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Selecting an Inflatable Boat
We love inflatable boats, and LIBERTY BOATS has offered a variety of inflatable boats over the years. Our lineup features an assortment of both small and larger boats, with high-buoyancy tubes (so they can handle the extra weight of modern 4-stroke outboards), and enhanced cargo-carrying capacity. We have also been able to offer these new boats at great value prices. Take a look at our selection and see for yourself.
Three Steps for Selecting a Boat
How do you select the boat that best meets your requirements with so many available choices? Just follow these three steps:
·Choose the floor construction that best balances portability and performance
·Select the right fabric for the locations where you'll use the boat
Buy the biggest boat that fits within your budget and space requirements.
Floor Construction and Boat Category
An inflatable's floor construction is the key to the trade-off between portability-ease of assembly and compact storage-and the rigidity needed for best performance. A rigid deep-V hull made from composite plastic, fiberglass or aluminum-a Rigid Inflatable Boat-is an efficient high-performance planing hull, but RIBs often must be stored on a trailer or set of hanging davits. Boats with more flexible fabric floors fold to a light, compact shape, but their flexibility extracts a performance penalty. If you want your boat to plane, allowing you to exceed 5 mph, a semi-rigid floor is required.
These economical boatsare very easy to set up and can be stowed in very little space. They are best suited for beach fun and short-range exploring in protected waters, fresh water fishing or camping. Their floors are inflatable, and don't need to be removed for storage. Powered by oars or a small electric trolling motor, these "donut boats" are the most basic inflatables at the lowest cost. LIBERTY BOATS does not recommend nor normally stock this type of boat. These can be special ordered if required.
RollUp (RU) Boats
Like dinghies, these boats have floors you don't have to remove when stowing the boat. Rollups are a "classic" that can be unrolled, inflated and launched in minutes. Floors use wooden slats enclosed in fabric pockets, and you don't need to remove them for storage. Rollup boats have a transom, so you can use a small outboard motor. Rollups excel as tenders. Their flat bottoms and small engines (up to 4HP) make their performance non-planing, with very poor directional stability (tracking) due to the lack of a keel thus limiting their range to in-harbor, relatively flat-water travel.
LIBERTY BOATS does not recommend nor normally stock this type of boat. These can be special ordered if required.
Sportboats are inflatables with a removable rigid floor system made from plywood, composite plastic or aluminum. The floor assembly is made stiffer with the addition of stringers, which run fore and aft to hold the floorboards in alignment, and aluminum extrusions to hold the edges in position. With the floorboards assembled and the port and starboard hull chambers and small tapered keel tube inflated, the boat's floor fabric is stretched taut and takes on a shallow V-shape. This enables the boat to ride through chop and track in turns better than a flat-bottomed boat. The floor also makes sportboats heavier than dinghies, but these boats are fast and lively with outboards from 2-50hp and offer a great performance for the price.
LIBERTY BOATS stocks a full range of aluminum floor and plywood floor sportboats in a few models and sizes from 7.5’ to 16.4’.
High Pressure (HP) Inflatable Floor Boats
Take a sportboat and trade the aluminum floor for a high-pressure inflatable floor, and you have an HP Inflatable Floor boat (sometimes called an Airfloor boat), combining the performance of a sportboat with the light weight and compact stowage of a soft stern dinghy. Its special high-pressure inflatable floor (pumped up to 11psi) is substantially lighter and when deflated, can be rolled up right inside the boat. We have been astounded at how quickly inflatable floor boats jump on plane, and the fine performance they achieve using only a small outboard, thanks to their low weight. The boats flex just enough to absorb wakes and waves that would threaten to throw you out of a hard-bottomed boat. Slightly less expensive than conventional sportboats, HP floor boats are a brilliant combination of benefits, not a compromise. And the setup time is very short!
LIBERTY BOATS stocks a full range of HP floor boats from 7.5’ to 10.9’.
High Pressure Inflatable V-Hull (HP-V) Inflatables
HP-V floors perform more like a RIB, with one'piece (non-removable floor) configuration-the simplest high-pressure rollups ever developed. A further evolution of the HP Inflatable concept, HP-V floors dispense with sausage-shaped inflatable keels. Inflated to 11psi with two Halkey Roberts valves located in the bow, the V-shaped integral floor is rigid, with enough shock-absorbing flex for great performance and a smooth ride, just like the flat-floored HP inflatables
above. Cargo is located further down than in a flat-floored boat, and the low center of gravity provides stability comparable to a RIB hull design. The Floor hoever is not flat like in other types. LIBERTY BOATS does not stock these at this time. HP-V boats can however be special ordered.
Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs) or Rigid Hull Inflatables
RIBs offer the "real boat" performance and strength of a rigid moderate or deep-vee hull. Their fiberglass hulls carve turns and cut through chop like conventional boats and shrug off abrasion from cruising gear, sand and gravel, dive tanks, etc. But unlike conventional boats, the addition of inflatable tubes to the topsides makes them more stable, more buoyant and less likely to scar the topsides of other vessels when used as a tender. Their lack of portability is the price you pay for a RIB's performance. The hulls cannot be disassembled, and therefore you can't stow your RIB in a bag in the lazarette. You can deflate the tubes and stow the boat on deck in far less room than the inflated boat, but it still takes up space. Therefore, we generally recommend RIB's for owners who either intend to stow their dinghies inflated on deck, on davits, or deflated and lashed on a weather deck. Their light weight also makes them a cinch to trailer on a light-duty boat trailer.
LIBERTY BOATS stocks a full range of RIB boats in many different sizes & configurations.
Compact or Folding RIBs
Compact RIBs have a hinged folding transom, which allows the boat to be stored in much less space, and are super portable-we're talking roof rack to water in just 10 minutes! The hull is made from either fiberglass or RIMTEC injection-molded polyester, and has a shallow V-shape. The transom is a plywood sandwich that is firmly bonded to the inflation tubes. A flexible fabric hinge connects the floor to the transom, allowing the transom to fold flat when stored. A large zippered bag is included for storage, and the stowed boat looks like a giant surfboard in a travel bag. While still large, the Compact RIB will fit on a foredeck or under a boom much more compactly than a normal RIB. It also fits nicely on vehicle roof racks or in the back of a station wagon.
LIBERTY BOATS does not stock these at this time.
Catamaran Tunnel Hull Sportboats
Twin-sponson sportboats provide the ultimate in inflatable performance. These rescue craft could hit speeds up to 65 mph, and handle extremely rough seas and breaking waves. Sport Cats are raced as two-person one-design ZapCats in the UK and Europe, as ThunderCats in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, and in the U.S. on the A.P.B.A Inflatable Tunnel Hull Race Circuit. Imagine an aquatic NASCAR, or Google the above references and prepare to be impressed.
Take a flat-bottomed sportboat, and add two wedge-shaped sponsons constructed with high-pressure tubes and custom'molded high-density rubber. The resulting tunnel hull creates lift for efficient planing and also provides a cushion of air for a smoother, high-speed ride. The wedge shape provides a good "bite" on the inside of a sharp turn while the outside sponson slides over the water, preventing tipping or flipping. As a result, the boat can perform extremely tight turns, even at high speed (a Sport Cat can reportedly pull 2 Gs of cornering force!). Oversize main tubes and increased beam allow for greater load bearing and stability.
Added benefits of the tunnel hull design include higher efficiency at speed (smaller engines, less fuel), precise maneuvering in reverse (very unusual for most inflatable boats), and the ability to row effectively.
LIBERTY BOATS does not stock these at this time.
Hypalon versus PVC?
The location where you intend to use your boat is the primary factor in deciding which hull fabric to choose. The choices are PVC coated polyurethane cloth, represented by most of our Inflatable boats, or Orca 820 Hypalon (neoprene-coated nylon). Both fabrics are rugged, durable and dependable under virtually all conditions. But if you will do most of your boating in tropical conditions, a Hypalon boat will last longer because of its better resistance to UV degradation.
Construction of PVC and Hypalon boats is often different, too, but both are utterly reliable in use. Some manufacturers use a thermobonding technique to literally "weld" the PVC fabric panels together, producing airtight seams stronger than the fabric itself. Also, since the PVC coating is more airtight than Hypalon, inflation pressure doesn't need to be topped off as with Hypalon boats.
Hypalon inflatables (and some PVC boats) are glued together using high-strength, two-part adhesives. This is a more labor-intensive process than the automated "welding" of PVC and is a common weak point of "bargain-priced" boats, so it must be done properly.
Which Boat is Best for you?
·Outstanding warranty: LIBERTY BOATS carry a five-year fabric warranty and three year air-holding warranty on hull construction as well as a one-year warranty on parts and accessories. Our premium models offer a 6 year warranty.
·Accessories, valves and hardware: One area frequently overlooked by first-time inflatable boat buyers is the quality of fittings and accessories. Usually the difference is obvious on bargain boats, but inexperienced buyers don't realize how big an impact inferior fittings have until they actually use the boat. We fit excellent accessories like stainless towing eyes, strong aluminum oars, reliable inflation valves and heavy-duty pumps to help you inflate your boat quickly with minimal effort.
Now buy a reasonably sized boat!
There is a good reason we make this recommendation, which may seem self-serving. Bigger inflatables handle dramatically better than smaller ones. The differences between an 8'6" sportboat and a 10' sportboat in handling, carrying capacity and ride, due to the small surface area of the small boat hulls, are greater than you can imagine until you actually try them side-by-side. A sportboat less than 9' long is capable of planing, but tends to be squirrely on the water, and will fall off a plane easily. 10' boats (and especially 11' boats) have less bow rise when they accelerate and will stay on plane at lower speeds. They are less sensitive to steering inputs so you can relax more while driving them and their larger tubes with slightly greater freeboard will give you a drier ride. Longer boats also have more usable interior volume. Inflatables have pretty dinky interior spaces due to their chunky tubes and forward-mounted transoms. A 9'3" boat may only have 7 feet of interior length, and some of that is in the V-section of the bow. By adding a foot to the length, you gain the same amount in the interior, for a 14% increase in floor space.
Keeping your new inflatable in great shape
Talk to most experts and they'll agree; the most common cause of premature inflatable boat failure is exposure to the sun. Fading, discoloration, fabric breakdown and damage to painted and varnished components can all be attributed to UV exposure. There are several strategies for keeping your inflatable looking new:
·OK, this is obvious, but put your boat away when it's not in use. We see dozens of inflatables rotting in the sun in our local harbor, and it isn't because they're being used every day. Deflate the boat, clean it and store it.
·When inflated, the best protection against damaging exposure is a quality fitted cover. In addition to blocking UV radiation, covers also protect your boat from accumulated dirt, bird droppings and standing water. Their modest cost is rapidly repaid by extending the life and the increased resale value of your boat.
·Specially-formulated inflatable boat cleaners and protectants such as 303 AEROSPACE PROTECTANT, make it much easier to maintain your boat in "like new" condition by removing dirt and salt and leaving a gloss on the fabric.
We believe customers buy smaller boats so they can leave them inflated and stored on deck or a swim step, or for ease of carrying to a car or cabin. And we understand that many of our customers have smaller boats and generally have only two people to transport in their dinghy. If you are short of storage space or transport just you and your spouse, then an 8' boat may be just the ticket. But in our experience customers rarely come back wishing they'd bought a smaller boat, while the reverse is all too frequent. If weight is a prime consideration, we suggest you consider a High Pressure (HP) boat. These are marvelous because they are lightweight and plane easily with engines from 4hp to 15hp. Their extended range at higher speeds, excellent handling and compact stowed dimensions make them an absolute pleasure to own and operate.
Make sure that you carry some basic safety gear aboard your inflatable when you go exploring. We recommend putting the following items in a bag and tying it securely to the dinghy:
·Signaling equipment, including a mirror, small flares and a flashlight, and possibly a Personal Locator Beacon or the new SPOT beacon (if you use your boat in offshore conditions)
·Communication equipment: handheld VHF
·Oars or paddles, engine spares including spark plugs and a spark plug wrench, basic tools, a small anchor and 200' of small line, and of course PFDs.
Finding the perfect inflatable isn't that tough. Simply pick the combination of portability and performance that your boating style requires and choose the fabric best suited to your boating environment. A well-built inflatable will often last a decade or more. When all is said and done, it may be the boat you remember most fondly for its amazing versatility.
Liberty boats was founded in 2007. Our goal is to supply premium quality inflatable boats at very competitive prices. While our products are offered online on the web, they can also be viewed & purchased from us or from your local dealer.
All our boats conform to Canadian government regulations and carry the required Transport Canada conformity and/or capacity sticker on the transom as required by law.
Liberty Boats is assigned the "YIU" ISO manufacturer indentification code by Transport Canada. The code and Sticker are valid both in Canada & the USA. Our boats also have CE certification for Europe.
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