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Comparing infatables for shallow water/PWS/lakes/some rivers. How to buy well?

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  • Comparing infatables for shallow water/PWS/lakes/some rivers. How to buy well?

    Hello I am new to the powered inflatables and need some help.

    I have searched through the threads and tried to sort the abundance of opinions and information. I am starting to look for an inflatable for getting on the water. I have used and done very small repairs on hypalon inflatables and feel most comfortable with this material but I am not opposed to considering some of the other materials.

    What we will use it for:
    Near shore halibut and salmon (as comfort and confidence grows, I hope our range will grow)
    Little Su (lower)
    Lakes, deeper rivers/ Kenai legal
    Possible PWS hunts

    Usually 2 to 3 people with occasional capacity for all 5 in our young family

    I am most likely going to buy a used boat but I want to buy well. I have heard of some boats cavitating or bending in different circumstances. Are there brands and models to be sure to consider/look for? Are there brands and models that are not good quality? (Zodiac?, Mercury?, Achilles?, etc.)

    What are deal breakers when buying an inflatable for saltwater use? What things are headache problems you don't want to deal with?

    What are the most critical items that need to be in good condition? How can you tell? (ex. how do I know the transom is good?)

    What is too big to beach launch with 2 or 3 guys?

    Thanks for your help! I really do appreciate it.


  • #2
    Be careful buying used, but don't be afraid. Checking the transom is not as easy as just looking at it. Inpsect it over really good if it is a wooden transom. Check out the front thrust boards - actually pull the floor and look at them. The glue should all be tight and well adhered to the boards. Most times if it is a single owner you can tell how good they took care of the boat by general appearance, but an old boat like mine (1985 Zodiac GRIII) could still have a bad transom even if it was well taken care of...a little water left to sit in the floor can be a costly problem for you. Trust me - I know...and even paying out over $1K to professionals for a new transom and I am still having major issues with it.

    Things I don't like to deal with ....

    Mostly Sharp things make me worry. Waves over 3 foot when I am loaded up really make you slow down to under hull speed and if fully loaded there is no way to bale water effectively. I have been in 6 footers loaded with camping gear and you really go through the fuel going 6mph.

    Kids and hooks might be of great concern....

    Whales seem to cause me concern but not others much.

    Large sea lion bulls scare the bejesus out of me...had one surface behind the boat (like 6 feet away) when I was half way up (hand pulling) a shrimp pot gun (forgot it) and he was looking really interested in my boat (probably smelled like herring). I keep my motor running now if there are any sea lions or seals around.

    A new 15' zodiac is very expensive for a "rubber ducky" IMO and you might be better served buying an aluminum boat instead of new rubber. I picked up my 15'5"er for 3500 with a 1986 40hp zuki and all the trimmings. This size would be marginal for 5 even if young kids even on a day trip. Camping with that many and the "stuff" that kids need for camping would be almost impossible. I have taken mine camping with 3 adults and a chocolate lab - but the harbor master was "concerned" that I was overloaded (I was not at weight capacity) and it definately looks like it by the time you put camping and shrimp gear and firewood on. For your needs you will definately want to go larger than a 15'er.

    There is a fellow in PWS that has a newer red 15 footer with the speed rails and a bimini top with a steering wheel setup. He has a 50hp tohatsu on it and he goes everywhere out there with a boat load of gear.

    Good luck with your search.


    • #3
      The interior space on a inflatable is non existent. These boats were the "in thing" during the middle to late 1980's but people quickly realized they got tired of sitting on buckets and coolers while being completely exposed to the elements. And if you ever want your wife to enjoy time out on the water in Alaska, don't put her and the kids in a unprotected inflatable.
      They are a safe way to enjoy boating but if you get one large enough to enjoy (at least 16 foot) then it is to big for two adults to beach easily.

      Don't mean to bust your bubble but you would be better off with a used metal or glass boat in the 17-19 foot range.


      • #4
        Hmmm....good thoughts. I appreciate your posts.

        Are the inflatables cooler width? I saw that some of Jim King's are, but is that common?




        • #5
          Cooler width - sure, depending on the size of the cooler. My 100 quart will not fit sideways between the tubes in mine. inside width of my zodiac is 36 inches - lenght is 9 foot (and you have to have room to steer the tiller) not including the nose cover.


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