A Good Idea



Maybe, a good idea.  Well.  Maybe.

About a year ago, I was just “window shopping” in the local Craigslist boats-for-sale section.  Just whiling away some minutes that probably would have better served actually “doing something.”  And, there it was.  The dinghy of my dreams.  I’ve had one before; and just about nothing is quite so stable when stepping down from the mother ship -especially with your arms loaded.  Granted, kayaks paddle better.  Rowboats row better.  Skin on frame boats are considerably easier to carry around.  Nesting dinks take up less space.  But, doggone it.  Rubber boats don’t crash into you all night, at anchor.  And, they tend to stay right side up.  That’s a very good thing.

The ad was for a 9-foot Zodiac.  One, with inflatable keel and floor, no less.  One that I should be able to roll up and haul in the back of the truck.  One, that didn’t require smashed fingers and pinched knees to insert a wooden floor into.  And, to top it off; it was really, really cheap.  Like, 10% of the new price, cheap.  I called the guy up, and swore great and astonishing oaths that I’d be there ASAP.

When I pulled up in front of the guy’s house, there it was out on the lawn.  Inflated, and looking almost-new.  I walked briskly to the door.  Handed him the money, and said, “Get away from MY boat…”  And, we all know about deals that are too good to be true.  I got the boat home, and hung it up in the garage.

This one had a bit of a problem.  The floor, and keel, both didn’t hold air for very long.  Throughout the winter, I added air and fussed with the valves.  I tried the liquid soap spray tests.  I ordered new sets of valves.  I tried all the easy stuff – like thread seal tape, pipe dope, etc.  Nope.  The keel and floor just wouldn’t hold air.  Finally, I called The Dinghy Doctor in San Diego.  Somehow, I remembered that outfit from 10 or 20 years before.  The Doc confirmed my worst guess.  “No.  We don’t have a better valve for those.  Sorry.  They just LEAK…”

A replacement floor costs about twice what I already paid for the boat.  Seemed to me that the Harebrained Notions Department, here at Frankenwerke, should have an idea or two of what to do.  At first, they played around with plywood floors and keel-inserts.  They even worked out a rough drawing on “drafting paper.”  You know.  A slightly-used paper towel.  But, things were getting awkward and heavy.  This was supposed to be a portable thing.  Basically, the idea of having a boat rolled up seabag-sized was, by then, all but moribund.  And, without the bottom shaped and the floor nice and stiff; it would be a lot like stepping down into a flaccid trampoline.  Also, the poor waif would not follow along behind the mothership deftly at all.

Then.  It just slapped me upside the haid.  An absolute stroke of Frankengenius.  Whatif?

Whatif, I just filled the offending bladders with that spray foam?  It’s mostly air.  It sorta’ rejects water intrusion.  And, besides, it would be inside a couple waterproof membranes.  What could go wrong?  Well.

Filling the keel bladder went pretty well.  Basically, it just filed up from the bottom and I replaced the valve into the threaded portion when it began to fizz.  Not too shabby.  And, things hardened up over the next day or so.  It could be a lot denser than need be in some places.  But, pretty close to what I hoped to achieve.  So, fresh from that victory, I decided to try the same thing with the floor.  But, it’s not made at all the same way.  Way thinner and wider, for starts.

My “insertion straw” on the cans sort of got bent up like the proboscis on a well-swatted mosquito.  In fact, more foam started oozing out than was probably going in.  So.  I grabbed my pretty-big shop vac with the 3” pickup hose and started blowing air into the chamber, as if I was still trying to inflate it.  This time, of course, with the valve missing.  Kaboom!

I guess we reached critical mass sooner than expected.  That foam is sticky, and can really splatter all over the place when you put it under compression.  You know.  Like how it comes out of the can, in the first place.

At that point, there was little to do, but try to thread the valve back into its hereditary home, and wait for things to settle down.  Quite a mess to try to scrape off.  A real “tar baby” when it’s still gooey.

Other than that, things look promising.  No longer, a roll-up.  But, certainly a firm, and properly shaped little inflatable.

Can’t wait to hang a small motor on the square end, and giver ‘er a try.  Her name’s Plan-B.  A buxom, and jolly lass.


  1. Dan,
    Of all of the ideas that have come out of Frankenwerks this has to be the funniest, most entertaining yet. A great idea (I’ll hang on to it)….and an even better story!

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