This time of year I get quite a few calls about storing inflatable boats for the winter season. “Should I leave it inflated, or deflated?”, is probably the most popular so lets start there.
Stowing Your Boat Deflated
If you are going to roll up and store your boat for the winter make sure you keep it off of the floor in your garage. It’s that one mouse you didn’t know you had that’s going to chew holes into it and make it a winter cache or nest. Do make sure your inflatable boat is clean and dry before you roll it up and stick it in it’s bag for several months. If it’s not clean and dry you will have a science experiment on your hands when you unroll it in the spring. The ocean, pond, river or lake included micro-organisms in it’s water that love a dark moist place, don’t make it easy for them. Don’t leave your inflatable boat outside rolled up against the house or you will likely get the science experiment, the mouse holes, and the spiders/ bugs all rolled into a giant spring roll of nightmares when you go to use it.
Don’t leave your boat out in the shed to die, or it likely will. Out of sight out of mind right? I get this call all the time, ” I bought a boat from you a year ago and when I unrolled it the attachments were coming off, is this under warranty?”. Short answer probably not. Typically when I look up the deal the customer bought it ten years ago and left it to die in his/her shed until someone said “boat” and triggered a memory. A lot of the time they thought they were calling someone else and that short answer sounds like, “I don’t sell
insert non-Zodiac brand here.” Your tin shed can get hotter than Hades in the summer time and colder than the Moon in winter time. Put ten years of that abuse and neglect to any boat, inflatable or otherwise, and you will encounter problems. Keep your investment shipshape by storing it in a house closet or in the garage off the floor and be a happy camper in the spring.
Stowing Your Boat Inflated
This one is hard for some people to figure out for some reason? If you are going to leave your inflatable boat inflated for the winter you better be prepared to kick some air into it once in awhile with your foot pump. Keep it full and firm and problem free.
Listen, air leaks out of a SCUBA tank or welding tank, balloon, etc. It’s air, don’t you remember anything from 2nd grade about air, or at the very least that balloon you tried to save when you were a kid? If you leave your inflatable boat rigged with a motor on a trailer for months of unseen neglect don’t call me in a frantic state on the first nice day to complain that your transom ripped off. (are you reading this volunteer fire dept.s across the country?) Yes it will happen, as the air leaks out the strain on the after tubes becomes non-conducive to a glued joint and it’s longevity. “I left my boat half inflated leaning against the wall and now it has holes in it”. This one sentence says it all in two words, half inflated. If you are going to snag on something believe it’s because there’s not enough air in the boat to keep it rigid and smooth. The guys/gals who are storing their boats this way are asking for a mouse hole or messed up attachments. The inflatable boat gets it’s strength from the air inside of it’s tubes, when you let half of it out you strain the system. It’s like bleeding a warrior of half of his blood then sending him into battle. It just doesn’t work. By far this storage scenario is one of the worst for the dreaded mouse hole problems. When you lean it up against a wall you put it directly in the path of the mice you didn’t think you had, and letting half of the air out only makes it possible for them to chew on it. Hey don’t believe me and IBC’s 40+ years of doing these repairs every single spring, find out for yourself, but don’t complain to me when it’s opening day and we are backed up for weeks with Fire Dept. Rescue Boats. Instead of the half inflated scenario just clean it and roll it up like above paragraphs or keep it full and firm. No one likes a floppy dinghy!
Of you are trailering your boat check it frequently throughout the winter, cover it with a good cover like Carver or Sunbrella and kick air into it when it needs it. Done!
I write this story with snow dumping outside the shop door before I go kick some air into my Bombard C4 Commando. Yes I’m going out tonight and probably in the morning too! I currently use my inflatable boat year round but I’ve stored it for years and years without a problem because I just followed the advice above.