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How many years of use do you get from your Dinghy?

  • 2-3 years

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • 3-5 years

    Votes: 1 7.7%
  • 5-7 years

    Votes: 2 15.4%
  • 7-9 years

    Votes: 1 7.7%
  • 9-11 years

    Votes: 2 15.4%
  • 11-13 years

    Votes: 1 7.7%
  • 13-15 years

    Votes: 3 23.1%
  • 15-17 years

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • 17-19 years

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • More than 2 decades!

    Votes: 3 23.1%

  • Total voters
    13
1 - 20 of 86 Posts

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Learning the HARD way...
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Discussion Starter #1
After 9 years and three (perhaps more) patches, my trusty West Marine (by Zodiac) SB-275 is showing its age, and leaking again... I had purchased registration plates from boatnumberplate.com, but these have peeled off and been reapplied several times, and discolored in the RI weather. The last patch job was at the seams where the tubes meet the floor. I fear that this is where it is leaking again, because it is a difficult place to prepare for patching. The Admiral says that she wants to review some replacement options. If she likes the options, she will approve the purchase, and might even foot the bill!

For the first 5 years this PVC dinghy led a cushy life. It was assembled when needed, and when not needed it was stored under the tonneau cover in the back of my pickup truck. For the past 4 years, however, it has been tied to the dinghy dock and exposed to rain and ultraviolet light because it was the only way to get to my boat. The primary vessel has moved from a slip to a mooring. Now when I am out for a sail, the dinghy is either left on the mooring (daysail), or towed behind the boat (over night). I am growing concerned that the dink may sink, taking the mooring pennant AND the outboard with it.

My biggest complaint with the SB-275 is assembly. It takes about an hour and at least three cracked fingernails and several cuss words to get the plywood segmented floor assembled, in place, with the aluminum stringers. "Seven to ten minutes," as claimed in the video, is ABSOLUTE BS!

There is NO WAY that you could pack this thing up at the end of every day and store it in the lazerette as the Video below says.


I have not painted the bottom of the dinghy with bottom paint. Instead, I take the dinghy to a beach every two to three weeks and scrape the major bottom growth with a plastic putty knife, and scrub the remainder with beach sand. This is a chore, but I actually enjoy it! My little Mercury 3.3 used to get me and the boat up to a plane, but I don't think it can anymore.

My initial outlay was only $750, so that's $75/year, so I'm not complaining. But I need a tender for the primary vessel. I also need something that I can transport in the back of my car, or something that can be delivered to a RI marina, because I don't have access to my truck. I left the pickup truck in Florida in anticipation of moving the boat there this fall.

Questions for the collective:
  1. How many years does YOUR inflatable last?
  2. Suggestions for replacement??
 

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Depends.... I had 2 Avons ('85-93), a zodiac (94-00), w/ plywood floors...Then I think I had Achilles also with plywood floor (01-08.. then I got some 10' RIBS.... AquaPro (alum) (08-12).. followed by a another AquaPro 13-14) and then a Highfied (15-17) and now a Tug (alum) (18-present).

Aluminum w/ paint is a bad idea... (AquaPro & Highfield)
Latest ones were PVC but earlier were hypolon which seems superior.

I liked the hard hand grips on the Highfield - Don't like the straps of the Tug
Like the bow locker on the RIBs.... especially the Tug
Like the double floor on the RIBS

AquaPro manufactured in Australia were far superior to the outsourced ones to China.
Zodiac and Achilles had leak problems.... water and air.
AquaPro had a patch which did leak.

I liked Hifield and Tug designs.

Next boat will be a Tug Locker 10 hypalon.
 

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There is a lot to unpack in your questions, and a lot of the answers are "it depends".

One easy one is shipping. Dinghies will ship directly to whatever address you give them, so delivering to a marina is no problem. You don't need to pick them up. However, I was unsure if you needed to transport the dinghy often and it needs to roll up to trunk size.

A RIB solves many shortcomings of the typical inflatable dingy. But it also has the obvious disadvantages of storage and portability.

As to lifespan, PVC will be the shortest, and would better be measured in months instead of years if you are taking it South and leaving it unprotected. After that, any West Marine hypalon dinghy will be the next shortest lifespan. It doesn't matter who makes it for them, because they are made to a price point, not a quality point. However, there is a certain quality/value proposition there. Next in lifespan are hypalon dinghies by major manufacturers. Hypalon is made in different grades - West Marine uniformly uses Orca 215 hypalon, which is pretty much balloon grade, but more serviceable than PVC. It is tough to get other major manufacturers to tell what fabric they use, but from research AB, Achilles, and almost all the rest use the next grade up Orca 820 (there is a grade between those two, but nobody uses it). This is really the minimum grade hypalon to use for a serious dinghy, but again there is a value/cost proposition with the lower grade WM boats - particularly when they go on deep discount sale twice a year. Nouverania and a couple of other higher end manufacturers use Orca 828 fabric, which is very much a step up from the others in terms of ruggedness. Until recently, this was the fabric that Caribe used, but they have switched to lower 820. Zodiac's commercial line, Flexboat, and some others produce military-level boats using Orca 866 fabric. This stuff is almost bullet proof - you can't punch a nail through it.

The glues and gluing environments determine how well the seams age. Hypalon needs to be glued in a very controlled environment with only a narrow range of temperature and humidity allowed. I visited the Nouverania plant, and their glue room took me by surprise at the level of isolation, computer control, and environmental monitoring. They won't even go in it until everything is perfect, then they complete the entire glue job in one setting so that the whole dinghy experiences the same variables. It is anybody's guess what the Chinese factory pumping out gobs of WM dinghies are doing in this area.

Then there are the ancillary parts of the dingy like handles, oarlocks, D-rings, etc. The cheaper ones use PVC and low quality plastics. These fall off and/or break after 1-3 years and are almost impossible to glue back on securely. The higher end ones use EPDM fittings that last the life of the dingy.

I answered 13-15yrs in the poll. However, that is taking into account our very specific RIB specifications. Our first RIB was built with higher than normal quality hypalon and it was 16yrs old when we sold it and held air perfectly. No punctures or leaks, although I did have to change a leaky valve once at ~12yrs old. The fabric itself was getting thinner in wear spots like where people sit and where the tubes drag on a beach, but otherwise was still in great shape. We sold it because we wanted a dingy we wouldn't need to replace in the next 5yrs. The manufacturer is no longer in business. Our current dinghy is a Caribe RIB, but we worked directly with the factory to have one built with military-grade hypalon instead of their normal hypalon (at an extra cost of course). I expect this one to also last 15+ years.

For longevity, one of the best things you can do for any dinghy is make some chap covers for them. Helps with UV and abrasion. However, our first one described above was bare for the first 11yrs of its life, and our current one still doesn't have any covers yet, but they are planned.

I don't have any specific suggestions for you because I haven't spent time in the market/model segment you are looking at, but hope the above helps in general when choosing a new dinghy.

Mark
 

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Tartan 37
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My Achillies RIB Lite is going on 11 years and still looks darn good... I am going to estimate at least another 9 years of life and we use it a good bit... Nothing like a full time cruiser. Prior I had an AVON and swore never to buy another.

What I see a lot from the You Tubers is Highfields... They look like a good option for my next when needed... But hopefully, if my 8 year plan sticks... I'll have a big enough boat that I'll be done with Inflatable boats and will get a Boston Whaler Tender... And that will outlive me for sure hahaha
 

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I have a different approach but am not a cruiser.

My wife made a sunbrella cover for the dinghy which has elastic and is easy to keep it covered either in the davirts or the dock.

I only buy PVC and am on my third dinghy in 23 years. The other two lasted 10 years each, but I sold them after then as they weren’t done but it was replacement time

We bought a new dinghy two years ago. Aluminum floors so two floors, carry’s up to 1200 lbs. can be rolled up after our season or when going off shore..it’s a zodiac cadet 310.


Very happy with it. Done need a planning dinghy though it will as I have a 5 hp Tahatsu Propane OB. It’s cost on sale was $1300. I can buy two for what a haploid model costs. The trick is definitely to cover it as much as possible. You should see how faded the cover is after 3 years. Taylor makes appropriate good sunbrella covers also which my wife modified for the davits.
 
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Poll was hard to answer. My last dinghy (an Avon hypolon with center console) was around for about 12 years. I had to nurse it constantly for the last 5 years. It had two patches. One was a leak on the top, where it wore through, presumably from passenger chafe. The other was done in advance of davit chafe making it's way through. The center console steering and electrical were another annual pita in the later years. I could not wait to get rid of it.

I answered 5-7 years, not because you can't get more years out of one, but because I don't want to have to deal with it. As soon as this one starts to act up, it gets traded in. That's my estimate. Although, this is my 4th season with an aluminum hull AB and zero issues so far. We'll see.
 

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If i went to an inflatable...
These look interesting to me..kiwi

A high end welded pvc
Ive read articles on valmex with reported life similar to hypalon..and no glued seams
Also like the easy entry and exit of these boats, plus wont hold water in the boat
Prob not great for cold climes
 

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bell ringer
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My last dinghy was a Coastral that I got in NH (OP may have seen these at the NE Boat Show). It started coming apart at 1 year with fittings coming off. At 32 months old one day coming back to it from being ashore that front seam blew out.

I now have the best West Marine dinghy that was available that day. It is now 14 months old and nothing has gone bad on it. But I did buy a cheap $72 Walmart sewing machine and $200 on Sunbrella and made chaps for the it.I don't think it reasonable to expect a dinghy out is the sun, getting full water reflection, to last without chaps.
 

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Master Mariner
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We are on our second Zodiac Classic Mark 1. It is not a RIB. It has aluminum floors and an inflatable keel so it handles very well.
Our first one lasted from 2007 to 2018 always in the tropical sun and used almost every single day. We did not baby it and would go for long trips in some pretty stinky weather, running at 15 knots or so with the 15hp ob. We put no effort into care and it never developed any sort of air leak, ever. We kept it out of the water on davits so we didn't have to clean the bottom.
I can't speak to the ease of assembly, since we only put it together once, but it should become easier the more you do it and I'm sure little tricks like lubing the floorboard side rails would really simplify assembly. I do know that partial inflation is important. I believe it is the last inflatable not built in Asia as it is still built in France.
It is probably too big for your needs, but it is a great dinghy, well built (comes w/a 5 year warranty), and requires little care.
 

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Master Mariner
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I now have the best West Marine dinghy that was available that day. It is now 14 months old and nothing has gone bad on it. But I did buy a cheap $72 Walmart sewing machine and $200 on Sunbrella and made chaps for the it.I don't think it reasonable to expect a dinghy out is the sun, getting full water reflection, to last without chaps.
I have seen a few inflatables with serious wear from the chaps so, I'd suggest removing the chaps from time to time to inspect the dinghy.
 

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After 9 years and three (perhaps more) patches, my trusty West Marine (by Zodiac) SB-275 is showing its age, and leaking again... I had purchased registration plates from boatnumberplate.com, but these have peeled off and been reapplied several times, and discolored in the RI weather. The last patch job was at the seams where the tubes meet the floor. I fear that this is where it is leaking again, because it is a difficult place to prepare for patching. The Admiral says that she wants to review some replacement options. If she likes the options, she will approve the purchase, and might even foot the bill!

For the first 5 years this PVC dinghy led a cushy life. It was assembled when needed, and when not needed it was stored under the tonneau cover in the back of my pickup truck. For the past 4 years, however, it has been tied to the dinghy dock and exposed to rain and ultraviolet light because it was the only way to get to my boat. The primary vessel has moved from a slip to a mooring. Now when I am out for a sail, the dinghy is either left on the mooring (daysail), or towed behind the boat (over night). I am growing concerned that the dink may sink, taking the mooring pennant AND the outboard with it.

My biggest complaint with the SB-275 is assembly. It takes about an hour and at least three cracked fingernails and several cuss words to get the plywood segmented floor assembled, in place, with the aluminum stringers. "Seven to ten minutes," as claimed in the video, is ABSOLUTE BS!

There is NO WAY that you could pack this thing up at the end of every day and store it in the lazerette as the Video below says.


I have not painted the bottom of the dinghy with bottom paint. Instead, I take the dinghy to a beach every two to three weeks and scrape the major bottom growth with a plastic putty knife, and scrub the remainder with beach sand. This is a chore, but I actually enjoy it! My little Mercury 3.3 used to get me and the boat up to a plane, but I don't think it can anymore.

My initial outlay was only $750, so that's $75/year, so I'm not complaining. But I need a tender for the primary vessel. I also need something that I can transport in the back of my car, or something that can be delivered to a RI marina, because I don't have access to my truck. I left the pickup truck in Florida in anticipation of moving the boat there this fall.

Questions for the collective:
  1. How many years does YOUR inflatable last?
  2. Suggestions for replacement??
It sounds like you have been abusing your boat for the past few years. (No judgement, just an observation!) Once the glued seams start breaking down you are fighting a losing battle. UV kills PVC. That's why Hypalon is so much more expensive!

We have a PVC Aquapro that is about 11 years old, and it lives on a dinghy dock year round. Sometimes covered sometimes not. Out biggest problem is mildew stains from winter storage, and rubber rub strips and logo have discoloured and gone sticky. Structurally the boat is still great!

I love the aluminum hull. No messing around with floorboards etc and the boat still weighs less than 100lb. I just wish it was a little bit bigger.

Sent from my SM-G960W using Tapatalk
 

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Learning the HARD way...
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Discussion Starter #12
If it helps, I believe that the largest RIB that I could reasonably tow behind the mother ship is 10' 6" - and the budget is LESS THAN $4K. (remember, my current benchmark is $75/year!)

It seems like a CSM (Hypalon) boat is in my future - to contend with the Florida sun. (yes, I have been abusing the dink!) I also see an Aluminum floor for light weight and puncture resistance... Or maybe a high pressure floor so that I can carry it in the back of my car. When I was charter captaining around Narragansett Bay, I had a Mercury inflatable with a high pressure inflatable floor that was my favorite tender. It handled well, and it seemed indestructible - several times I used it as a fender and it excelled!

Coastal Boats states that they manufacture their boats out of Mehler-Valmex® 8318 PVC or Pennel ORCA® 828 CSM, and I like the idea of a fiberglass transom. However @Don L 's review above makes me hesitate.

Caribe, Aquapro, Achilles and AB seem like the recommended manufacturers thus far.

Thank you to all that have helped me thus far.
 

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My hypalon Achilles (plywood floor, not a RIB) is 20 years old! Granted it has lived an easy life, only being out in the sun and weather when out cruising. The rest of the time its packed up and stowed below. Never had to patch a leak. Floor and transom get a coat of varnish every other year. Red is faded, but that's about it. Great boat.
 

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What I see a lot from the You Tubers is Highfields... They look like a good option for my next when needed...... I'll have a big enough boat that I'll be done with Inflatable boats and will get a Boston Whaler Tender... And that will outlive me for sure hahaha
Most of the Highfields I see down here are specifically built for the bareboat market and don't seem to be much better than any West Marine Rib/inflatable, just bigger.
If you do get your Boston Whaler, I'll bet you that you are back to an inflatable/rib in a year!
 
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Tartan 37
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Most of the Highfields I see down here are specifically built for the bareboat market and don't seem to be much better than any West Marine Rib/inflatable, just bigger.
If you do get your Boston Whaler, I'll bet you that you are back to an inflatable/rib in a year!
Haven't seen one (Highfield) in person yet... Hard to really tell in a video :p The Aluminum floor models appear well designed and built, thanks for the input though.
 

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I had a nice air floor Walker Bay with 18 inch tubes before. Inflatable air floor. I liked it a lot

after a couple years with our new aluminum floor it’s much more stable to just stand up . It’s easy to put together once you get the hang of it

ours stays together most of the year. It can be broken down in a nice carrying bag.
 

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Emmalina
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I see a lot of ribs overinflated here in the tropics which puts strain on every joint ! Problem is they inflate them to hard in the shade or the morning and when they get them out in the sun the air expands at an alarming rate. Check your pressure when its been in the sun a while if you want it to last...
 

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I can't fit a 10' inflated boat on the fore deck and use the fore deck for anything but storing the inflatable, I've done that in winter. I don't use davits and so I tow. Before RIBS I could deflate and stow in a lazarette for passage... but assembly and dis-assembly is a PITA. So I tow. I paint the bottom but it DOES require too frequent cleaning... and it helps to do this on a float where you have access to running water.

Highfield C310 stored on fore deck:

136220


It has a small locker and a seat cushion with pouches for stowing things.

136222


Paint flaked off and this means the tubes could become unattached since they are glued to paint.

Tug Locker 10 is aluminum but not painted. Locker is very large, comes with a cushion. I added two poles to assist boarding and deboarding post surgery. The poles are super handy! pun intended. Double floor is great... fuel hose runs in the "bilge".

136223


Detail of the aluminum pole socket...

136224


I removed the oars which store on the tubes and store them under the seat, held by straps or bungie chord. Well designed and detailed boat. Excellent value and the price is right!
 

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Have a walker bay. Really like feature that stern folds down as then when deflated. It’s very flat lashed down on the foredeck for passage. It’s 9 years old now. Never had chaps. We’re in Caribbean or New England.The handles fall off when reglued so stopped trying. No leaks. Took seats out so plenty of room. Next one will be hypalon again but an aluminum floor not glass and not Chinese.
 

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I see a lot of ribs overinflated here in the tropics which puts strain on every joint ! Problem is they inflate them to hard in the shade or the morning and when they get them out in the sun the air expands at an alarming rate. Check your pressure when its been in the sun a while if you want it to last...
This times 100^^^

In New England shoulder seasons, I expect to wake up in the 50 degree morning temps and see wrinkles. Low and behold, fully inflated when the sun comes out.
 
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