is not a smart option and and it is strongly suggested that you use davits, stow on deck or deflate and stow if possible.

Local cruising you can tow but pay a price in boat speed.

RIBs cost much more and are heavier... but if you are not lifting the boat weight is not a big factor. They can have a double floor (drier) and a locker/seat which can carry the fuel tank or (stuff) and function as a step for boarding and de-boarding. Ribs seem to offer larger tube diameters making for drier rides. They are available in GRP and aluminum hulls...painted and not painted.

Hypalon lasts longer so it's more expensive naturally.

Beaching the dink is something many do and so these people want to get the boat on the beach and this may mean dragging it over rough bottom.. The option is a very long line... secured ashore and the dink floats and is pulled to the beach to board. Obviously you get your feet wet. Oh the horror!

Capacity is also a factor... are you just a couple? ...then you can go small. From what I see dinks have mostly one or two and sometimes more in places like Newport.

You should not tow with an OB so getting it up and down from the mother ship is a concern. Motors are kinda heavy so that means a halyard or a designated hoist.

Planning to some is important. These speeds are proscribed in most harbors so the feature is really only useful for those who anchor way out and can avoid crowded harbors. Loaded boats don't plane unless they have huge heavy motors.
 

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Good summary SanderO. The one thing missing is a comparison of the floors on the "non-RIB" inlfatables - slat, air, and plywood/aluminum. The slat floors are the least expensive and easy to assemble and inlfate, but the floor is "soft" so you get wet when you step on it and all water runs to your feet, and boat performance is not the greatest. The ones with removable plywood or aluminum floors have the best performance and the floor is firm and doesn't deflect when you step on it, but putting one together is a chore. The air floor is an attempt to get the ease of assembly of the slat floor and close to the firm floor and performance of the plywood/aluminum floor models. Some air floor models have had issues with leaks in the air floors and they are typically the most expensive of the three "non-RIB" inflatable types.
 

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The option is a very long line... secured ashore and the dink floats and is pulled to the beach to board. Obviously you get your feet wet. Oh the horror!
I like the stern anchor, line to shore method. Virtually mandatory in places with serious tidal ranges, like Maine. One could come back, after an ebbing tide, and find their dinghy 20 ft from the water. It’s best to rig a line, thru a loop in the bitter end of anchor rode, then fixed to the stern, with the other end attached to the bow and the loop ashore. This way, you can get it close to shore and pull it in/out. Only worth it in remote places.

However, this is also where one learns to own a pair of water shoes. Wet feet in sand is no big deal. Mussels, rocks, etc can cut feet quickly.
 
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I had wanted not to go into all this but:

Material – I’m definitely buying PVC. I’ve had PVC on the Chesapeake for years and never had issues. The current inflatable is a 12-year-old 8-foot slat floor PVC from West Marine. Only upgrading because it’s getting too cramped for the four of us, but otherwise it would easily have at least another 5 years of life left in it. If we were living aboard or heading south, I’d get Hypalon, but the cost difference just isn’t worth it for my use case.

Budget – I’d prefer not to spend much more than $2K (for the bare hull, doesn’t include motor). Some of the single-hulled RIBS can be had in this price range as can air and panel floors.

Motor – I have a 2.5 HP LEHR propone motor. It’s the best outboard I’ve ever used and I don’t have any immediate plans to upgrade. I love not having to carry gasoline or deal with fouled carbs and I love its light weight. I might eventually bump up to a 6-8 HP propane motor for more oomph. However, planing is not a priority. Most of the places we anchor are 6 MPH / no wake zones. There are only a few times in my boating career I would have wanted to plane in a dinghy, and to plane with four people plus payload would take a lot bigger motor than I’m willing to have.

Storage and Handling – The current dinghy spends most of its life inflated upside down on a shaded marina storage rack and stored deflated inside the boat in the winter. When we take it somewhere, it’s typically stood on the side on one of its gunwhales upright across the sugar scoop stern. Occasionally we tow. Carrying on deck is our least favorite way and therefore rarely done. As noted, we don’t have and don’t plan on getting davits.

Foldable RIB – I like the concept but notice the weight capacity is somewhat lower than a comparably sized regular RIB. I’d also prefer to buy a known brand from a company that has a physical store within a reasonable driving distance of my home and want a longer warranty than the 36 months the FRIB carries.
 

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Good summary SanderO. The one thing missing is a comparison of the floors on the "non-RIB" inlfatables - slat, air, and plywood/aluminum. The slat floors are the least expensive and easy to assemble and inlfate, but the floor is "soft" so you get wet when you step on it and all water runs to your feet, and boat performance is not the greatest. The ones with removable plywood or aluminum floors have the best performance and the floor is firm and doesn't deflect when you step on it, but putting one together is a chore. The air floor is an attempt to get the ease of assembly of the slat floor and close to the firm floor and performance of the plywood/aluminum floor models. Some air floor models have had issues with leaks in the air floors and they are typically the most expensive of the three "non-RIB" inflatable types.
I have owned many dinks.. hypalon, PVC plywood floors, RIBs, single and double floor.
My boat is not conducive to stowing aboard unless it's a non RIB... so we have to tow. Inflating and setting up is time consuming so it's would only be done on passage. So I've been towing for 36 yrs all types of dinks. I use a bridle and the bow line as "security". I will never use davits for a number of reason... the main one is that they are ugly in my opinion. I have had 8.5, 9,& 10 foot dinks. The current is a PVC rib double floor includes a locker which is very dry and comfortable and the fuel tank is out of site in the locker. This feels pretty luxurious. I like sold hand grips as opposed to straps or line. I store my oars under the seat.
OB is a 4 stroke 8hp and too heavy to lift without a block and tackle. I have a Garhaurer de-mountable hoist. I recommend it.
 

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I went down this path about 6 months ago, and considered many of the same aspects of the boat that you did. You can read about that here: RIB Life? (Note that I updated the thread today to show the boat that I eventually bought)
 

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I have never owned a RIB and have no intention of doing so.
I've always used inflatables with some kind of flooring, from my first Avon that was oval and had no floor at all (other than the boat's rubber bottom), to my present Zodiac which has segmented alloy floors.
It has a great deal more floor space than a comparable RIB and it can come up on deck when necessary, without any worries of doing damage to Skipping Stone.
Water Boat Shorts Vertebrate Naval architecture
 
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Annapolis boat show is coming up, guess I'll wait till then.
 

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I have never owned a RIB and have no intention of doing so.
I've always used inflatables with some kind of flooring, from my first Avon that was oval and had no floor at all (other than the boat's rubber bottom), to my present Zodiac which has segmented alloy floors.
It has a great deal more floor space than a comparable RIB and it can come up on deck when necessary, without any worries of doing damage to Skipping Stone. View attachment 140466 View attachment 140466
I like almost all the features of the Tub Locker10 aluminum double floor RIB... I would prefer solid hand holds...
I can't take this dink with me on passage...does not fit on deck...no davits and towing is a non starter. I tow locally and suffer some loss of speed. No big deal.
Were I to do long term trip to the Carib... I would by another RIB down there, use it and sell it when I returned.
An alum floor is an alternative I would consider.... But this rib is the best dink I've owned in 36 years.
I stow the oars below the seat held by shock cord, I added to poles as hand holds to assist getting on and off,. The locker with removable cushion holds the gas tank and more. I also added a fixed guzzler pump to de water the boat,

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