By Bruce Duncan
Last issue I looked at the advantages of a small inflatable which could be put out of sight at home in a cupboard and yet easily transported to the water in the boot of the car. This issue I thought we would take a look at what its big brothers have to offer and their advantages for divers.
Personally II have always been a great fan of centre console boats for a long time but as we know all boats are a trade-off to some degree. First off, those divers that are looking at purchasing a large inflatable should be quite happy to accept that with this style of boat you will be open to the weather, and storage space is limited. Taking these factors into consideration, given the right conditions an inflatable can still be a fun boat for all the family. The weight saving by not having a cabin structure, and light air bags forming a large part of the hull can often save the owner a lot of money in not having to upgrade his tow vehicle, as big inflatables can often be safely and legally towed by the family car. This weight saving (as much as 50%) and lower profile style of boat can also make the launching and retrieving on exposed ramps in rough conditions a lot easier and safer exercise. Most inflatables have rope grab handles running the full length of the hull, which makes the holding of the boat a lot easier when trying to manoeuvre it on and off the trailer, and hold onto while the tow vehicle is being parked.
It is often very easy to tell which flash fibreglass or aluminium runabouts have been owned by divers as they tend to get knocked about by tanks and weight belts and age very quickly. The soft tubes of an inflatable act as a shock absorber and are less likely to mark when banged around; sure you do have to be a bit more careful when landing fish or a bag of crayfish, but put into fish bins they can cause no harm.
Stability is a major factor when diving, especially in exposed waters and this is one area where an inflatable comes into its own. I have seen three big burly, fully kitted up divers all sitting on the one sponson ready to roll over the side on the skipperâs call, as he has manoeuvred the inflatable in choppy seas, with no significant list on the boat.
A lot of divers prefer to have the boatman follow the divers bubbles rather than having the boat anchored off while the boys are down below blowing bubbles. Here again the low profile of an inflatable that has less windage than a conventional cabin boat of the same size makes it less stressful on the boatman. It is hard enough at times to keep an eye out for the bubble trails in good conditions let alone having to fight the helm of a boat that is being constantly blown around by the wind and watch for bubbles at the same time.
This now brings me to the next important feature, visibility. Not only is it important when travelling from A to B but it is critical when watching out for the bubble trail and surfacing divers. Many a time I have been left on top with the boat and have got majorly stressed when the divers have become separated. Now I have to try and keep tabs on two widening bubble trails while contending with a boat being blown about with poor and cluttered visibility due to the high cabin and tinted screens. Centre console inflatable dive boats are a heck of a lot easier to operate in such conditions. Divers have little understanding of how stressful being the boatman can be; once a mate of mine went straight down and got six crays in one spot and spent the rest of the time sitting on the reef in one spot just admiring the scenery. Little did he know I was watching his bubbles constantly coming up from the one spot and not moving, so after 30 minutes my mind had him trapped in a cave or pinned down by a giant octopus, and he wondered why I was grumpy with him when he came up.
Big inflatables do have the trade-off of having few areas apart from the centre console for storage. With the centre console being basically the only true dry area safety gear such as flares, epirbs and first aid kits should be stored there. Heavy dive bottles and weight belts can do some serious damage to both boat and crew if not properly secured and tied down in proper racks. High sided plastic fish bins with non-skid matting glued to the bottom to stop them sliding about are not only ideal for stowing loose gear but also the catch of the day.
A lot of people have a fear of fishing from an inflatable, which is quite natural, but if simple precautions and care are taken, these fears are groundless. Simple disciplines such as when you open a tackle box â you close and lock it before you do anything else, and the same applies with knives â either keep them sheathed or at the bottom of a fish bin. Bringing fish over the side of the boat is probably the most dangerous part of the whole exercise of fishing. With a wet coal sack or rubber mat laid over the area of the sponson you are fishing, and again taking care to play the fish out and checking it is not just lip hooked before you lift it on board and straight into the fish bin you have little to fear. Best of all, why not set a rule that all fish are netted in the water and only then brought inside the boat. Never, ever have a gaff on board, as it is only a recipe for disaster. One of the big issues with inflatables is that there are no rod holders in the sponsons and rods flying about can damage themselves, the boat and you, and often all at the same time if the conditions are rough enough. Vertical rod racks bolted to the transom or the sides of the centre console will solve this storage problem and always remember to remove the hooks and sinkers before you get underway.
Last but not least when looking at the advantages of an inflatable, is that after a day on the water there is just the job of washing down the boat and a soft broom soap down and wash off is only going to take the time it takes to boil the crays.
BUYERS GUIDE (advertorial)
Aquapro: For 14 years Aquapro have been a world leader in inflatable boat design and construction. Sold worldwide they have been extensively tested in New Zealand, with our rugged coastline providing perfect conditions for developing our product range. We have established a brand synonymous with superior quality, rugged dependability and uncompromising attention to detail. Our construction methods are unique in the inflatable industry and we offer two fabric options for most of our range and have a proven track record. For the weekend and casual boater we recommend a German Polymer fabric. All the structural seams and internal bulkheads are hot air welded and internally taped. For the serious commercial operator, we recommend a French Hypalon fabric. All seams and internal bulkheads are glued and taped internally for 100% air retention. For the serious diver we offer a purpose built Hypalon tender in 3.6, 3.9 and 4.2 metre. The âExpeditionâ features a rugged Hypalon tube and inflatable keel with heavy duty aluminium floor. A very roomy boat these inflatables will take 25 â 40 hp. The Aquapro range is quite extensive boasting eight different models with 6 and 10 year warranties on Polymer and Hypalon fabrics respectively, encompassing the soft floor rollup inflatables, rigid hull inflatables and a number of different console models. For those who just want a bit of fun with easy stowage we also have inflatable kayaks. When you choose an Aquapro, no matter what your application, you can be assured that you are purchasing the highest quality product manufactured from the finest materials available. Contact
, ph 09-373 2019,
Caribe Inflatables: âthe absolute bestâ: All Caribe Inflatables are built from superior Hypalon and have a 10 year warranty. It is a proven fact that Hypalon is the most durable fabric for building inflatable boats. It has the highest resistance to UV sunlight, abrasion, chemicals and fuel.
Caribe are one of the longest standing RIB manufacturers, enjoying a 35% market share in the United States and the Caribbean.
Caribe Inflatables range from 2.5m (8 feet) to 7.3m (24 feet). The 3.5m to 4.6m range are most popular with divers, choosing the open boats with tiller steer outboards, or the delux range with console and electric start motor.
All these models come with double skin fiberglass floors and deep V hulls for toughness and performance, over-sized tubes for stability, bow locker and dry storage areas, and plenty of floor space for dive gear, making them the ideal dive boat.
Contact Fred Acke or Vicki Angland on 07 826 4488, email
Euro Inflatables 4.2 metres: This amazing Inflatable is in a class of its own. It has the largest multi-compartment tubes built for safety, stability and the driest ride on the market. High performance Deep V go anywhere alloy hull.
One metre wide usable floor covered by a marine grade carpet. Built in anchor locker covered by large removable bow seat. Anchor sprit, bollard and fairlead. Internal and external safety ropes running the length of the tube. A transom built to take any size motor. A great boat for fishing, diving or just having good family fun. The boats are available either as a bare boat with only a large bow seat and carpet floor $7500 inc or with our sporty genuine two seater centre console or deluxe side by side seating. Prices vary pending on motors, trailers etc.
As a guideline a complete Turn Key Package including boat with centre console 30HP key start motor with a new road trailer cost around $18,000 inc. Available sizes from 3.5 to 6 metre.
Phone Chris 09 444 0249 anytime or visit our website
Lancer Industries: Over the last 34 years Lancer Industries, West Auckland, has designed and built serious Hypalon rubber inflatables for commercial and private users. That is longer than anyone else in the southern hemisphere.
With over 30 different RIB models, from 2.3m to 14m, Lancer has a reputation for quality and producing exceptionally large inflatables for unusual uses. All have Hypalon rubber tubes in order to last the life of the boat.
As specialists in deep-V RIBs and inflatables, Lancer boats incorporate many unique features. For divers the 6m âRD600â (pictured) with its 27 degree hull has a stunning ride at speed in open water. Options include three styles of steering console and customized fit out.
For family/diving use the highly-specâed âRL440â (4.4m in three different options up to 60HP) offers appealing versatility and performance. A wide choice of colours is now available in Hypalon.
For further information phone +64 9 837 1206, fax +64 9 837 1208, email
Quicksilver: Continuing the growth of the Quicksilver Inflatable Boat range, two new Ocean Runner RIB models (Rigid Inflatable Boats) have just been added to the line-up.
The Ocean Runner models are fun, easy to handle and have the added strength and durability of a fibreglass hull more stable ride.
Three conveniently located eyebolts and two v-bolts on the outside of the transom make the Quicksilver Ocean Runner ideal for water sports as well as fishing, cruising or as a tender. This boat is all about versatility and fun on the water. The convenience of five separate davit lifting points and nine grab handles ensure easy lifting, storage and transport.
Standard features include a double action hand pump, with air-pressure gauge, repair kit, convenient paddle securing clamps and non-skid decks for added safety.
Two different fabrics are available: the super tough Hypalon XD (5-year warranty), or the Duratex HD range (3-year fabric warranty).
For more information visit
or freecall 1800114900 for your local dealer
Sealegs makes boating easy: Sealegs are revolutionary, patent-pending amphibious boats with motorised, retractable and steerable wheels.
The Sealegs system works by having powerful hydraulic wheel motors which gives the boat a speed of up to 10KPH on land. This allows the boat to be driven from a storage location, down a boat ramp or beach and into the water – all with the occupants and dive gear staying in the boat and remaining completely dry. Once in the water, the wheels are hydraulically retracted into the âUPâ position and are completely out of the water. The boat is then driven and used as normal. When approaching land, the wheels are lowered into the âDOWNâ position whilst still in the water.
It is then simply a matter of trolling towards the beach and the Sealegs powerful motorised wheels touch the bottom and drive the boat up onto land. The occupants can then disembark, totally dry and safe.
The Sealegs system utilises all submersible components and is salt water ready.
Contact Maurice ph +64 021-955 471, +64 9 414 5542, email
Southern Pacific Inflatables has diving covered!: Whatever your needs are we have the boat for you. 340 Shearwater has a 3mm alloy hull, but only weighs 45 kgs. With fold down transom wheels, you can launch anywhere. Recommended h/p 15-20. 350 Divesport has a 4mm alloy hull, solid false floor, large open anchor well and fast drain system. With a short shaft 25-30 h/p motor making this a versatile boat for diving, fishing or towing water toys. Cormorant alloy ribs have it all: light enough for ease of towing and launching, but with a 4mm 18% deadrise hull and large diameter tubes, this model can be an open boat or choose one of our console designs for a comfortable ride. Recommended h/p 30-50. 490 Cormorant with a 23% deadrise fiberglass hull complete with a full glass liner, this is a popular boat for both commercial and recreational diving. Recommended h/p 50-100. Vortex range, 540, 590, 630, 680, 730 is the ultimate blue water dive boat, based on the Bonito 685 hull design, modified for our tubes with an extra heavy glass lay up and a solid flange to support the tubes around the 23% deadrise hull ensures that this is a very strong, soft riding boat. Combine this with large diameter tubes in PVC or Hypalon and our square bow shape the Vortex feels very safe and roomy inside. Under floor fuel and storage available. Recommended h/p 125 â 200. Vortex 730, with a 27% deadrise smuggler hull under this âbossâ of ribs, whatever your diving requirements, commercial or recreational this boat will handle whatever the sea serves up. Recommended h/p 150 â 225. The experienced team at Southern Pacific Inflatables will build you a 100 % kiwi rib, with a full six year warranty. Contact: Mike Gatherer. Ph: 09-478 8075. Email;
Zodiac Pro: Designed to respond to the wishes of the most demanding users, the Pro range from Zodiac has a deep V hull providing quality performance and excellent stability in all circumstances. The flat, fully modular deck means you set your boat up however you want for whatever you want to do. As a famous best seller, the Pro range adopts a new design. More space and with a wide bow that comes equipped with a large volume built-in locker. An increase in interior length and width offers more load space and the deep cockpit ensures passengers feel safe and comfortable. The Pro also has a removable tube system that makes it easier to handle and store and the wide deck gives a total freedom in cockpit layout for diving, fishing or any other professional and leisure use you might choose.
The Zodiac Pro comes in four sizes: Pro 7 man (4.2m), Pro 9 man (4.7m), Pro 12 man (5.2m), Pro 16 man (6.0m)
They are available with or without helm and seating kits.