Boat Maintenance: Inflate My Mate

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The first inflatable boats used for transportation were made of animal skins that were stitched together and filled with air for buoyancy. Okay, so reliability was a major concern and the lack of a solid manufacturer’s warranty made this form of transport less than desirable, if not downright dangerous. But, when there is a lack of a reliable transport system, any “wheels” are good wheels.

What’s more, there were no insurance companies around to offer life cover or any other cover for this puffed up “boat”.

The inflatable animal skin boat, though fraught with a number of glaring design deficiencies, paved the way for the modern inflatable boats which grace our waters today. Trying to negotiate a piece of inflated hide through frigid shark infested waters vastly impaired one’s chances of survival, compared to today’s modern inflatable counterparts.

Inflatable boats have improved vastly in design, safety, manoeuvrability and robustness and they are used throughout the world for a variety of modern applications including recreational fishing, diving, water sports, troop transporters, coast guard applications, luxury boat tenders and even for inflatable racing.

Now that we’ve established inflatable boats are well and truly entrenched in all forms of boating across the globe, let’s consider some of the more general guidelines of how to effectively use, maintain and clean your inflatable.


Always inflate to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure level as set out in the boat’s manual.

When inflating, move clockwise around the boat and inflate each cell enough to bring out the form of the boat. Now work your way around the boat and fill each cell to the correct pressure as set out in the manual.

Don’t over-inflate the boat because when the boat gets into the sun the air in the cells will expand and can cause rupturing if struck by a sharp object.


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