Inflatable Boat Maintenance

Let’s spend a few minutes to talk about inflatable boat maintenance and it’s role on the life of your boat.

Proper inflation is the best preventative medicine you can do for your inflatable boat. By running a “floppy” or “soft” boat you are putting stresses on the seams and hardware that otherwise would be mitigated by the rigidity of a properly inflated boat. Remember to keep your boat tight and it will perform better, use less fuel and live a longer life.

Sand, we know it from beaches and from the sand paper on our workbench. There are many types and grades of sand but we’ll just concern ourselves with two for this article. The first type we are all familiar with is SiO2 better known as silicon dioxide in the form of quartz. The second type is CaCO3 or calcium carbonate that comes from biological sources (think pearls and shells). Sand by it’s self isn’t a problem but it sticks to feet and gets into the nooks and crannies of your inflatable boat where the grains do work (sanding) because of the action of the boat. Now if you don’t have enough air in your boat like mentioned above then you are speeding up the wear process. Remember to clean & rinse out your inflatable boat frequently and before it goes into storage every time. IBC sells patches and glue for those of you who think this doesn’t matter!

Sun exposure or as it is more correctly stated, radiation exposure. People online are always talking about the Sun’s UV radiation and how it it made their tubes sticky or brown or why you have to have Hypalon to beat it. Let’s go back a step and mention that UV radiation is absorbed at the same amount for both materials. I’m not making this stuff up it’s well understood from the fields of physics and it’s twin sister chemistry.  As a rule UV radiation at the correct energy density causes electrons to be liberated from atoms causing a decomposition and ejection of said atom. IBC’s very own Mike capitalized on this well understood phenomena as a laser engineer for the hi-tech and nano-tech fields in a prior life. Since he has many patents in directed energy and material science we tend not to argue about it with him. UV radiation damage is most commonly seen as photo bleaching, this is true for PVC or Hypalon or just about any other material under the Sun.Even a diamond will down convert to CO2 given enough exposure to the sun, nothing is forever. If your boat is chalky or frosted you have UV damage and it needs 303 or Polyguard. When stuff is left to die in the sun it does so very predictably and without fail.

The “brown” you see on vinyl compounds such as PVC and even Zodiac’s nigh indestructible Strongan™ , even the much touted Hypalon, is from long wave radiation exposure (you know this as heat) from around the 10.6 µm wavelength. Brownian Motion (named after Robert Brown from experiments in 1827), and cascading radiation absorption due to brownian motion is the mechanism here. Basically the more exposure the darker it gets, the darker it gets the more exposure it sees until decomposition and failure occurs. Leaving your boat, car or anything else out in the elements to die will provide those results. If you are keeping your dinghy on a davit for the whole year unprotected, until that one weekend when you decide to go boating, you can’t complain. It’s your own fault!

My suggestion to all of you who want to keep your boat for many years to come, is to properly inflate, clean and condition your boat.

Mike uses Aurora Speed Clean and Polyguard sold together as a kit from IBC as well as Aerospace 303 spray protectant for those easy on quick applications.

Speed Clean rinsed off
After proper cleaning with speed clean and rinsing/wiping down
303 applied
After applying 303 protectant

Remember no one likes a dirty floppy dinghy!