Avon is offering a new 10-year warranty on their line of inflatable boats. “We’ve had less than 1% return on our former warranty for defects and deterioration of material” states Avon West’s General Manager, Dave Geoffrey, “that’s why we feel confident in extending the warranty to 10 years.”
Topside paints for inflatable boats, in general, have a poor reputation for durability. Practical Sailor checked out a selection of coatings for Hypalon and PVC fabrics to see which one would best stand up to the tests of time on the water-and under the sun. Testers coated PVC and Hypalon panels with dinghy paints from MDR-Amazon, Synergy Research Corp. (Tuff Coat), Inland Marine, Polymarine (Flexithane and Superflex), and Flexdel Corp. (Flexabar Buoy Coating).
Practical Sailors on-the-water and bench tests pitted West Marines HP-V 350 with a high-pressure V-shaped bottom against Zodiacs FR340 Fastroller with Acti-V bottom, which has a high-pressure floor and an inflatable V-shaped keel. Testers looked closely at design and construction, and rated the boats for on-water performance, including how quickly the dinghies got a plane, how dry and comfortable the ride was, and how the inflatable boats handled at varying speeds.
The lines on the carbon-fiber Wing Dinghy date back to Nat Herreshoffs Frost Fish, a dinghy with a reputation for performance under sail and when being rowed. Diana Russells Wing Dinghy hull weighs only 55 pounds. Built by Savage River Works using conventional fiberglass FRP skin, carbon outer skin, and Kevlar inner hull skin, the 9-foot dinghy tests well against the popular Bruce Bingham-designed Trinka 10. The Wing Dinghy also scored well in the sailing, hoisting, towing, and rowing tests.
Alright, we know what youre thinking: A pedal boat in Practical Sailor? Thats what we thought, too, when Hobie sent us the Mirage i12s in response to our search for an inflatable kayak that could serve as a secondary tender for a cruising sailboat. The 12-foot PVC hull has overlapping glued and welded seams and a slick, abrasion-resistant bottom. The chambers are inflated to a modest 3 to 5 psi (compared to the 6.5 psi for the Walker Bay Airex reviewed in July 2008), which limits stiffness. For the tropics, PS prefers Hypalon to PVC, but that would add weight and push the price up. The hull carries a two-year warranty, not enough for an $1,800 boat (MSRP), in our opinion. Five years would be our minimum. The stern of the boat has bungee cords and an area for lashing down a dry bag, tackle box, or snorkel gear, but potential for provisioning runs is limited. A compartment in the bow will hold small items. To our chagrin, the space was too small to easily stow the hand pump. What sets this boat apart is the drive system. This is not your Camp Hiawatha paddle boat.
Practical Sailor’s annual wrap-up of the year’s best sailing equipment looks at our favorite top-rated products from November 2007 to November 2008, including the Facnor furler for light-air sails, Scad Solo external holding-tank sensor, Pelican Recoil LED flashlight, and Adventure Medical’s first-aid kit for coastal cruisers. In the boat maintenance category, Interlux’s Micron 66 bottom paint and Spray Nine’s waterline stain remover garnered Editors’ Choice picks. Foulie sets (jacket and bibs) by Gill and Helly Hansen were tapped as Practical Sailor Editor’s Choice in apparel, and a host of marine electronics made the list, including the Icom CommandMic III remote mic and Garmin GPSMap 545s 5-inch chartplotter sounder. Jeppesen was recognized for its top-notch electronic chart updating services. Other top gear picks were the Acco proof coil mooring chain and the Achilles HB315-LX fixed-transom inflatable dinghy.
In a follow-up to last months review of fixed-transom rigid inflatable boats, Practical Sailor looked at three 10-foot, folding-transom dinghies: the Walker Bay Genesis 310 FTD, Avon Rover 310 Lite, and the Zodiac Zoom 310SR. These three have the advantage of being easily stowed on deck, without taking up as much space as their fixed-transom counterparts. We tested each RIB dinghy for top speed, planing speed, overall performance at high and low speeds, spray deflection, and rowing. We looked at design, quality of construction, details, extras, price, and warranty-with an emphasis on price and warranty versus construction materials. PVC inflatable dinghies are not as durable as those made of Hypalon and generally carry a shorter warranty, but they are less expensive and can meet the needs of those in more temperate climates.
Sailors tend to be independent souls, and more than a few cruising couples have found that having two ways to get ashore while on the hook can go a long way to maintaining marital bliss. Problem is, where to stow two dinghies on a boat that probably was designed without any thought about stowing even one? With that in mind, Practical Sailor began scouring the planet for high-quality inflatable kayaks. Recently improved by new technology, these boats look like a possible marriage saver that wont take up the whole quarter berth, or cost a fortune. Readers suggestions are welcome.
Eight fixed-transom Hypalon and PVC rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) from seven manufacturers were put through their paces as testers inspected each for on-the-water performance, inflation ease, lifting, seating, storage space, transom design, and hull design. RIB brands tested were AB, Avon, Achilles, Brig, Mercury, Caribe, and Zodiac. With a 9.9-horsepower Mercury outboard four-stroke engine pushing it, each dinghy was tested for speed, ability to plane, handling, tracking, stability, comfort level, and how well it deflected spray when powering through 1- to 2-foot wakes. The test RIBs from Achilles, Caribe, and Zodiac rated the highest in the field of fixed-transom rigid inflatable boats. Testers liked the ring-type oarlocks on the Caribe L10 and the Brigs bow handle. Practical Sailor pet peeves included bad oar stowage on most of the boats and thin rub strakes. Although classified as lightweight, the average weight of these test boats was 136 pounds.