Inflatable dinghies are a great way to explore the coastline, especially when you are at anchor off-shore.
They give you the freedom to roam new islands, coves, secluded spots and explore, and all for a relatively small cost. They are easy to store, deflate when you aren’t using them, they come with all sorts of features. They can also get you to shore safely in an emergency situation.
So, if you are undecided on whether an inflatable dinghy is the best choice for you, read on.
Why Buy an Inflatable Dinghy?
If like me, you are the adventurous type and like to travel across the ocean to new lands, an inflatable dinghy is a “must-have” for boat safety and convenience.
An inflatable dinghy is the answer. Many sailboats tow an inflatable, or keep them stored on deck, ready to deploy. It means while your yacht is secure in the bay, it leaves you free to do the tourist thing, and access the delights of your new surroundings. It also means you can take advantage of shops and chandleries, restocking on vital supplies.
Convenience to Shore
The third reason is convenience. Imagine it’s a warm summer evening and the beach in the bay looks inviting.
There are bars and restaurants dotted along the coastline. Can you think of a better way to end the day than a refreshing drink and some excellent food under the stars? It’s time to deploy the inflatable dinghy from your davit system. Without one, you are destined to enjoy the view from afar instead of savoring the atmosphere for yourself.
Save on Marina Costs
Since you want to get to shore, a marine will charge you for each trip. Unless you have your own inflatable dinghy!
Marina fees are expensive, wherever you go in the world, and the chances are you’ll find yourself anchored off some golden bay to avoid the expense. Also, you may not want the hassle of maneuvering into a slip, especially if you’re only staying a night or two.
Many inflatable dinghies can cost as little as $500 – $1,000.
In the grand scheme of things, the versatility of a dinghy, and the number of times you will thank the stars you got one will outweigh the cost. It will also pay for itself very quickly when you look at the savings of marina fees and the ease of getting to shore.
Features of an Inflatable Dinghy
There are many makes and models of inflatable dinghies, and each has its merits. I want to focus on the features I look for, and what you should expect from an average inflatable. Also, I have included some other considerations you should have when buying one. For me, safety is paramount, so those features are included too.
- Lightweight — Inflatable dinghies are lightweight and, therefore, easy to deploy and maneuver. It also means that with a limited crew, or even if you are a solo boater, using your dinghy should be a straightforward affair.
- Storable — Because they are inflatable, storing them away either on the boat or at home during the off-season should be a breeze. Simply deflate and fold into the protective bag, and store it away until the next spring.
- Towable D-rings — Many boaters tow their inflatables behind them as they sail. Because they are lightweight, they create minimal drag and have little to no effect on the performance of the boat.
- Faster — Dinghies are nimble and lighter in the water, so they are usually quicker.
- Fuel-efficient — Because they create minimum drag and skip over the waves, the fuel-efficiency increases. Again, I come back to the fact that inflatables are lightweight.
- Stable — Inflatable dinghies are very stable boats. They are filled with air, making the boat light and buoyant. They don’t rock as much as rigid boats.
- Suitable in all waters — Inflatable dinghies are an excellent choice for shallow waters, getting you right up to the beach. They are also ideal because of their stability, making them equally as effective in deeper waters with an outboard motor.
- Enhanced safety features — With a rigid boat, when you spring a leak, invariably it sinks. Inflatable boats are constructed with individual air chambers that, if deflated, only affect a part of the boat. It means for you to sink, you would need to be pretty unfortunate and spring a puncture in multiple locations.
- Durable material — Many of the inflatable dinghies on the market today are made from multi-layered UV protected PVC. This makes them highly durable and sun resistant.
- Wooden or aluminum floors — While some have inflatable floors, others have the option of a reinforced wooden or aluminum floor. This gives the boat all the advantages of maximum buoyancy but with added stability.
Recommended Pressure for Inflatable Dinghies
While you should check the specific manufacturing guidelines of your chosen dinghy to get the most accurate information, there are some basic PSI recommendations when inflating a boat.
- Tubes and Chambers — 3.6 PSI
- Inflatable Keel — 5 PSI
- Inflatable Floor — 10 PSI
The 6 Best Inflatable Dinghies
Newport Vessels Dana Inflatable Dinghy Tender
Newport Vessels is one of the most recognizable and popular inflatable dinghy manufacturers.
The Dana dinghy model is constructed from USCG-rated, three-layer 1100 Denier UV protected PVC, which makes it durable and sun resistant. If you like to use your tender or dinghy on super-sunny days like me, this is a real bonus.
It features a marine-wood floor with aluminum framing, an air keel, sturdy carry handles and sturdy D-rings for towing or attaching a bimini.
- Material: UV Coated PVC
- Size: 8 ft 10 in – 12 ft 6 in
- Max Load: 1,603 lbs for largest model
Pexmoor Inflatable Dinghy
This Pexmoor dinghy is considerably cheaper than the Newport Vessels model, but that doesn’t mean the quality isn’t there.
It’s constructed from 3-ply sun-treated 1100D PVC to ensure minimum wear and tear.
It has a wooden reinforced floor for durability and stability, which is great if you have a poor sense of balance like me.
It also has multiple air chambers for safety should you suffer a puncture.
It even has a rod holder. This inflatable dinghy is travel-friendly, car-friendly and deflation-friendly, making it easy to store away.
- Material: PVC
- Size: 7 ft 5 in – 10 ft
- Max Load: 880 lbs for largest model
Dolphin Model 270 Inflatable Dinghy
Like the others featured, this dinghy is sun-treated to avoid UV damage.
It has heat-welded seams and are suitable for salt and freshwater environments.
The floor is inflatable, so lacks the rigid wooden elements of the Newport Vessels dinghy, but it holds 8 PSI and gets sturdy and hard.
The emphasis on this boat is very much on the “ease of use” angle, meaning that it is a great choice if you want a dinghy that is easy to store, easy to transport and durable.
If like me, you want a hassle-free boating life, this is a reliable choice.
- Material: Reinforced PVC
- Size: 8 ft 8 in
- Max Load: 1,070 lbs
Uboway Inflatable Dinghy
This Uboway is at the budget end of the dinghy market, so it may not stand up to the rigors of being a sea-going tender. However, it’s a great option for ferrying you, your goods and family to and from the harbor side to your anchored mooring.
It has an inflatable floor, safety lines, a bench seat, and you can mount a 4 HP outboard motor.
If you’re as safety conscious as me, it has four separate air chambers, should one spring a puncture.
It’s also lightweight, coming in at just 52 pounds.
- Material: Polyester and PVC
- Size: 7 ft 55 in – 9 ft 83 in
- Max Load: 836 lbs for largest model
Hydroforce Caspian Pro 93 Inflatable Dinghy
This mid-priced Caspian Pro has three D-rings to attach a safety line.
It’s also constructed from high-grade PVC and, like the Uboway, has four chambers for added safety and buoyancy.
The solid floor, coupled with the inflatable keel, give this dinghy greater stability and maneuverability, especially when it’s operated under power of an outboard engine.
It has safety drain valves and a super-tough rubbing strake for protection against impacts and friction.
- Material: PVC
- Size: 9 ft 16 in
- Max Load: 1,058 lbs
Bris Inflatable Dinghy Tender
Like the Dolphin, the seams on this Bris Inflatable Dinghy are heat welded, which means there’s no glue and only a super-durable seal.
This dinghy is at the upper end of the price scale. But it a lot of features. It has two aluminum seats as well as a rigid aluminum floor.
It has a drain valve, three separate air chambers and can support 10HP outboard motor.
It is also the only dinghy on the list to have a bright orange color, making it the ideal safety boat for emergency evacuations and to be easily spotted from search and rescue teams.
- Material: PVC with polyester support
- Size: 19 ft
- Max Load: 1,102 lbs
Choosing an inflatable dinghy for your sailboat of cabin cruiser is a no-brainer, especially if you want all the convenience and none of the hassle.
It allows you to get to shore safely, and that’s a bonus, especially as us sailors like to explore the new places we find the wind has blown us.
An inflatable dinghy is not just another cheap boat, it will become your most valued accessory, and one you will come to rely on. Also be sure to protect your dinghy with a cover when it’s not in use. That way, it’s sure to last!