Cruising & Sailing Information

Inflatable Boats and Inflatable Kayaks Are Naturally Safe and Stable

Inflatable boats such as inflatable kayaks, inflatable catamarans, and inflatable sport boats have several advantages over their traditional watercraft counterparts. They typically cost less, are easy to transport, and can operate in more shallow waters than a deep hull boat. But many people don't realize that inflatable boats are just as safe, or even more secure, than traditional boats. Because of their safety reputation, inflatable boats are now essentially the standard for use by the military, coast guard and other rescue agencies worldwide.


Buoyancy is one of the main concerns with any watercraft. How high a boat sits in the water and how well it stays afloat are important contributors to overall safety. Buoyancy also helps determine the amount and weight of cargo that a boat can transport.

Inflatable boats and inflatable kayaks tend to be more buoyant than traditional watercraft, mainly because of the inflatable collar or tubes. The inflatable sections help spread the buoyancy out over the entire area of the boat, making it more resistant to sinking. In addition, the collars or tubes on an inflatable boat are usually designed with separate chambers so that if one chamber becomes deflated, the overall buoyancy will not be noticeably affected.


Not only does the design of inflatable boats contribute to increased buoyancy, it also helps make the watercraft more stable. Unlike traditional V-hulled boats, an inflatable boat sits flat in the water and has a low center of gravity, making them virtually impossible to tip. They are better able to handle rough water, and people standing up in the boat are not going to cause the craft to capsize. And swimmers and divers can use the sides to pull themselves up without causing the boat to rock or flip.

Power & Maneuverability

With the right size motor, inflatable boats can be quicker and more powerful than traditional boats because they are much lighter. For this same reason, they are much more responsive and easy to maneuver. In fact, because inflatable boats are so light and quick, it is important that you do not use too large of a motor. For general boating and fishing on inflatable boats, an 8 horsepower motor is adequate for watercraft up to 14 feet. Larger boats and inflatable sports boats for activities such as water skiing will require a motor with around 30 horsepower.

Other Safety Factors

As with traditional boats, there are a number of other precautions that help increase the overall safety of inflatable boats. The following list provides comprehensive guidelines, both for preparing to use an inflatable boat and for operation while out on the water.

Before Leaving Port

? Familiarize yourself with all aspects involved with the operation of your inflatable boat and make several practice runs before heading out on the water with passengers.

? Familiarize yourself with the water safety regulations for your area.

? Explain basic boat operations to all passengers and make sure that there is someone else in the boat that can operate it in case you become unable to do so.

? Tell someone on shore the names of all people on your inflatable boat, where you plan to go, and when you expect to be back.

? If you have a cellular phone, bring it with you in case of emergency.

? Be sure to bring enough life vests or other allowable floatation devices for yourself and all passengers and make sure everyone puts them on before leaving if required by law to do so.

? Also pack paddles, maps, flares, and other essential navigational and safety equipment.

? When loading your boat, distribute weight evenly from side to side and front to back. Tie down loose cargo so it doesn't shift.

? Check weather conditions for the area and consider bringing a waterproof weather radio or hand held VHF Marine radio.

? Learn about navigational concerns related to the specific body of water on which you plan to use your inflatable boat and don't exceed the capabilities of you or your boat.

On The Water

? Require all passengers to remain seated while the boat is in motion, and never allow anyone to ride on the bow of the boat. If anyone must stand up, be sure they maintain three points of contact.

? If using a motor, keep your hands away from the propeller and be sure passengers remember to stay clear of the prop when they are in the water.

? Always use the stop switch lanyard that attaches to the driver that will kill the engine should you fall overboard. Test it before leaving port to be sure it is operating correctly.

? Be aware that heavy rains and other water changes can create problems with debris floating in the water or hidden under the surface.

? Do not operate the inflatable boat under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

? Remember that the captain of the boat sets the standard for safety, and you are responsible for the operation of the boat as well as your passengers' behavior.

Special Safety Considerations For Inflatable Boats

When using an inflatable boat, it is also a good idea to take along a foot pump and a repair kit. Even though boats with independent inflatable chambers can still operate when one chamber deflates, there may be instances when you may need to patch a puncture or re-inflate the boat at some point. It is important to have the necessary tools as well as an understanding of how to make repairs.

In addition, organizations such as the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Safe Boating Council and the American Boat & Yacht Council provide information on boating safety. The Coast Guard, many state agencies, and private groups offer water safety classes and Web sites such as BoatEd and BoatSafe offer online testing and certification approved by many states.

Although it is unlikely that your inflatable boat will capsize if you follow these safety precautions, it is also a good idea to know how to swim. Those who enjoy boating on a regular basis may also want to consider a CPR course.

In addition to being easy to use and often less expensive than traditional boats, inflatable boats, inflatable kayaks, and other inflatable watercraft are more safe and secure in key areas such as buoyancy and stability. Following the tips listed in this article will add to the overall safety of your boating experience and enhance your enjoyment of your inflatable boat as well.

About the Author:

C.J. Gustafson is a successful writer for, providing consumer information on rigid inflatable fishing boats and the best inflatable kayaks. She and her family make frequent fishing trips to Canada's backcountry. The numerous portages required to reach some of the smaller lakes have made her especially appreciative of the lightweight, compact design of most inflatable sport boats.

Copyright 2005

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