For many people the idea of spending a leisurely day floating on a river or lake sounds just heavenly. The high costs of maintaining a boat, however, do not. Fortunately, inflatables provide an excellent alternative to their fiberglass counterparts boat roller ramp.
Inflatable boats may have been around since prehistoric times. Archaeologists have found drawings of man using inflated animal skins to cross rivers and get across lakes. In many waterside cultures, young children were taught sailing and swimming skills by using inflated animal bladders.
It wasn’t until 1838 when Charles Goodyear perfected the process of vulcanizing rubber that inflatables really had widespread potential. The following year, 1839, the Duke of Wellington tested the very first inflatable pontoons. This was followed very shortly by the development of two types of inflatable boats which were meant to be used in Arctic expeditions.
These first inflatables were often made from Mackintosh cloth which was most commonly used for raincoats. The cloth was infused with rubber to make it more durable and airproof. There was a pocket created to contain the bellows which was used to inflate the boats.
It wasn’t until the early 1900’s, when rubber manufacturing really took off, that the inflatable boats used were developed. Now inflatables are used for dive boats, rescue operations, lifesaving rafts, military maneuvers, and so much more.
For most of these boats, the sides and bow are made up of flexible tubes which can be filled with pressurized gas. These tubes are frequently separate chambers to help reduce the impact of a puncture and will have independent valves for inflation.
For smaller inflatable boats the floor and hull are frequently left flexible, but for boats 10 feet or more the floor and hull may consist of 3-5 pieces of plywood or aluminum sheets. These braces will be placed between the tubes but are not rigidly joined to enable them to be easily removed.
In many cases the transom will also be made of rigid material so that it’s possible to mount an outboard motor.
The tubes are made of a rubberized, synthetic hypalon or PVC. These materials are very lightweight and provide secure buoyancy. Different manufacturers use slightly differing variations on these which can result in some inflatables having thicker walls than others (something to consider when selecting the boat you want to use).
One of the best aspects of inflatables is that they are designed to be taken apart and stored in a small area. This means you don’t have to find some place to park a large boat, not do you have to worry about maintaining property insurance on inflatable boats. Furthermore, most of these types of boats don’t even require a trailer or boat ramp for putting them in the water. You can simply carry or pull your boat to the water’s edge and inflate it right there.
When conducting your homework on brands of inflatables, the two names that are sure to pop up are Intex and Stansport. Both companies are known for producing high quality, safe and reliable inflatable boats.
Intex is, in fact, known for manufacturing boats with an extra degree of safety against punctures because their tubes have the thickest walls while still maintaining the flexibility needed for ease of storage.