Life at anchor means taking the dinghy everywhere. When Red Ranger is our home, the dinghy, named Scout, is our car. We're looking at a replacement. We really like the air-floor because they're light.
She was new in 2012. It's been a good, long run. But. Her days are numbered. And the numbers are getting smaller.
She looks pretty good here. Both side tubes are holding up well.
But the air floor — down inside — out of sight — is flat. It's a useless bag that holds air for a while, but it's gone in an hour or two.
She's still usable, but it's difficult to get things in and out. The floor is a soft rubber bag.
The lack of a usable deck inside makes moving around hazardous. Simple things, like climbing down from Red Ranger and getting seated are tricky.
In a way, it may be like a liferaft where the floor is just a bag to keep you out of the water. But. You don't get into and out of a liferaft too often. As I understand it, you get in once and out once.
The lifespan for a Hypalon™ dinghy is often stated as seven to fifteen years.
An Abusive Relationship
We hoped to get a few more years in her. When the floor wouldn't hold air, we felt that one more round of patches was justified. We needed to find some experts who could work with the Hypalon adhesives.
The folks at Air-Sea Safety, local experts in dinghy repair, are reluctant to tackle the high-pressure floor. These are hard to patch, it appears. I kind of like it when folks turn down work like that. I'm guessing the repair wouldn't hold up and they don't want a grumpy customer.
Years ago, we put a HUGE hole in one of the pontoons. A repair shop tried, valiantly, to fix it. But each patch leaked. We gave up on them, and eventually wound up at Sirocco Marine in Annapolis, were they put on a solid patch. This provided ample evidence that some vendors know what they're doing and some don't have a clue. The clueless ones don't seem to say "no" when they should.
We liked a dinghy that would roll up into a small bundle for winter storage. We generally lowered it into the saloon. It weighs almost 90 pounds, so some care is required.
The high-tech Hypalon (or the newer CSM) is — generally — super-durable. It withstands UV and salt water. The problem is that it can't be welded and can only be glued, which can lead to leaky seams. The alternative, PVC, is not as durable. PVC is also cheaper. And PVC can be welded, leading to more durable seams. The problem is that PVC is not UV-proof.
A replacement dinghy will require a bit more care and attention. We were not nice to our dinghy. The UV exposure, in particular, is something we need to manage better.
We got Scout in October 2012, lashed her onto the deck and sailed down to Florida. The dinghy was used constantly until late 2014. We left her in the water and in the sun for months at a time. I remember using a 2x4 block of wood to scrape barnacles off the bottom when we finally put the dinghy up on deck to head north in 2014.
She was left on deck and used intermittently for four more years. While she was stored upside down, she was in the direct sun. In June of 2021, she was working beautifully. But by October. the floor had stopped holding air.
We think, perhaps, these new Takacat dinghies might be useful. The T300LX might be a suitable replacement.