Carrying Inflatable Raft on a Soft Top?
Anyone have experience (good or bad) carrying an inflatable (say 8 feet long) on top of a canvas soft top? My soft top is strong enough that I can hang from the middle of the soft top rear support bar and it hardly moves. I weigh 150 lbs.
Ideally, a guy could trailer it with the inflatable on top. Purpose is to have something for people to get into (or at least stay mostly out of the water) if the aluminum boat sinks in the ocean. (Yes, everyone on my scow is required to wear their life jacket at all times.) The inflatable would also be nice to have if you want to anchor up and row to shore so you can leave the boat moored. A tie down system would have to either break away or be quick to release in the event of a sinking.............
Photos would be particularly helpful. The boat in question is the 20ft Wooldridge in my Avatar photo. I know I could spend a small fortune and have an aluminum tube system or partial hard top welded up, but I am hoping to find something that could be done economically by myself.
I don't have a soft top, I have a Sea Sport with a unusual dingy rack on my roof that I have never seen before except mine. Maybe this will give you an idea on what you could do on your boat. Sorry I don't have a picture to send, but I will try to describe it and how it works. It is stainless steal tubing (aluminum would be fine) it is 48 inches wide and a bit longer in length, it sits off the roof 12 inches and kayaks can be slid under it even with the dingy on top. On the port and starboard sides the tube is rounded, the inflatable's tubes rest on these corners. It rests at such a point that it is nicely "cupped" over the rack, the dingy is upside down on it. It is strapped down with one rachet strap and few bungies, not much really. If you ran two bars, like a truck roll bar, up well over the top of your soft top and two bars conecting them for structure, you would have the same thing. It slides on and off with oars in place really easy, I do it alone while standing on the bow. My inflatable is average size, two person with room for gear. Being top heavy or the extra weight is not an issue on my boat, make sure it wouldn't be on yours also. Good luck!
I have a soft top. These are things to consider...
1) The soft top may hold your static weight, but get into some chop or pounding seas and it might just collapse. A 60-80lb inflatable can exert forces more than 2 or 3x's that...
2) The wear and tear on your soft top will be dramatic...
I had an aluminum rack built by Silver Streak Boats. (about $400)
The inflatable rides on top. I'll include a photo...
I experimented with two ply wood platforms. The platforms gave the inflatable a flat surface, (IN CALM WATERS - a platform to sit and glass from), and the platforms could be laid from gunwale to gunwale - over the top of the seats for a sleeping platform.
It worked great but is a bit combersome/heavy. Anyway, the inflatable oar stand wore a hole partially through the ply wood platform. Just basic friction. If the inflatable had been on my soft top the hole would be through the canvas...
I use two ratchet straps to hold the boat on top. When highway traveling or in high winds I tie the bow of the inflatable to the bow of my boat. (like in the photo) It keeps the bow down vs. sailing like a kite. On the water or when fishing from the bow I'll move the ratchet strap to the sides (out of the way). It has taken some trial and error to work this out.
I mounted two knives (in sheath) near where the ratchet straps tie down the inflatable. Cheap but sharp knives, covered in a light coat of grease. (B&J $5) Basically disposable knives. In an emergency you pull the knife, cut the strap and the inflatable is free.
Another benefit of having the rack... I'm experimenting with PVC and ply wood before launching production in aluminum. But I created rod holders on the bottom of the rack (above the canvas - room for 12 rods) and a long tube to hold the net on the outer edge of the rear legs of the rack. (kind of hard to describe... I'll look for better photos.)
Hope this helps.
PS... I know they say new boats won't sink (only swamp) but I carry the inflatable, and PLB and an immersion suit for each person on board.
I guess the wear & tear on the soft top is not worth it.........
It may be time for me borrow a MIG welder and learn how to weld.......
Hi, I have square tube bows that are quite strong. I travel down the hiway at 55 and the top has handled it fine. I do put something between the raft and the top. I have recently added a camper top to the rear and had the bows (3) made of stainless and are very strong. The raft is 14 footer.
I'm having Karold's welding in Fairbanks custom make me an ALASKAN LUGGAGE rack for my mod of the year. It is kinda of like Win mags but I'm having it mounted on pads so it can be removed. Having three rocket launchers built on each side. Will use the rack to haul light bulky stuff like shrimp pots, rope, bouys, raft. Nothing over 200 lbs. about 42 inches long and 72 inches wide. Here is a pic of the mounting. This is a photo of a rack built in Valdez. I'm going to use the same method, but the rack will be longer and be able to hold my raft.