Username:
Password:
Get Account    
Login
Home  |  Magazine  |  Reports  |  Discussion  |  Blogs  |  Photos  |  Tides  |  Weather  |  Community  |  Updates  |  Fishing Info  |  Contact

Bob Banfelder

Bob is an award-winning crime-thriller novelist and outdoors writer. "The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water" is endorsed by Lefty Kreh and Angelo Peluso~online at Amazon.

Search This Blog

Recent Comments

Categories

Recent Posts

Archives

 

October 01, 2012

INFLATABLE BOATS: SHORT-TERM TOLERANCE VS. LONG-TERM ENJOYMENT

by Bob Banfelder

My first and only inflatable was and still is—going on nineteen years—a 7-foot, 9-inch Achilles, used initially as a tender for our family cruiser. The inflatable sat on the swim platform or at dockside nine plus months a year for the first six years. Next, the dinghy found a perch atop our new pilothouse or at dockside for the following decade. During the off-seasons, when our cruising/fishing vessels were shrink wrapped and stored, the inflatable sat at dockside, ready for a quick plunge anytime between post-Thanksgiving and the arrival of severe wintry weather, at which time it was finally stored away before being put back into full service around mid-March. Whether baking in a sultry summer sun or dusted with a thin layer of snow, that inflatable took on winter's holdover striped bass, early spring flounder, fluke, weakfish and bluefish as well as a few other species. When we recently downsized to a center console, which no longer accommodated a tender, the inflatable, once again, remained dockside practically ten months out of each year. That's one hundred ninety months of service and still going strong.





A few friends and several acquaintances have gone through two, three and even four of their inflatable boats in that same time frame. Why have I experienced such longevity while those other folks have trashed their inflatables after only five years? No, those folks did not buy junk as you may be thinking. They bought name brand models from reputable manufacturers. However, they bought inflatables constructed of PVC material in lieu of Hypalon/Neoprene. Salespeople had told these folks that unless they lived in the tropics, they need not waste their money on those more expensive materials. That's very bad advice, especially if you use your inflatable as elaborated above. For longevity, insist on inflatable boats constructed with Hypalon exteriors and Neoprene interiors. Too, you want seams that are double-taped and glued on both sides. These are the major factors referencing inflatable boat longevity. Hypalon/Neoprene construction is generally guaranteed for ten years. PVC construction is usually guaranteed for five. Let's examine how we can practically double the life of a Hypalon/Neoprene inflatable with a bit of knowledge, patience and simple instruction.

Hypalon's outer construction is durability personified, standing up to and offering UV (ultraviolet) protection against the sun's harmful rays, which would otherwise cause the inflatable skin's early degradation no differently than those rays would harm our own skin. Too, the exterior material resists abrasion, oil and gasoline spills, fungi and mildew. Coupled with the interior material of Neoprene, this coating adds strength and tear resistance as well as delivering the greatest degree of air retaining capability. Compared to Hypalon/Neoprene construction, PVC construction will ostensibly save you money in the short run but at the expense of having you experience frustration in the long run. The net result is simply not worth the cheaper price.



But let's face it. Eventually, there is going to come a point where even Hypalon/Neoprene construction is going to show its age and weaken. Hence, after a decade I experienced an annoying but minor problem. A slow leak had started to develop in one of the tubes. First, I applied soapy water to the tube's entire area, looking for air bubbles that would pinpoint the problem. I could find nothing. Next, I dumped the inflatable into a friend's swimming pool. We turned the boat over, swam beneath it, up-ended the craft, searching relentlessly for any sign of bubbles, all to no avail. There was not a hint of where the leak was coming from. We removed the boat from the pool and pumped it to its limit. Back into the water it went. Surely we'd see bubbles indicating where the leak was coming from. Once again, nothing was found.

Frustrated, I went home and started to do some research. I learned that there was a product on the market that was guaranteed to stop slow leaks, so long as it wasn't along a seam. I learned, too, that a defined slow leak was, indeed, discernable. However, a tiny pinhole leak, I was informed, would unlikely be detected with either the soapy water test or the swimming pool examination— no matter how hard I tried! Ah, but was I willing to spend $60 on the one quart product, taking a gamble that the leak wasn't along a seam? That took a little thought. Although I'm not an Atlantic City or Foxwoods Casino kind of guy, I figured I'd give West Marine's Model 444679 Sealant for Inflatable Boats a try. The product worked like a charm. As a matter of fact, I've had two subsequent pinhole leaks over the next eight years, and the quart container had sealed those three tiny leaks. At $20 a shot so as to extend the life of that inflatable an extra eight years (for a total of almost nineteen years), well, I believe I hit the jackpot!

The product is relatively easy to use. On my Achilles, I simply removed the inflatable valve from the air chamber, deflating the tube completely. Next, I squeezed in the required amount of product according to directions, re-inflated the tube ‘just to rigidity' then slowly turned the inflatable end-over-end and side to side so that the sealant completely covered the interior of the chamber. The leak was discovered immediately as tiny bubbles appeared upon the tube's surface, sealing the pinhole. You allow the boat to sit for a few hours, turning it over approximately every half hour for three or four hours so as to prevent pooling. Re-inflate to normal pressure, and you're on your way.

Note: To be on the safe side, I patched (not included with the sealant) that first pinhole with an Achilles Hypalon repair kit that came with my inflatable. Over the course of years, experimenting with those two other pinholes that I repaired [and marked], I did not use a patch kit. I wanted to see if the sealant had worked on its own. It has, indeed!

To be candid, though, noting that the inflatable is pushing nineteen years, I would not invest another $60 in repairing it anew. Let's examine why. That first pinhole appeared after a decade; the second after approximately fifteen years; the third occurred most recently. The rate of repair frequency is on the rise. Still, to have gotten practically two decades out of an inflatable boat is a homerun. While the Hypalon stood up to the elements, the outer transom marine-grade plywood board mount had to be replaced after some twelve years, having supported 3.5 and 5 horsepower engines spanning that period. It was a simple job to unscrew the old transom board, using it as a template to pattern a new one. Also, I only had to replace one of the wooden floorboards, using the old stern section floorboard as a template. When this craft is beyond repair, I'll probably opt for a larger Achilles inflatable with aluminum flooring and a fiberglass transom.

Hypalon/Neoprene construction is the way to go. Forget, PVC (polyvinyl chloride – a thermoplastic resin) construction. The only PVC you'll find in this craft is a rod holder that I fashioned from a piece of plastic pipe; that and a Black's [47 holes] Hook & Rig Holder. In the inflatable arena, you get what you pay for. Look for longevity and avoid unnecessary frustration. With a little knowledge, patience and instruction as outlined above, you can virtually double the expected life of your inflatable.


********************

Monthly Report:





Referencing our westerly North Fork bays, we're not quite there yet with the bass. The peanut bunker are sparsely spread and approximately 5½ inches; the stripers are still small. On the morning of September 27th, I'm holding Donna's 20-inch sideliner. I released a 16-inch schoolie and some nice cocktail blues just moments later. Surface water temperature was 66.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

We ran into Pat Mundus and her husband, Earl, in Greenport on September 30th. She said that you can ". . . walk on the bass . . . ." further east. I think that we're going to turn the corner for keepers in our westerly bays; namely, the Great Peconic and Little Peconic Bays in less than a fortnight.

Award-Winning Novelist, Outdoors Writer,
Creator of Unique Course/Guides,
Editor in Chief, Broadwater Books
Cablevision TV Show Host, Special Interests with Bob Banfelder & Donna Derasmo
www.robertbanfelder.com



2017 Noreast Media, LLC.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.