Sitting here waiting anxiously for my shipment of two Zodiac MK2 Heritage Classics to arrive my mind began to wander to the upcoming total solar eclipse.
If you know me at all you know that a wondering mind is definitely par for the course, but you also know my mind wanders to things of merit. People often ask me what do they need on a boat and the usual suspects are a whistle, paddles etc. Of the ready items available people seem to always forget one crucial item, the flashlight. In a pinch a good flashlight will allow you to signal for help, see what you are doing in the dark, help with a MOB situation, or reach for your camera during a time of total solar eclipse!
A good flashlight will be focusable, water resistant, have a lanyard and clip, and if available a magnetic base. Every “Go Bag” should have one, there are multitudes available online and at check outs for impulse buys everywhere.
The one I often carry with me for tactical missions on the water is the NEBO Redline OC. This model ticks off the boxes for what I feel are minimums for any activity on the water or ashore. It clips to my PFD and has a lanyard so if I’m working over the side and it falls it’s still attached. Being able to focus the spot means swimming the bilges for that missing washer and nut I just dropped is a whole lot easier. The magnetic base makes it easy to deploy for a hasty work light giving me the use of both hands which any of us know is a plus when working aloft or below.
The NEBO Redline OC (Optimized Clarity) is impact resistant and mine has survived a fall from the top of the dry dock to the basin with nary a scratch and all for a cost that everyone can live with. If you are lacking in the flashlight department and need one for your “Go Bag”, everyday carry or your tool box you can pick one up here at the shop or by checking our website.
Don’t be left in the dark wondering, get a quality flashlight before you head out on the water and be spot on when the time arises.
So yesterday IBC received its first non rainy day in about 9 months and as this signals spring for us here in Portland I thought it was a good time to talk about inspections and maintenance. Spring and sunny days mean getting ole floppy out of storage for the first time in a long while, and for some this will be a trying day. Mice, spiders, bugs and that science experiment you’re unknowingly conducting because you forgot to rinse and clean your boat properly before rolling it up for the winter. These are but a few of the common issues we see here at the shop when the sun shows it’s face for the first time.
First thing first let’s get your boat pumped up and inspected. Does it keep air? If the answer is no then kick some more air in and spray it down with soapy water to try to determine where the air is leaking out from. Leaks will manifest as bubbles or white creamy streaks or spots. Mark the leaks with a sharpie pen and find anymore issues that need addressing. For mouse holes you’ll need adhesive and fabric, and typically you need to do an inside /outside patch over any hole big enough to fit a mammal in. First get the patch on the inside by prepping the patch and area the same way you would for any other patch. Roll the patch on its self adhesive to non-adhesive side and carefully insert the patch. Tack and unroll to bone or burnish the patch down fully. We like to do this in a dry run prior to applying any adhesive so the actions are committed to muscle memory almost. You’ll have better success if you practice this prior to gluing trust us. Once you’ve waited at least 24 hours for the adhesive to start curing kick in some air to shape and then pressure and soap it down again. If you did your job right it shouldn’t be leaking, or leaking very little. Now we’re ready to put on the outside patch, the same prep steps and adhesive applications applies here just like before. Make sure you have the patch boned down correctly and wait at least 24 hours to use the boat with a recommended time of 72 hours being best.
Plan your trips accordingly, if you waited until the last minute chances are if your boat has damage you won’t be taking it. If you are one of the hundreds of people we see every summer with a 40 year old mouse boat looking for an instant fix you will be disappointed. We will have a back log of weeks to months in the peak of the season so don’t wait too long to do your initial inspection.
Sometimes you will have some simple pin holes from that whopper of a fish you carelessly flopped into the boat. In most of these cases a quick and permanent fix is the use of a sealant that goes in the tube chamber its self. There are a great many products on the market that offer awesome sauce at a discount but beware. Try to get a reputable name or formulation such as the type we use here at IBC. Since we have to adhere to MILSPEC on many of our services we only use the good stuff and recommend you do the same. Just visit our web shop if you live outside of the Portland Oregon area for awesome sauce www.inflatableboats.com and click on the repair materials category. The way the sealant works is the air leaking out thru the hole will pull the sealant thu with it as it escapes and it will seal it off. This usually requires the user to roll the boat over side to side and end to end to ensure a conformal coating is applied to the interior of the tube chamber. Call a friend and swap sea tales while you do this, you might actually find you have more than one pin hole so don’t do this on the new carpet.
For the science experiment we use many cleaners and conditioners located in yup you guessed it our cleaners and conditioners section of the web shop. Keeping ole floppy aired up to the correct pressure and clean will extend the life of your boat greatly and prevent problems further down the road that could’ve been avoided. If you have questions give us a call here at the shop (503)235-2628 chances are we’ve seen what you are looking at and have a fix for it already.
If all of this sounds too daunting give us a call and we’ll do it for you, but don’t wait until the last minute or your trip will suffer. We have people send us their boats from all around the world to get genuine IBC service and repairs done and we’re a small crew focused on quality so it will take as long as it does.
As I walked around the shop “topping off” all the CSM/Hypalon boats this morning I thought to myself, “How come no one talks about air retention on Strongan vs Hypalon?”. This is a very valid question to the person looking for a tender or stand alone inflatable boat.
Let me put this into other words, Strongan is what we casually refer to as PVC here at the shop when discussing boat materials and manufacturing processes. To be so casual is actually kind of detrimental to a degree. When discussing PVC inflatable boats many makers will spec out their fabric in mils (equal to a thousandth of an inch) or millimeters also expressed as “mils” on various websites albeit incorrectly in efforts to dupe the customer. The other manufacturers count on you being uninformed to swell their bottom line. Further use of incorrect terms along with drawings and lots of text that “sounds official” on their many websites plus dubious reviews means you end up with a cheap boat that came with free shipping and absolutely no support. Any boat deal that comes with free shipping should be a red flag just so you know.
Cutting down on the volume of calls we receive here at IBC from Amazon or Ebay bargain shoppers means it’s time well spent to bother with this topic.
Obviously we don’t sell brand X nor do we offer free shipping. I can’t understand why other brand/site customers call us all day long for support of someone else’s product. Weird huh? The simple answer is those sites like Amazon or Ebay don’t have a support structure, they offer cheap products with free shipping to capture the bargain shopper. They don’t have a store, or a phone, or employees to take the millions of calls about their junky products and their failures.
Going back to formula we’ll first educate you about what Strongan is and what PVC and Hypalon isn’t. Using our time machine let’s go back to the polyester years of the 1970’s! 😉
Strongan Duotex is a fabric originally developed by the Espace Division of Zodiac France as part of a joint project with CNES (National Space Research Center). Developed to be better at air retention and water intrusion than ordinary PVC it was further refined and developed to be Thermobonded by purpose built machines existing only in Zodiac France.
Basically PVC was a truck cover material that was semi-water tight but not airtight, (more on this later). The Zodiac answer from the joint space research project took 8 engineers and technicians and a support staff of 14 to tackle.
“Welding” of PVC used in the knockoff industry is a lap seam. One layer is placed on top of another and heated under pressure to make the bond. This technique will make most PVC materials watertight but leaves something to be desired for airtightness.
To accomplish this technical feat Zodiac developed their thermobonding process where two precision cut pieces are butted up edge to edge and overlayed on the outside for mechanical strength, and the secret internal layer overlayed on the inside defeated air leaks and made the bond airtight.
While seeming relatively simple to the layman, the material science and process engineering was very difficult and very costly. Zodiac invested heavily in the engineering of the process and at the time it was considered a gamble. The old guard of neoprene sand and glue construction people never thought PVC could have the air retention of Hypalon/Neoprene. Zodiac’s gamble paid off, and dramatically lowered the costly labor process involved by 75% while producing a boat unparalleled in air retention and strength. This hyper-technical approach catapulted Zodiac’s aerospace and leisure products divisions to the forefront of their respective industries. Yes from the humble beginnings of Maurice Mallet’s sewn and varnished balloons in 1896 to 21st century space exploration and Strongan Duotex inflatable boats Zodiac reigns supreme.
To sum it up in a few words Zodiac’s Strongan Duotex fabric is the gold standard for air retention and modern inflatable boats.
Saying that all boats are not cut from the same cloth is a gross understatement. Buyers should beware the great pretenders in the market today all vying for your hard earned dollar.
Today when I went to IBC’s repair shop to measure the differences in thickness from one brand to the next I was amazed at the startling differences between the Zodiac Strongan Duotex and the ordinary PVC from the other manufacturers. The average measurement in mils or thousandths of an inch of the most basic Strongan fabric was .040″ and the next best competitors came in at .015 to .029″ or one to two thirds thinner. The average thickness of a Thermobonded seam was on the order of 1/8″ or .125″ compared to a seam of .030″ to .060 for the others .The Zodiac fabric is thicker by it’s self than many other manufacturers seams! So thickness of the Zodiac Strongan coupled with the additional thread in the scrim or substrate of the Zodiac Strongan fabric adds additional strength and resistance to forces such as torsional loading over all other manufacturer’s samples compared.
Much has been written about the dreaded UV rays and the havoc it wreaks on boats. Myths abound on the internet of UV radiation turning boats brown and causing them to “pop” while exposed to the sun. I would refer you to the earlier paragraphs to note that Zodiac’s Strongan was developed with the space program in mind. Believe me there is far more UV in space than at the waterline.
UV damage mechanisms of the various materials here on Earth generally cause what’s known as “photo-bleaching”, whereas the material in question turns white not brown. The mechanism is virtually the same for PVC, Hypalon, and even diamonds! Look at an old car dash, did it turn brown, or is it whiter and bleached looking? I thought so! Short wavelength high frequency radiation in the UV regime and it’s interaction with matter is well understood. One simply can’t take a random website’s claims as truth these days, we’ve even added “fake news” into our language to define this phenomena.
Generally speaking all inflatable boats are called Zodiacs today due to commonality in conversation, but all inflatable boats are not cut from the same cloth. If it doesn’t say Zodiac on the boat it’s not a genuine Zodiac, ask for it by name.
Note: Bombard and Avon are both Zodiac products.
Edit: Richard Meister (Technical Support Manager at Zodiac Nautic) added to our Facebook page “Environmental positives too! Strongan plastomer is thermoform and can be melted and recycled. No wasteful and annoying dust generation either.“
What Richard means by dust generation is Hypalon/Neoprene fabric requires sanding and scuffing prior to cleaning with toluene solvent, then finally several applications of adhesive are added to make a seam or install a simple patch. This dust, solvent, and adhesive is a potential hazard if improperly controlled during the assembly and repair process. While Zodiac leads the world in green environmentally sound practices, those other boat builders, errr…. not so much.
To see what Richard means about recycling of materials one only needs to look as far as the Bombard Air Ethic. The Bombard Air Ethic is made utilizing green manufacturing processes, novel materials and recycled materials. This represents a first in the boat building industry.
Thanks for bringing up those valid points Richard!
Hypalon/Neoprene or as it is generically called CSM is a man-made artificial rubber coating over a substrate or scrim. It offers some advantages over plain PVC with the foremost being resistance to solvents and fuels. UV absorption is virtually identical to PVC and several other materials such as Urethane and with all of the hype and misinformation this is a hot button topic for the web forums and novice yachtsman. If you had any doubt just look at the multitude of aftermarket products that claim UV resistance and protection catering to the hyperbole.
Hypalon performs slightly better in the drum test for abrasion resistance than PVC but in terms of air retention it fails miserably compared to Zodiac’s Strongan Duotex. Hypalon inflatable boat manufacturing is a very dirty and labor intensive process taking up to three times as long to complete when compared to a Zodiac Strongan Duotex inflatable boat of the same dimensions. This labor comes at a cost and this added cost is much of what the customer assumes is quality when simply comparing prices. Remember the statement that not all boats are cut from the same cloth? This holds true for Hypalon boats as well. That “good deal” for a brand X Hypalon boat will cost you in the long run on repairs. You are much better off sticking to the brand that started it all…Zodiac, Avon or Bombard when asking about Hypalon inflatable boats.
Give us a call and we’ll sort you out! (503)235-2628
This time of year IBC is always scuttling around busy with various agencies and their seagoing Zodiac MILPRO RIBs, and swift water rescue boats. In preparation to underway commitments bigger ships need work done and usually on the quick to meet mission requirements and deployment dates. The U.S. Coast Guard, Army Corps Of Engineers, U.S. Military Forces, state and federal law enforcement and fire you name it and we see it here.
Sometimes the service is just a bit of paint and shine on battle damage or even planned maintenance on a unit prior to deployment. Today it was a bit of paint on a U.S. Army Corp Of Engineers Zodiac MILPRO RIB. Our job was to de-rig a console set and repaint it prior to an underway. IBC made all of the graphics, matched the color, and painted the console set, then rigged it back to spec. It’s just too bad we didn’t get a chance to re-rub the entire boat but budget and underway commitments take precedent over what we want.
Fortunately Mike grabbed a couple of pics of the boat before she had to go back to the mother ship so we could appreciate the job the repair shop did.
IBC is your one stop shop for sales and service of the full Zodiac MILPRO line of RIBs and inflatable boats. Give us a call today for your military and professional needs and see why we are ranked Tier 1.
It’s full steam ahead at IBC right now as we rig and receive boats daily for the upcoming season. The 2017 NW Sportsman’s Show is right around the corner and we’ll be there showcasing models that fit the mission of hunting and fishing. Tubesets are coming and going every time I blink it seems and new sport boats and Avon tenders seem to be all the buzz.
We are open despite the weather so give us a call (503) 235-2628 or stop by the Portland Showroom on 2041 SE Powell Blvd. and talk face to face with one of our pros.
Now is the time to be thinking about your new tender, your old boat that needs repair, that motor service you put off, basically anything that needs doing or buying so you’ll be ready when the weather turns nice again.
Remember Oregon doesn’t have a sales tax so our prices are even better than you thought! Find out why more boaters come to IBC than anywhere else (503)235-2628
When comparing boats these days you get a lot of information about “deadrise” or “deep V” but no explanations. Some of the calls we get here at IBC regarding those topics warrant a look and explanation for our inflatable boat customers.
Deadrise is explained as such: the angle of the horizontal plane to the hulls surface. What this means is how much of a V shape there is at any given position from the centerline or keel on a horizontal line to the angle or line of the hulls surface which is expressed in degrees.
Boats generally have a varying amount of deadrise fore to aft as a result of their design and intended purpose. Most deadrise is measured and expressed at the transom due to when the boat is on plane this angle or measurement determines how stable a boat will be. Boat manufacturer statements that use “deep v or deep vee” are usually talking about the forward section of the craft as this dictates how well a boat will perform in cutting thru blue water and chop. Don’t be confused this is still a function of deadrise, but marketing has put forward “deep v” as a selling point to the uninformed user.
When negotiating heavy seas the crafts deadrise forward or “V” will dictate how softly it comes down between the swells and chop (expressed as frequency) and generally a “deeper V” means it cuts thru and dissipates the forces by using a broader surface area and reflection of energy away from the boat which in part translates to the water breaking and turning into spray. Basically the energy is partially transferred into the destruction and deflection of the water it’s self, while a portion of that same energy is transferred into the shock we as passengers feel.
Most inflatable boats have an inflatable keel that is a bit more rounded at the centerline that pushes down against the fabric to form the “V”, in the case of the Bombard Commando series it’s a more pronounced sectional wooden keel that better reproduces the traditional fiberglass or metal boats keel/hull design. That is to say the Bombard Commandos are often preferred by more professional users due to it’s more traditional boat hull shape and design attributes.
Zodiac developed and patented the inflatable keel in 1960 as Pierre Debroutelle made improvements to simplicity of assembly and storage. The inflatable keel was largely developed due to the “Leisure Society” movement occurring at the time and the desire to cut down on parts and bags to put them in. Zodiac inflatable boats were largely commercial and military items until then but a growing number of ex-military and maritime professionals had come to adopt and use the technology in various disciplines such as racing and fun with the family.
All inflatable boats featuring a keel have varying degrees of deadrise and different performance levels for the areas of interest they were designed for. It’s worth mention that all of IBC’s boats feature a “V” in their hull with the exception of bucket boats and alongside tenders that aren’t designed with rowing or planning in mind for their day to day use.
I hope this has made the topic a bit clearer for those of you that were confused between the two terms of “deadrise ” and “deep V”. We’ve attached some more pics below of a Bombard Commando C5 to help you on your way. As always feel free to give us a call here at the IBC shop (503)235-2628 when shopping for your next or first inflatable boat and make sure you get the right boat for the job at the right price.
Boat material thickness can be a tricky one with all the hyperbole that is continuously published by here today gone tomorrow inflatable boat manufacturers from Qingdao China. Here at IBC our boats are measured in “decitex” no matter who made them Zodiac, Highfield, Avon, Bombard etc.
When shopping for your next inflatable boat it’s best to come to the table armed with information so you can ask the relevant questions. Many of the calls that come in to us from customers who have obviously spent alot of time “researching” on the web focus around thickness of fabric. The misinformed customer will ask “How many mils is the boat fabric?”. This question alone tells us which website they were on as we’ve seen most of them by now here in the repair shop. We have to try to find parts for angry customers that didn’t receive the support from brand X they were promised.
Let’s answer what a “mil” is first:
Mil is equivalent to .001″ (one thousandth of an inch) and is a sheet or film measurement, not to be confused with the metric measurement of millimeter which equals .03937″ (just a hair more than 1/32″)
Basically when the website you’re on says mils they are talking about a shower curtain, not something I personally want to be in with my family.
The next measurement we often hear over the phone or in email inquiries is “How many deniers are the boats you sell?”.
Denier is a unit of weight by which the fineness of silk, rayon, or nylon yarn is measured, equal to the weight in grams of 9,000 meters of the yarn and often used to describe the thickness of hosiery.
“840 denier nylon”
So what we are talking about here is panty hose, or if it’s 840 denier maybe a back pack. Yet another thing I’m not comfortable with is taking the family out in a floating backpack! Worth mention is often when a boat brand states denier they are actually taking about a nylon sheath with a unreinforced sheet material or bladder inside for air retention. Remember the shower curtain statement above?
Last but certainly not least is the standard measurement of decitex:
Decitex is the count grading for filament and spinning yarns recognized by all international bodies in the man-made fibres industry. Decimal multiple = mass in kilograms per 1000 meters length.
As stated decitex is only the weight or mass of the thread per kilometer, and this is where it gets a little trickier, any of the major brands will spec out in decitex and generally it’s very legit. When comparing apples to apples you’ll find that an additional measurement comes to play alongside with decitex and that’s weight per square meter. What this boils down to in the recreational market isn’t really that relevant but when you start comparing commercial and military models with specs that say 1670 decitex you also take a look at the weight per sq meter which gives a better understanding as to what thickness and density it really is. THIS MATTERS FOR MILITARY OPERATIONS
Since Zodiac, Avon, Bombard, and MILPRO are all under the same roof and use a propietary fabric for each of it’s models you’ll see a higher weight per sq meter than competitors and that’s where the rubber meets the road so to speak.
If I can get a free day in my old advanced materials lab I’ll do some micrographs of each of the fabrics so you can see exactly what this means visually and empirically.
Since it’s the decitex value that gives a boat it’s strength not the thickness of it’s coating much of this becomes alot easier to digest in the recreational market. Thickness of coatings will impart abrasion resistance to the fabric so look less to thickness and more to which descriptor is used to describe the fabric, dtx or decitex is the standard and it’s this descriptor that matters. Boats made out of “duotex” will be double the strength of similar fabrics and that translates to more rigidity and better use of available horsepower due to diminished torsional and flexure thrust loses.
Whew that sounds technical!
Remember it’s up to you to make the right decision on your next inflatable boat and there are alot of people trying to squeeze you out of a dollar. The real question you should be asking is, “Where can you take your budget boat when you have a problem?”. Shop smart and boat safe, we will be here to guide you in the process and get you in a boat that meets your needs within your budget.
Give IBC a call (503)235-2628 or visit us online http://www.inflatableboats.com
These days there are any number of zombie apocalypse tv shows and movies to choose from via streaming and broadcast tv providers. My better half loves to watch them, but she hates to hear me interrupt with “There’s no possible way gas would last that long!”.
Let’s examine the fuel problem since it’s one of the most misunderstood problems boat owners face today. First off ethanol is a problem, but it isn’t the route of all evil additive makers would have you believe. Remember the problems you faced as a child in the 70’s when you had to cut the grass for the first time in the spring? No ethanol, same problem, you simply can’t store fuels for extended periods. If you’re too young to remember the 70’s rest easy this problem has been the same since gasoline burning internal combustion engines came into being.
Doing a web search into the matter will return a great many ads that look like science and self proclaimed “subject matter experts” going off on this additive and that one. If you are able to separate the wheat from the chaff you’ll come to statements from the oil companies themselves that state simply that gasoline cannot be stored for longer than 3 months. BP, Sunoco, Exxon, Shell all seem to come to the same conclusion so why do you take the word from some guy you met who had a boat once, or dramatized zombie fare from the entertainment field. If you want science maybe try ASTM study D525 and see what standards say about the subject material.
Look the solution to fuel related issues in small motors is simply don’t keep old gas around, dump it into your car, they’ll make more I promise you. If your small outboard is carbureted run it out of gas every time you use it by simply disconnecting the fuel hose while it’s running. Proper scheduled maintenance from a certified mechanic (IBC is 5 Star Gold Certified) will help you when you forget your duties as a boat owner.
Change your fuel water separator every 50 hours or once a season if you are a light user. Those clear bowls with drains that are on the aftermarket are just there to give you something to look at. If you can see water or separation in the bowl then you need to replace the filter cartridge plain and simple. Never dump out fuel water separators and reuse them they are already contaminated and you risk contaminating the rest of your fuel system.
Ethanol is a problem because it’s hygroscopic (it attracts water) and it compunds the already well understood problem of storing fuel. Some additives like Yamaha’s stabilizer and conditioner can help to minimize the problem, but no amount of after refinement chemical additives will alleviate the underlying failure modality. You should probably go vote on ethanol and corn farmer subsidies if you want that problem to go away.
Fuel related problems are the number one issue we see at boat shops, and historically that hasn’t changed. Granted IBC goes farther back than most boaters have been alive so take our word on it, the level of laziness in modern users has increased.
You just bought a fancy new 4 stroke motor because you like the lack of smoke and bleeding ear syndrome from old two strokes, that doesn’t mean you are released from proper care and maintenance duties. New motors are a modern miracle, but it only takes one lazy moment to bring things to all stop. These modern carbs and fuel injection systems demand prudent care and attention, it’s not like a car where you can pull over and call a tow truck.Boating has always been a dangerous activity that requires proper care and attention to detail, the modern world’s inventions have just made it easier to get out there without a life’s worth of training like the old nautical days. Pay attention because little details like when you bought your fuel can have big impacts to your enjoyment on the water or lack there of.
Winterize your motors and service them in the spring with us here at IBC and rest easy because we’re always on watch. To schedule service call (503) 235-2628 and ask for Adam.
I get a great many calls here at IBC from people looking for a good tender, or asking my opinion on what tender I would use. I’m not an expert sailor, and really didn’t learn how to sail until I moved to Hawaii in 1989. In Hawaii I was faced with the dilemma many face which is there’s no fuel between the mainland and Hawaii so your range with a powerboat is severely limited, hence the sailboat.
As a sailor you are pretty much limited by your abilities, your vessel and fresh water/stores aboard for the adventure. Most of my friends would call me “old school” as I learned how to read a chart, use parallel rulers, dividers, sextant, compass and watch to figure where I’m going and where I’ve been. Being an “old school” sailor I definitely formed opinions on which tender I prefer for any given body of water. As I said above I learned how to sail in Hawaii, and tenders were notoriously hard to come by back then on the islands, you used what was on hand and available. In those days it was all about the slat floor Zodiac and Avon donut boats and dinghies. They got the job done and were easy to unroll and inflate on deck. Other boats would radio me to come over and transport them and their dinghy to the beach so they could put their much too large tenders together. They were like many beginning sailors today, they wanted to have the biggest their money would buy even though it was the wrong boat for them. I always wondered why so many people would get a dinghy that was too big for their boat, and after all of these years it seems this is still a trend.
For me, being a blue water guy, I’m not in the habit of doing a crossing with a boat on deck or languishing in davits. This simply wasn’t done in my days of learning with the Hawaiian masters for the obvious reasons of damage or loss to one or both of the vessels. You probably didn’t learn sailing in the Alenuihaha Channel, or picking your way thru the reef on any given day with my salty mentors looking over your shoulder like me so you escaped the Hawaiian trial by fire. Here on the mainland in the age of auto helm and gps, there is a great propensity for getting a giant RIB dinghy and putting it on davits to die a slow death. I take a page out of the “old school” book and keep it rolled and stowed just like high latitude sailor Skip Novak does on his adventures. Skip knows the lay of the land and has sailed a lot of the same latitudes I have, he is a true master. This being said there are two dinghies I feel are perfect for any mission over the horizon.
My first pick of the bunch is the everlasting Zodiac MK1 Classic HD. There isn’t a better boat for the yachtsman who wants a heavy duty aluminum floor and high performance quality roll up dinghy. The Zodiac MK1 Classic manages all aspects of being a dinghy with stellar performance and supreme confidence in it’s ability to accomplish mundane tasks like fetching water or doing laundry ashore to extended dive or fishing missions. It’s just plain fun to pilot and big enough to get you and your gear where you want to be. If an HD floor system seems too daunting to put together you could always opt for the air floor version, it’s as easy as unroll, inflate, and go! The Zodiac MK1 Classic is built in France and is the patented thermo-bonded construction that has become legend since it’s inception in 1977 on the “ZED” or Zodiac Espace Diffusion. (a note to those of you who don’t know, Zodiac has always been an aerospace company ever since 1896) I still see those original models here at IBC going strong after all those years of uncompromising service. The product was considered “hyper technical” in 1977 and even more so by today’s standard when compared to cheap Chinese imitations.
My second pick is anything in the Zodiac Fastroller model range. Those of you who want a quality French thermo-bonded boat like the Zodiac MK1 Classic but in a smaller and lighter platform should be looking at these. In my early days I would have swam though shark infested waters (again) just to lay my dirty calloused hands on one of these beauties. Making the most out of material science, and advanced process engineering Zodiac has made it possible to fit the interior space of a 14′ inflatable into a model that measures only 11’10” overall, I.E. the Zodiac Cadet 360 Fastroller. Sure there are smaller versions such as the Zodiac 325 Fastroller and the Zodiac 285 Fastroller and I would certainly consider either of those depending on how much stuff I want to jam into the boat in one trip. The Zodiac 285 Fastroller is a perfect choice of an airfloor tender but I like them small and easy to stow/deploy especially on smaller yachts, boats, and RVs. Questions? Comments? Give us a call here at the shop (503)235-2628 during business hours on the West Coast and we’ll do our best to get you the right dinghy for your boat, It might even be a big RIB!
The internet is filled with a dizzying amount of inflatable boats marketed as a Zodiac™, but what is it really you’re getting for your hard earned dollar?
In this post we examine the Chinese Zodiac™ (not the sign you were born under), it’s copy cats and it’s limitations.
The first question we need to ask is did Zodiac™ ever make any of their inflatable boats in China?
The short answer is yes.
Zodiac manufactures parts and tubes in many different countries for the different market segments. Take for example the Avon™ manufacturing plant in the U.K., Zodiac™ has switched this capacity to military and professional only with just one model still wearing the Avon™ badge for the recreational market. As of this writing, and to this author’s best knowledge the new heads of Zodiac™ will be moving all of the Chinese Zodiac™ models back the French plant in mid 2017. Zodiac manufactured the “Zoom™”, Typhoon™”, and most recently the “Cadet™” model range in China to compete with the low end internet specials that were destroying the brand name.
With a clever marketing program online featuring metadata and keyword stuffing via shopping sites these no name “Zodiacs” won favor on cost alone.
If Zodiac™ made some models in China why are they better than the rest?
Zodiac™ inflatable boat models that were made in China were made in a Q.A. Certified factory by Zodiac™ trained technicians out of materials that also were Q.A. compliant.(Q.A. stands for quality assurance) Most if not all other Chinese inflatable boats utilize much different materials of a lesser quality or lighter grade, valves that look similar but share none of the same dimensions or parts making repairs difficult to perform when they become necessary. One thing to remember here is that China is the counterfeiting capital of the world, from microchips to cds, to inflatable boats they cover it all. Think about that little fact the next time you see that designer bag or watch for 1/10th the cost of the original. You will always get what you pay for!
Everything comes from China these days why not buy their inflatable boats too?
Getting a similar boat you saw online for $1000.00 because it was less $$$ than the Zodiac™ and came with free shipping? Wow! How can you pass it up! Those guys at IBC or any other Zodiac™ dealer in America want way more money, screw them! I’m taking the deal! To answer this rather emotional question correctly lets look at the typical logistical model for Chinese inflatable boats. What this means is you are getting a much cheaper boat than you think. The shipping companies still get paid by someone to drop it off to your door, there are no shipping elves working tirelessly while you sleep. The entity that sold the inflatable boat to you is getting paid 30% to 50% even after he imported it and paid the shipping elves to drop it at your door. Doing the math on a $1000.00 imitation Zodiac™ reveals that even at a 30% mark on that same boat means it now costs only $700.00. Now lets take out $200.00 for shipping because to be fair it’s much lighter than a real Zodiac that leaves a boat cost of $500.00.Because your seller bought a container full of these boats he got the shipping costs and import duties down to $250.00 per unit. This picture gets even clearer with a boat that now only costs $250.00, are you still following? Hopefully the buyer’s remorse and tears from knowing you got screwed aren’t preventing you from reading any further.
Why is it expensive to repair Chinese inflatable boats?
This answer hurts the most to the bargain shopper and results in angry calls to dealers and repair centers, not to mention this customer tends to leave Yelp reviews anytime they feel slighted. Let’s not forget that the person they are screaming at doesn’t even sell their type or model of boat. They are simply calling them to rain fire and brimstone on someone and since it said Zodiac™ on their shingle it might as well be them. Unfortunately the no name bad man who sold you your environmental disaster labeled as a boat doesn’t actually exist, he’s a figment of intelligent marketing to ignorant buyers. Now go read the part above again, understand the Zodiac™ brand and the knock off are cut from different cloth. At around $30.00 a sq ft Zodiac™ Strongan™ seems pretty expensive, and it is when you compare it to Qingdao special #1 PVC that the other boat is made from. Forget about comparing glues, most Zodiac™ boats are thermo-bonded™ in France the same way as was originally developed for the space program. What? Space program? You read it right Zodiac™ started out as and has always maintained an advanced materials and aerospace division ever since it’s beginning in 1886. Yes, some of the three Zodiac™ models produced in China use glue in their construction but it’s money thing remember? That money thing is no joke as the purpose built machines behind Zodiac’s™ patented process are stupid expensive, stupid complicated and super secret. What the tech savvy buyer needs to understand is there is no support, no parts, and not very much love for brand “X” from the People’s Republic anywhere in the world. Most everyone else in the world doesn’t buy inflatable boats made in China with free shipping, they tend to be a lot smarter with their money than us fat Americans. At least with a Zodiac™ you get accountability in the form of a warranty and a world wide dealer network where you can get parts and repairs done no matter how salty you are. Most of us will even fix your brand “X” but don’t act surprised when we tell you the cost of the repairs, we use the real stuff here.
Above I mentioned that Zodiac™ is moving all it’s boat manufacturing back to France,(except for the Oceana market), the smart guys over there figured out they could make the best possible boat in France out of real Strongan™ and ship it to the USA while still making money. Because we have such a big dealer network here in America we put all of our buying power together and save on shipping from Zodiac France™ to Zodiac USA™. It makes fiduciary sense and it makes environmental sense!
To sum all of this non-sense up if it doesn’t say Zodiac™, Bombard™, Avon™, or MILPRO™ you are likely not getting the boat you thought you were. If you have to go off reservation at least get a boat from a reputable dealer who carries the real stuff as well as an inexpensive brand that fits into your budget. This way you have some sort of support, parts, and a person to call if things get weird. Try to get a brand that has been around for more than 1 year or internet buying cycle as it has come to be known. Questions? Call us (503) 235-2628 we are Inflatable Boat Center, this is what we do.