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Different categories of inflatable boats and their functionality.

Posted by   Eliot
10/17/2010

There are many categories of inflatable boats available on the market and I will discuss and explain them all. One type of inflatable boat is called a soft tail. Soft tails are usually constructed from two tubes or inflatable chambers, possibly with an inflatable seat also called a thwart as a third. They don't have transoms and are designed for rowing or paddling, although most will accept, with varying degrees of success, a small outboard on a motor mount. For the cruising boat that needs a small tender but lacks the space to stow a conventional dinghy on deck, a soft tail can provide an ideal alternative to towing a dinghy behind. They are also excellent for any person residing in apartment and condo dwellers, or anyone else who wants to own a boat but doesn't have room for an inflatable boat.

These small inflatables can be used effectively for fishing, diving, exploring, camping, and swimming. Soft tails are available in a wide variety of materials and at varying costs. The simplest and least expensive are made from heavy-duty unreinforced PVC and would be considered recreational boats but for their larger size, more rugged construction, and greater utility. The next step up takes you into reinforced fabrics coated with PVC or Hypalon—Saturn inflatable fishing raft would best describe this type, bigger and heavier boats that are naturally more expensive but also offer a wider variety of use options. You can expect to pay about $450 for a excellent-quality Saturn to about $1,200 for a top-of-the-line Achilles or Avon.

Another category of inflatable boats is called sport boats. Sportboats are a step up from the soft tails that were discussed in the previous posting, and their additional utility makes them popular as dinghies as well as general-use runabouts, fishing boats, and dive boats. They are distinguished by rigid, marine-grade plywood transoms, rigid floors, and (usually) some sort of keel to improve handling under power. Unlike soft tails, these boats are designed for use with outboard motors and are available in sizes and configurations that can safely handle motors from 2.5 horsepower (hp) up to about 50 hp. All sportboats are made from fabrics rubberized with either PVC or Hypalon, all have multiple air chambers, and most have floorboards that lock in place over fabric bottoms.

Sportboats, especially larger ones, can be fitted with different accessories such as wheel steering, canopies, and running lights, and may lend themselves to transportation on a trailer. Sportboats are distributed under a great many trade names and in a wide range of quality and price. Saturn boats range from 7.5ft up to 15ft long and come equipped with either high-pressure air floor, plywood floor or aluminum floor. A bit of study will be required before you purchase one. The smallest sportboat retails for about $549; the largest will set you back over two grand.