Another Day at the Office

 As we navigated our way up the winding lush and rocky banked river, we found the optimum location to put newly taught skills to the test. With ten knots of current, the boulder lined channel provided a challenging swift water chute to practice personnel recovery tactics. Utilizing Zodiac MILPRO Emergency Response Boats (ERB), we had the perfect platform, which provided plenty of reserve buoyancy and maneuverability to execute our simulated victim in water pick up techniques.

Here at Inflatable Boat Center, we are privileged to be an authorized Elite Zodiac MILPRO dealer and service shop. To be authorized doesn’t just mean sign up and sell a boat; instead it requires a serious level of  commitment, interest and experience with the products.  All of our IBC staff members own and use Zodiac inflatable boats year round and have done so for many years, both recreationally, in the military, and professionally. In addition, we strive to learn everything we can about our prospective customers and retain contact with existing customers in order to supply them with the perfect product for their requirements.

The new Zodiac MILPRO craft of choice for first responders is the Zodiac ERB.

These models offer a choice of floor systems, both aluminum or inflatable, fast inflation systems, Zodiac special inter-communicating valves, over pressure relief valves, quality life lines, and the perfect hull design for shallow and swift water operation. For the Spokane Valley Fire Department, the ERB 380 (12’6”) proved to be the perfect combination of performance, capacity, and portability. Spokane Valley Fire Dept. chose to carry the boat to the water vs launching from the trailer to match conditions found in the field. Powered by a 30hp Rescue Pro PumpJet outboard, the boat had enough power to get 6 people up on plane, and moreover, propelled 3 operators easily through all the swift water conditions we encountered.

In addition to supplying the fire department with a new boat and engine package, IBC offered to host a genuine Zodiac Maritime Academy training class as this was their first Zodiac; the perfect boat doesn’t help without the proper skills to operate and maintain it. This educational program specifically covered basic boat operations and maneuvering, risk assessment, broaching and re-righting techniques, personnel recovery, swift water passage making, general maintenance and in-field repairs. It takes many years of training and experience to not only teach a class like this, but also cater to the specific needs of the customer. This is an example of why we here at IBC are often selected as the Zodiac supplier for many government agencies as well as recreational boaters; from young families getting into boating, to RV expeditions, to coastal and offshore tour boat companies, as well as world cruising sailors.

Anybody can drive a boat fast and in a straight line however, but steering a boat with a tiller handle outboard is very foreign to most people including seasoned boaters. It’s the tiller handle that provides instantaneous control and allows for nimble guidance of the vessel. This is mission critical in fast-moving water as a boat can get thrown around in a split second, therefore the ability to make rapid corrections to ensure a proper course becomes a necessity of the mission.

Through coordinated instruction and live on the water demonstration, lessons were quickly learned and actively practiced among all fire rescue team members. By the second day of our course of instruction, all trainees were efficient in operating their craft with the judgment required for making the call as to what side of the boat to perform a pick up on, as well as have their crew members organized and ready to accomplish a rescue. During our class’s de-briefing our new operators rated themselves as much more confident and prepared to use their new Zodiac ERB  for  their own missions.  There is always a sense of triumph at the end of our intense training evolutions knowing that we’ve played a small role of indirectly saving lives by teaching the skills we have spent many years developing.

Adam Fry is a lifelong Zodiac operator from Kauai, Hawaii that now lives in Portland Oregon. Adam is IBC’s lead MILPRO Specialist and is certified in repairs and operation of the full Zodiac MILPRO line. To speak with Adam about your agency’s needs call (503)235-2628

The Strongan Duotex Difference

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.

Zodiac Strongan Duotex outside seam
Zodiac Strongan Duotex inside seam

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.

Questions?

Confused?

Give us a call and we’ll sort you out! (503)235-2628

 

 

 

 

 

 

Western Vancouver Island Surf Meets Zodiac Futura

Another one of our customers here at IBC was looking for a good surf boat to use on an expedition to Vancouver Island in BC. As per usual we had already made that trip ourselves years ago so we had a few ideas. Adam put together a Zodiac MK2 Futura HD for the platform because of the patented Futura hull design allows very quick and laser precise handling. The Zodiac Futura’s ability to turn in it’s own length without ventilation or cavitation makes it ideal for maneuvering in the impact zone and reef channels leading to the lineup.

Having surfers or swimmers in the water while operating a boat can be nerve wracking and dangerous to say the least. With this in mind Adam had our mechanic Chris rig an Evinrude Rescue Pro ETEC jet pump for an outboard which was developed for this exact purpose for our nation’s special forces. The Evinrude Rescue Pro ETEC outboard has evolved from a special forces motor in it’s Enforcer configuration to the Rescue Pro which is used by many of the swift water rescue agencies in America today. When the calls come in for a jet outdrive the options are limited to mostly the Bombard Commando series of inflatable boats. Typical outboard jets do not work with the Zodiac Futura Hull well at all, which is why the Evinrude ETEC Rescue Pro is used on the special Futura hulled boats for rescue, and military special forces. Making the leap to the recreational market was an inevitable outcome because of the protection it offers to people in the water.

No one likes to be out in the doldrums on a boat with the sun blazing down on them, and for this Adam added a Bimini Top to the Zodiac Futura’s tubes. Simply by un-folding the Bimini and clipping it’s straps to d-rings will alleviate much of the sun’s harmful rays and provide a cool dry shaded area for the person not surfing at the time. The Bimini Top is so popular we add it to many other inflatable boats for everything from fishing to camping or even just a nice cruise on the river.

Adam put the Zodiac MK2 Futura HD on a trailer for places that allowed access via a launch ramp. Those more remote surf destinations where services are unavailable require the use of launching wheels and Adam has again put his years of experience to use here. Adam has even went as far as providing inflatable launching rollers that can be rolled and stowed anywhere you can take a rolled up boat.

To have Adam build your dream boat give him a call (503)235-2628 and get out on the water today.

Zodiac MILPRO MK4 HD Alaskan Surf Or Bust!

Those of us who were on the oceans during the 80’s can remember exploring in Alaska, and surfing every break we found while sailing around the Arctic. Seeing new guys doing what we did some 30+ years ago gets the heart pumping and memories flowing again. Many of the early photographs of Mike (one of our salesmen) are of him in a Zodiac inflatable boat surrounded by ice or tundra in the background. Mike took a surfboard or two everywhere he went when he sailed from Hawaii or California during his many years at sea and hit all the spots others hadn’t made it to yet.

Flash forward to today’s modern age of cell phones, gps, and digital cameras and we see a whole new generation utilizing the same Zodiac MILPRO inflatable boats as Mike did back in the times of yore.

Today’s example is the Zodiac MILPRO MK4 HD, and for exploring around the arctic you can do no better. Because of the Zodiac MILPRO MK4 HD’s ability to be rolled up and stowed you can now take a heavy duty boat where ever the wind blows. Packed down into bags the Zodiac MILPRO MK4 HD isn’t much bigger than our shop dog Nora ,seen here relaxing in front of the Zodiac MILPRO MK4 HD. Fishing, hunting, cargo transportation, surfing, diving, shipyard, tending, you name it the Zodiac MILPRO MK4 HD does it all and with Futura Hull performance too!

Speaking of performance the Zodiac MILPRO MK4 HD can take twin long shaft 40hp outboards or you can run a Yamaha F70 (our favorite) and really scoot across the water. The Zodiac MILPRO MK4 HD’s size allows it to go up rivers and sloughs from the ocean with ease making that camp load out a snap and a one trip operation. Almost 2 tons of cargo for a capacity and incredible buoyancy that drafts in inches rather than feet means the Zodiac MILPRO MK4 HD goes and does where and what other boats can’t or won’t.

Call us at IBC (503)235-2628 to speak with one of our experienced staff members about your next adventure, we’d love to help!

CAPACITY

. maximum number of persons (ISO6185) : 12
. maximum payload including engine and fuels (ISO6185) : 1720 kg / 3792 lbs
. floorboard usable area : 3.585 m² / 38.57 sq ft
. buoyancy tube volume : 2500 l / 88 cu ft

DIMENSIONS

. overall length : 5.30 m / 17’ 5”
. inside length : 3.70 m / 12’ 2”
. overall width : 2.14 m / 7’
. inside width : 1.04 m / 3’ 5”
. weight empty : 150 kg / 331 lbs
. buoyancy tube diameter : 0.55 m / 1’10”
. folded dimensions : bag 1 5’1”x2’6”x1’5” – bag 2 4’5”x2’2”x0’10”

SAFETY / INFLATION

. number of airtight compartments on main buoyancy tube : 5
. intercommunicating, inflation valves : 4
. inflatable keel : 1
. lower tubes : 2
. design category (EC 94/25) : C

ENGINE POWER

. shaft length : L 20”
. recommended power : 45 kW / 60 HP
. maximum power : 60 kW / 80 HP
. maximum power with 2 engines : 2 x 30 kW / 2 x 40 HP
. maximum engine weight : 140 Kg / 308 lbs
. maximum weight with 2 engines : 2 x 95 Kg / 2 x209 lbs

STANDARD EQUIPMENT

FABRIC:
. buoyancy tubes : black , 1670 dtx, polyester, hypalon neoprene
. speed tubes : black , 940 dtx, polyamid, hypalon neoprene
. bottom : black , 940 dtx, polyamid, hypalon neoprene
. keel : black, 940 dtx, polyamid, hypalon neoprene
TRANSOM MARINE PLYWOOD:
. self-bailers : 4
. aluminium engine mounting plate : 1
. engine transom pad (marine plywood) : 1
. transom triangular deflector : 2
. transom bottom stainless steel protection shoe : 1
FLOORBOARD:
. anti-skid floorboard (anodised aluminum) : 4 parts
. bow floorboard marine plywood : 2
. stringers, wood profile : 2
. fixed bow thrust board : 1
VALVES:
. buoyancy tube intercommunication / inflation valves (delrin cap) : 4
. keel inflation valve (delrin): 1
. inflation valves on hoses to speed tubes (delrin): 2
REINFORCEMENTS:
. all around rubbing strake, flat profile, black: 1
. large transom ovoid reinforcement : 1670 dtx (PY)
. rubbing strake bow triangular profile : 1
. rubbing strake underneath lower tubes : 1 + 1

HANDLING

. lateral large lifting D rings (stainless steel with black coating) : 2
. bow lifting rings (stainless steel folding pad eyes on thrust board) : 2
. aft lifting rings (stainless steel U-bolts on transom) 2
. bow handle (plated brass) with black coating : 1
. exterior lifeline : all around
TOWING:
. aft towing rings, (stainless steel U bolts on transom) : 2
. bow large towing D-rings on tube (stainless steel with black coating) 2
OTHER EQUIPMENT:
. foot bellows + hose : 2
. repair kit with pressure indicator : 1
. paddles (aluminum shaft, plastic blade) with brackets : 2
. floorboard bag : 1
. boat bag : 1

 

 

 

Zodiac MILPRO MK2 Grand Raid Goes To OSU Research Dept.

Around here at IBC we get excited when we get requests from marine studies institutes looking for mission specific boats. Being marine life conservationists ourselves and boat enthusiasts we always wish we can go off on these missions to swim with sharks, or collect data about birds, etc.

Today’s mission was the latter, marine birds was the topic and night ops was the mission. To complete the OSU mission researchers had to make their observations and conduct their various operations in the dark in littoral zones where an ordinary boat just couldn’t go, nor carry the compliment of passengers and required science packages. IBC delivered a Zodiac MK2 Grand Raid (think Jacques Cousteau boat) which has the ability to carry an enormous amount of cargo and offers the robust fabric and reliability that only the Zodiac MILPRO line can deliver.

Areas that require beaching in turbulent conditions on variegated rocky coastlines require a level of finesse and toughness in the boat as well as the nighttime operators conducting the studies. The Zodiac MK2 Grand Raid meets and exceeds all expectations in this regard, and it does it at cost that doesn’t break the educational institute bank.

 

 

Other uses people might associate with the Zodiac MILPRO MK2 Grand Raid are rescue, law enforcement, heavy industry, and of course military. Some of our recreational users also spec out the Zodiac MILPRO MK2 Grand Raid for their tenders or primary boat activities. It’s very easy to understand why based on the Grand Raid’s reputation for toughness, stability and quality of construction.

To see a Zodiac MILPRO Grand Raid for yourself stop in to our shop or call one of our MILPRO specialists (503)235-2628 to discuss your needs.