So for the last several years we've used an Intex Expedition 2 person inflatable kayak for puttering around. Frankly, we loved the thing. It let us do work on the boat(s) and do some fun exploring up and down the Middle River. We weren't exactly gentle with the thing, leaving it in the water most of the time, generally in direct sun. It's durability has been remarkable.
|The redoubtable Intex inflatable Kayak. Love it.|
But with our acquisition of Constellation
, we began to consider if this was exactly what we needed. Intending to travel, we will occasionally need to anchor out and find a way to get to shore (this was pointed out rather strongly in a recent trip to Betterton on the Sassafras River when we realize we drew to much to dock at the town dock and had no way to get in to . . .well. . .lunch.). The Kayak is wonderful, but it's also ten feet long, which is pretty hefty to drag aboard a thirty foot sailboat. Then there was the issue of the fact that we'd abused the poor thing and it was no longer staying particularly inflated.
So we began looking about a replacement. Something smaller, lighter, and easier to handle. Something just for use as a tender and to get from anchor to shore. We finally settled on a really inexpensive solution in Intex's Seahawk 2 inflatable.
|It's simple, lightweight, and has room for 2 people and a bag of groceries, just what we wanted.|
From the moment we inflated the thing, we realized it would probably fit the bill. It weighed a LOT less than the kayak, had room for both of us, and would fit across the bow if we needed it to, or could be hauled up under our solar panel on the stern. The 20 Mil vinyl seemed stout, and it rowed pretty easily, despite the frankly lame plastic oars (we'll be dealing with that later.). It was perfect. . .
. . .almost.
When we went to get up onto the boat from the thing with our gonzo boat ladder, it proved difficult. Let's be honest, getting up into any boat from a dinghy is a potential comedy act. Everything in that equation can move, each in it's own heading, and coupled with one of those wobbly over-the-gunnel ladders and sinking into the squishy inflatable floor when you try to stand on it, it was an issue.
Turning to them interwebs, we came across a common and easy solution: Build a solid floor for the thing. A solid floor means you can put some weight on your feet when boarding, and makes the whole little boat ever so much more rigid and stable.
So we inflated the thing, dragged it up onto the dock, and took some measurements. The interior of the inflated boat is about 52" (1320.8 mm) long, and around 19" (182 mm) wide, tapering to 17" (432 mm) at the stern. Since I didn't want to lunch a full sheet of plywood to make the thing, I went to our local Lowes and got a 2' X 4' "Project panel" of 1/2" exterior plywood.
|Trimmed, tapered, and dutch-mended project panel.|
I cut the sheet to 19" wide, tapered it down to 17" at the end from the mid-point, added a cut-through handgrip (which will also give a place to tie it on) and rounded the corners.
To keep the wood from splintering into the vinyl and turning it into a floppy submarine, I did a process often called "dutch mending" to the edge. I took some waterproof white glue (in this case Titebond III, with which I've had really good results), added it 50-50 to water, and saturated a 5" wide strip of unbleached muslin drop cloth in the glue solution, then smoothed it along the edges and let dry.
|Muslin strip "dutch-mended" (glued) along the edge of the plywood.|
If you want to hinge the bottom, the glued fabric will also work as a hinge, just apply to both sides of the cut. Once dried, you'll have a smooth continuous edge where the ply meets the plastic.
|Three coats of a decent exterior paint. Be careful to saturate the cloth at the edges.|
We gave the new bottom a few coats of some exterior paint that we had on hand, taking care to saturate the cloth really well. Then it was ready to test.
|Bottom in place.|
Because we used the project panel, the bottom is a bit short front to back, but that doesn't seem to make much difference. We partially deflated the sides of the dinghy, popped in the bottom, and re-inflated to lock it in place. You may find you have to let a little air out of the inflatable bottom so it will sit well into the sides, but the results have been really pleasing.
|Now I just have to stabilize the junky ladder. Stay tuned.|
This has been a whole week of additions to and work on the boat, making ready to travel again. We've done some cool stuff, including new grab lines, work on the ladder above, and other things, which I'll post in the coming days, so stay tuned. Will also be putting up some of the more spectacular shots from our wonderful trip up to the Sassafras River.
|A ketch comes into Worton Creek at sunset. This was a result of me realizing it would cross the sun and madly scrambling to find the camera. Turned out really pretty, though.|