Tag Archives: Dinghy durability

But I Thought The Odds Were In My Favor…

In my post Disappointing Dinghy Durability, I expressed my disappointment at the air deck floor giving out in our dinghy after only four years. Little did I know that we were only in act one of this little drama. For only two months after the $400 replacement air deck arrived, it too started leaking. Color me unimpressed.

Defender wouldn’t replace the second air deck, because I had used it for two months. It had to to be shipped to a Mercury authorized repair center for evaluation. They gave me the name of the closest one.  So off it went to Solution One Maritime, in Tampa. Who promptly  called me to ask why I was sending them my air deck, since I hadn’t bought the boat from them. Now I might have understood their position if I hadn’t already called them to speak about my floor and get the right shipping address. I pretty thoroughly explained at that time that I had bought it from Defender, and when I made a warranty claim on the new air deck, Defender called Mercury for instructions, and were told to tell me to ship it to Solution One Maritime. One would think that if they were going to have any concerns about the whole thing, this would have been a good time to bring it up. But noooooo, they just said “Fine, send it to us and we’ll take a look at it.”

Fortunately, after much phone tag and the involvement of Mercury, Solution One looked at the air deck, determined it was defective, and sent me a new one for free. It’s currently sitting on deck undergoing what we called a “drop test” in the Navy. That’s where you pressurize a device or system and then monitor it for a period of time to see if it will maintain pressure. In other words, a leak check.


Two things that I learned as a result of this process. First, the air deck came with a 12 month warranty, so naturally it was covered when it started leaking after only two months. But when I asked if my replacement air deck came with its own 12 month warranty, I was told no, it is only covered by the remainder of the original warranty. Since it’s winter now (recent mild weather notwithstanding) and the dinghy won’t get any use before next March or April, that’s why I felt the need to do the drop test before packing it away till next Spring. Just to be sure.

The other thing was an observation by the folks at Solution One that this isn’t supposed to happen. They claimed that Mercury air decks usually last 10 years, and the odds were 50 to 1 that mine would develop a leak in only four years. And having another one leak in just two months? Well, they quoted me 500 to 1 odds of that happening. Lucky me. As for the one I just received, well, they quoted me 5,000 to 1 odds that it will also leak.

So if this one is deflated come tomorrow morning, I’m making a stop at the nearest convenience store to pick up some PowerBall tickets. Because I’m apparently on a hot streak, beating some pretty steep odds at the moment.

Disappointing Dinghy Durability

You may remember Eaglet. We introduced her back in The $400 Solution. She’s a Mercury 270 Air Deck, and she’s our trusty tender.

Eaglet1 She’s been transporting us back and forth from our boat to our favorite beach bars for four years now, and has never once caused us to miss a happy hour.

Unfortunately, when we climbed in her a few weekends ago to make the trip to shore, we discovered her floor had developed an extremely severe case of Droopidus Non-Erectus. The air deck lost its stiffyness (yes, I’m making up words. I’m a writer, I’m allowed to do that!).


Eaglet’s Floppy Floor

Overnight, she’d become a floating trampoline. Boarding became somewhat of a challenge (he said with extreme understatement)

When we bought Eaglet back in 2011, we sprang for the CSM model (i.e. Hypalon, which is actually a trademark owned by DuPont, which no longer makes the material so technically there are no Hypalon boats anymore) rather than the PVC version. We’d read that PVC dinghies (which are actually the majority of inflatable boats out there) only last about four or five years in the hot tropical sun, while CSM boats can go 20 years. SInce we had plans to head for the tropics eventually (and let’s face it, Florida in the summer would meet anyone’s definition of tropical), we figured it was money well spent.

We also decided to go with the air deck model. The high pressure floor was supposed to offer the same firm footing and smooth ride of plywood or aluminum floor models without the weight. Light weight was important, since we intended to hoist the dink onto the foredeck between  uses. It also has the added benefit that you can roll it up when deflated, which we commonly do in the off season.

Interesting thing though about Mercury CSM air deck boats. The boat is made of CSM. But the air deck is PVC. That’s the only way they make them. Which is a little detail that they seemed to have forgotten to mention in the sales literature.

So here we are, a little over four years later, and our floor wouldn’t hold air anymore. Fortunately, it was easy to buy a replacement on Defender. Unfortunately, it cost almost $400. But it’s hard to put a price on good Mojitos at our favorite beach bar, so our water taxi had to be repaired.

Interestingly, air decks infected with Droopidus are apparently a common enough problem that Defender even offers its own knock-off version for those looking to save a few bucks. But we opted for the OEM model rather than going aftermarket. Next time, maybe not. We’ll see.

It turned out to be a pretty simple job to swap out the floor. There are just two little mounts attached to the stern that had to be removed so that the new deck could be installed.

Eaglet3Once pumped up to the 11 PSI called for, it gets super rigid and wedges itself tightly between the boat’s tubes and bottom.


I think I remember that the air deck came with a five year warranty, so provided I can find the receipt (we should still have it somewhere around here), maybe we’ll see if it’s possible to get it repaired. Or I have this crazy idea that it might be possible to shoot it full of expanding foam. It wouldn’t roll up anymore, but it would never go flat again.

(Update: I later learned that the air deck was only warrantied for 12 months.)

Eaglet5If nothing else,  in addition to keeping it as a spare, it might make a really odd and interesting paddle board!