A dinghy is a light boat whose sides and bow are made of flexible hoses with pressurized gas. For smaller boats, the floor and fuselage are often flexible, while for boats longer than 3 meters, the floor normally consists of three to five rigid plywood panels or aluminum sheets fixed between the pipes but not rigidly connected. Frequently, the transom is rigid, so that a space and a structure for mounting an outboard motor is available.
Some dinghies can be disassembled and packaged in a small volume, so they can be easily stored and transported. The boat, when inflated, is held transversely stiff by a foldable, removable drawbar. This feature makes these boats suitable for life rafts for larger boats or aircraft and for travel or recreational purposes
There are old carved images of air-filled animal skins used as one-man swimmers to cross rivers. These floats were inflated by mouth.
The discovery of the rubber vulcanization process was made in 1838 by Charles Goodyear and patented in the USA in 1844. The vulcanization stabilized the rubber, making it durable and flexible. In late 1843, Thomas Hancock filed a British patent, also granted in 1844, after the patent had been granted to the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. When Charles Goodyear traveled in England in 1852, he discovered that Thomas Hancock’s company produced vulcanized rubber and was sued. Thomas Hancock had been shown a sample of Goodyear rubber in 1842, but he was not told that he had developed his own method. The last complaints were settled in 1855. A short time later, several people expanded to experiment with rubber-coated fabrics.
In 1839, the Duke of Wellington tested the first inflatable pontoons. In 1840, the English scientist Thomas Hancock designed inflatable boats with his new methods of rubber vulcanization and described his achievements in The Origin and Progress of India Rubber Manufacture in England, which were published several years later.
Two small dinghies
A two-man Halkettboot, with and without tarpaulin
n 1844 – 1845, British naval officer Lieutenant Peter Halkett developed two types of inflatable boats destined for Arctic explorers. Both were made of rubber impregnated „Mackintosh cloth“. In Halkettboot the „boat coat“ served as a waterproof poncho or coat, until he was inflated, as a one-man boat. A special pocket holds the bellows to inflate and a blade to turn a walking stick into a paddle. A special umbrella could serve as a sail. Halkett later developed a two-man boat, which was carried in a backpack. Inflated, he was able to carry two men paddling on both sides, and when deflated he served as a waterproof blanket for camping on wet ground. On May 8, 1845, Lord Herbert, First Secretary of the Admiralty,
The Admiralty saw no benefit for Halkett’s designs in general naval service, but explorers liked this larger design. John Franklin bought one for the unfortunate expedition of 1845, in which the entire expedition group of 129 men and two ships disappeared .
During his explorations along the Oregon Trail and the Platte River tributaries and forks in 1842 and 1843, John C. Frémont recorded the first use of an inflatable rubber boat to travel across rivers and rapids in the Rocky Mountains. In his report on the expedition, he described his boat.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the independent production of inflatable boats began with the company RFD [clarification needed] in England and the company Zodiac in France. This has been achieved through the development of rubber-coated fabrics for the aviation industry.
Reginald Foster Dagnall, English designer and founder of the airship construction company RFD, moved in 1919 to develop inflatable boats with the coated fabric of hydrogen airships. The aviation ministry was impressed with the testing of its boat on a lake near Guildford and began to place its firm orders for the production of rescue equipment.
In France, a similar pattern has emerged. The airship company Zodiac Aerospace began developing inflatable rubber boats and in 1934 invented the inflatable kayak and catamaran. These led to the modern Zodiac dinghy.
After the Second World War, the development continued with the discovery of new plastics such as neoprene and new adhesives, making the boats more stable and less susceptible to damage.
A soft dinghy (SIB) lacks the solid hull of a RIB and often has a removable slat bottom so the boat can be vented and transported in a car or other vehicle. Such boats have a shallow draft and are therefore suitable for driving over shallow water and beaching in places without landing facilities. SIBs have a rigid mirror that can carry an outboard motor.
Inflatable boats of the post-war period
Inflatable liferafts have also been successfully used to rescue aircraft crews sunk in the sea; Bomb, naval, and submarine aircraft that travel long distances over water have been in widespread use since the beginning of World War II. In the 1950s, the French naval officer and biologist Alain Bombard was the first to combine the outboard engine, a rigid floor and an inflatable boat. The former aircraft manufacturer Zodiac built this boat and a friend of Bombard, the diver Jacques -Yves Cousteau, began to use it after Bombard sailed in 1952 with his dinghy across the Atlantic. Cousteau was convinced of the shallow draft and good performance of this type of boat and used it as a tender for his expeditions.
The dinghy was so successful that Zodiac lacked production capacity to meet demand. In the early 1960s, Zodiac licensed production to a dozen companies in other countries. In the 1960s, the British company Humber was the first to build zodiac inflatable boats in the UK.
Some inflatables have inflated keels whose V-shape helps the hull move through the waves, reducing the impact caused by the shallow hull that lands on the water surface after passing over the top at high speed a wave has flown.