Since ancient times people used not only cane and wood for making rafts and boats, but also animal’s skin which they inflated. Later appeared watercrafts covered with leather.
Only in 19th century after rubbered fabrics were invented active production and improvement of inflatable watercrafts began. Designers and rowers were attracted by small sizes of folded inflatable boats, their light weight, easiness in usage and that they were fastly brought into operation. These characteristics became especially important in 20th century. As the amount of ships, submarines and planes were increasing there arose the need of equipping them with simple and reliable lifesaving devices.
Rubber boats have got the second wind in 50-60s of 20th century when compact and in the same time powerful outboard motors were invented. Inflatable boats expanded their sphere of application.
And at last when synthetic waterproof fabrics based on polyvinyl chloride (PVC) were invented, it furthered production of more reliable lightweight and long lasting inflatable boats, launches and rafts.
Shape and structure of inflatable boats has changed many times during their development until they came to their modern appearance. But as it has always been the base of inflatable boat is inflatable boards inside which air or other gas puts the boat into shape and determine its characteristics. The most popular shapes of boards are:
- O-shape that is characteristic for rowing boats and inflatable kayaks;
- U-shape is mostly used for boats with outboard motors;
- unclosed catamaran shape that is used for motor launches with rigid bottom.
The board can be divided inside with elastic septums so that in case of tearing the boat stays afloat. It prevents deflating of the boat but it makes the boat heavier, complicates the structure of the boat and time of inflating the boat. In boats that aren’t supposed to be used in extreme conditions the board is divided into airtight compartments by transverse septums. So in case of tearing of one compartment, others keep the boat afloat. If the boat is supposed to be used in extreme conditions, such as white water rafting, it can have several longitudinal septums inside the boards as well as one or more inflatable balloons of smaller diameter inside the main one. Beside this part of the boards can be filled with pressed or granulated material that has its own buoyancy.
Other important part of the boat is its bottom, which can differ by structure and influence the shape speed and stability of the boat. Earlier untight wooden lattice were used for bottom in some models of boats. Nowadays such bottoms are used for catamarans. For boats only tight bottoms are used, they can be:
- soft, made of fabrics, it is glued or welded along the board;
- inflatable , with keel;
- semi-rigid, soft bottom with several transverse slats;
- rigid, made of fiberglass or aluminium.
Also the boat can be equipped with accessories such as oars and oarlocks, transom for outboard motor, bimini top or dodger and many others.
Materials used in production of modern inflatable boats
Rubber boats are things of the past. Nowadays most of the boats are made of PVC fabrics (polyvinylchloride) which differ by density and therefore by strength to tearing, durability, amount of layers, additives.
PVC fabrics have become popular thanks to such qualities:
- high strength;
- elasticity, resistance to multiple bending;
- affordable prices;
- they are easy to repair;;
- resistance to ultraviolet;
- absolute water resistance;
- sufficient chemical resistance;
- they keep their qualities at temperatures from -20 to +70 degrees.
PVC fabrics are multilayer material, different layers provide strength and water resistance. Amount of layers and composition characterizes the final material.
New material Hypalon is made of synthetic caoutchouc and different polymeric additives. Due to this hypalon surpasses PVC as:
- it is more resistant to ultraviolet;
- it has higher chemical resistance;
- keeps its qualities at temperatures from -50 to +80 degrees.
But nowadays hypalon is more expensive and is more difficult to repair, so most of fishermen and hunters prefer PVC boats. As technologies keep developing the situation can change in near future.
Types of inflatable boats
There are different types of classification. Lets stop on classification by usage and structure of boat.
Rowing inflatable boats
They are used with oars, usually have passengers capacity of one or two persons, are small with length not more 2.5 meters, have flat bottom. Such boats:
- are lightweight;
- have small dimensions when folded, that allows to carry them in bags or backpacks;
- have affordable prices;
- are easy to assemble and disassemble;
Despite their small sizes these boats can be equipped with outboard transom and motor. This expands the choice of place for fishing.
The disadvantage of this type of boats is its soft bottom as it makes impossible to fish standing in the boat.
Inflatable boats with slats
They have much in common with rowing boats but have one big distinction - more rigid bottom with slats. Such structure allows to stand in the boat although quite unstably. More rigid bottom allows to produce bigger boats with passengers capacity of 3 or 4 persons. Besides such boats have outboard transom in their standard specification.
Main advantages of inflatable boats with slats:
- light weight to 30 kg;
- compact dimensions when folded, can be carried in bag but are advised to be carried in car;
- are fast to assemble;
- low price.
It worth mentioning that such bottom is not rigid enough, that has negative impact on seakeeping abilities.
Boats with inflatable bottom.
Such boats have inflatable bottom with V-shaped keel that allows to use these boats in the sea.
Due to such structure these boats:
- have more rigid structure and are more stable on water;
- can be equipped with motor of up to 20-25 h.p. and can reach speed up to 50 km/h;
- have higher carrying capacity when comparing them with flat-bottomed boats;
- allow to stand and walk inside the boat.
But everything has its price, this boat is twice bigger when folded and is more difficult to transport, beside that the process of assembling and disassembling is more complicated. And of course these boats are more expensive.
Boats with rigid bottom (RIB or Rigid Inflatable Boats)
The advanced type that performs transitional stage between inflatable boat and solid hull boat. Such boats have rigid bottom made of fiberglass or aluminium and have some advantages:
- good seakeeping abilities due to keel and rigid bottom;
- rigid structure allows to produce big boats and launches that isn’t possible for boats with soft bottoms;
- comfort, one can easily walk inside the boat;
- higher level of safety as the most vulnerable areas (bottom and balloons) are protected by rigid bottom.
Due to their characteristics, RIBs are very popular among cost guards and lifeguards.
The biggest disadvantage of RIBs beside the price is their big dimensions when folded, they need trailers for transportation.
Usage of inflatable boats
- be careful boating in shallow places, when putting the boat afloat and when mooring, Any sharp thing in water or on shore can tear the boat. Do not drug the boat even when it is deflated..
- keep the boat away from fireрасполагайте лодку вдали от открытого огня;
- be careful when inflating the boat, when the boat is under sun rays for a long time the pressure inside the balloons increases. Even though the balloon is strong enough, high pressure has negative impact on boat’s durability;
- be careful with sharp things including fishes with hooks;
- don’t leave the boat under the sun rays for a long time. Buy a bimini top for fishing, it will protect you and PVC from the sudon’t leave the boat under the sun rays for a long time. Buy a bimini top for fishing, it will protect you and PVC from the su;
- before bending the boat remove sand and salt from the boat’s surface, wait until it is dry and then fold it due to Operational Manual;
- if the boat is stored folded for a long time it is advised to refold it once in three or four months so the places of bend change. It is also advised to inflate and deflate the boat when refolding;
- store the folded boat in dry place at the temperatures from 0 to 1 25 °С and 30-80% relative air humidity, the boat should be protected from the sun rays and be stored at least in one meter from heating devices, it should not be exposed to oil, gasoline, kerosene, alkalis and other chemically active substances, which can damage outer surface.
These simple rules will help the boat to last longer and help you in fishing..
Safety on water
Regardless of the boat one should be well-prepared for emergency situation beforehand. These recommendations do not consider extreme usage of inflatable boats such as white water rafting. Our recommendations are for fishermen and tourists who use boats on relatively calm water.
- Wear the lifejacket on board, especially when fishing in the open sea or in cold weather or far from the shore;
- If there are two or more people in the boat and you need to change places, move slowly, carefully and symmetrically along board in order to avoid capsize;
- Do not jump out or into the boat;
- Do not use the boat if you feel sick or are in the state of alcoholic intoxicationo not use the boat if you feel sick or are in the state of alcoholic intoxication;
- Check the pressure inside balloons, if it decreases, boat to the shore;
- Consider that low temperatures reduce pressure inside balloons that leads to worse stability and buoyancy;
- If it is possible, go fishing with friends on several boats and stay in sight.