As I currently live in an apartment and don't have a truck right now but the wife wants a boat for us to have here where we live, we're pondering the option of getting an inflatable boat for fishing in lakes. Has anyone here owned or had much experience with Zodiac or the similar boats? About all I know is from reading about them and seeing other people with them from time to time, that they must work fairly well for what they do or they wouldn't be as widely used as they are. The portability without a trailer, small motor requirement, and low storage space requirement is really appealing to us. What experience and thoughts do you have on this?
I had an 8-foot Zodiac that I used as a "tender" for my sailboat (23-foot sloop). I sometimes used a small outboard engine with it, and at other times I used just the oars. I used it in Long Island Sound (not sure what part of NY you are in - LI Sound is a body of water that's an offshoot of the Atlantic Ocean, salt water, but smaller waves) as well as in a river harbor that emptied out into the Sound. The boat does not have a keel, and so it is not always easy to keep it going in the desired direction if there's a stiff wind blowing. The inflatable air bladders do provide some lateral stability, and the outboard acts as a rudder, but you can still run into problems keeping it pointed properly. That might be less of an issue on a lake or pond.
It is light enough to carry it around uninflated (I carried mine in my Chevy van), and then you inflate it right at the dock. The manually-operated (foot) pump works, but it's kind of boring to do several hundred pumps before the thing is inflated.
In general I liked it. After something like 4 or 5 years it started developing leaks. I was able to patch some of them (with external vinyl patches), but I currently have one that I haven't been able to track down. I bought a kit with patching liquid that you're supposed to pump into the air bladders to seal it from the inside, but I haven't tried it yet.
They sell larger models that do not deflate, and larger models that have more of a keel.
Look fun to me.
The few inflatables I have dealt with have had a rigid hull/floor. They look like fun, but be careful with the fish hooks and filet knife! You may look into a "porta-boat". Rigid hull but folds flat for transport.
I'm in the Finger Lakes area, so I'm expecting conditions won't be too demanding. The abundance of choices for fishing is very, very nice.
Kayaks on a trailer or roof-rack may be an option (especially the newest versions with the tandem foot-pedals that move you forward instead of a motor or paddles: Hobie
I live by the ocean, and while I haven't used one - I've spoken with a few owners of Zodiacs (they use, or have used, them for diving) around here. Truthfully, for a number of reasons they seem like a guy's boat. It's apparently kinda hard-core to use them in as far as comfort and getting in or out of them. You really have to want to get out over the water to use one regularly - especially with the choppiness that the ocean brings.
You claim your wife really wants one...
For any appreciable length, though, have you seen the weight of them when deflated? You better take a look before getting your hopes up. Once inflated and ready to go you're really not looking at something some wives will be able to help you move into the water.
Just curious as to what you've decided?
Looks like I'll get one from West Marine.