Inflatable Boats Preventive Maintenance

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Inflatable boats are tough. However, tough as they are, inflatable boats are prone to a lot of damages not normally encountered by conventional boats. It is imperative that special care should be allotted to your inflatable boat if you want it to last for more than a season or two. Here are some guidelines that you can follow.

Don't Chafe the Boat

Abrasion is a big factor in inflatable boat maintenance, though oxidation and exposure to sun are primary factor in the degradation of inflatable boats.  Be careful where you drag or dock your inflatable. Rocks, logs and hinge bolts on docks can damage your inflatable.  These conditions cannot be totally eliminated so just be careful when dragging your inflatable on a pebbly beach. If you and your buddies can carry the boat, do so. If not, take care especially around coral and shells.  RIBs can better tolerate the dragging along rocky beaches but care should nevertheless be observed.

Ropes, lines and metal fittings can also cause chafing. You should consider flat nylon webbing instead of rope for tying boats on trailer. Protect your boat from shackles with plastic, like coffee-can lids. This way the shackle will rub against the plastic lid and not on the boat.

Keep the inflatable Clean

Keeping an inflatable clean is not really that impossible. It can be done but you need to out in effort.  With normal use (fishing, swimming, diving, snorkeling) an inflatable boat gets covered with sand and mud.  These little irritants can start leaks that are hard to find so it is best to clean the floor fabric once in a while and teach all your passengers to rinse their feet from sand before going aboard the inflatable.

Do a thorough washdown on the boat at intervals.  Deflate the boat and strip it of its content floorboards included. Re-inflate slightly then vacuum between seams and the floor fabric. Try to reach all those hard to reach places.  Wash the boat with detergent liquid soap, water and ammonia. There are special soaps for cleaning inflatables so you might want to try them.  Scrub the exterior too then flip the boat and scrub the interior.

Removing Bottom Growth

Growth can accumulate at the bottom of the boat. You have to scrub them off using a plastic scraper. Or, you can just take out the boat from the water and let it dry on the sun for a day. Wash the bottom with good old elbow grease. You can also use detergent with bleach and ammonia while you scrub the bottom with scrubbing brush.

Restoring to Original Color

Anything put under the sun's UVB and UVA lights will fade up to a certain point and dark colored boats are no exemption.  However, PVC boats are more susceptible to fading than Hypalon. If you are particular with the fading, you can opt to coat your boat with chemical restorers available in marine shops. However these chemicals contain abrasives and repeated use will be harmful to the boat's fabric like removing the UV barrier coating from PVC boats. If you still chose to use cleaners, make sure that it does not contain silicone.  Some seasoned boatmen prefer to just cover the inflatable boat with tarp to protect the boat from the sun. It has been proven effective. You can also spray on the boat 303 Protectant, a no silicone barrier, on a weekly basis to keep it shiny.

Painting Inflatable Boats

If the oxidation and fading is just too much, you might want to paint the inflatable. You can choose the same color or a new one.  Aesthetics is not the only concern as a badly faded boat is bound to leak air though the fabric.  Two coats of paint are normally required for a great finish. However if you change the color from dark to light, it might take 3 to 4 coats to even out the new color.

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