The Antibladder Boat

Spectator - December 2001 - The Antibladder Boat

Spectator — December 2001

By Tom Fexas

The Antibladder Boat
Against the tide.
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: The Antibladder Boat
• Part 2: The Antibladder Boat
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When it comes to boats, I am a contrarian. I like going against the tide and shaking things up. When square superstructures proliferated in the `70s and `80s, I did round ones. As the trend went to ever-wider boats, I did narrow boats. When most hulls were white, I came out with a line of black ones. When it came time to choose a dinghy for my Mikelson 43, however, I acted against my better judgement and went with the tide, choosing a hard-bottom inflatable (a.k.a. bladder boat, whoopee cushion boat, doughnut boat).

Hard-bottom inflatables appear to have many advantages. You don't have to worry about them dinging your vessel's custom, mother of pearl topsides while you're making landings half in the bag. They are extremely stable and, with enough power, run fast. But after having grown up with conventional hard-shell dinghies, starting as a wee tot with an eight-foot Penn-Yan, then moving on to a succession of flat-bottom prams and round-bottom dinghies, I thought I should try something new and bought a 10-foot bladder boat.

I had a choice of stowing the thing forward on the cabin trunk or aft on the swim platform, secured by Weaver snap davits. Carrying this dinghy on the trunk would not only have been ugly but have required a heavy, expensive davit to launch it, which would make my Mikelson look like a Panamanian freighter. The swim platform was the way to go. I purchased and installed the necessary hardware, but as soon as I swung the dinghy up on the platform and stood back to admire my work, I realized I had blown it. The damned thing looked like a huge billboard. (Money-raising idea for inflatable owners: rent out space on their hull bottoms for advertising.)

If your boat is big enough, inflatables look okay carried on deck, but tilted up, showing their flat, bare bottoms to the world, they look unsightly. They're wide and square, and their twin points at the stern remind me of a gigantic version of one of Madonna's bustiers. After working so hard to design a pretty transom for my boat, incorporating just the right shapes and amount of tumblehome, rake, and radius, I proceeded to cover those beautiful forms with a dammed billboard. It was like covering Jennifer Lopez's butt with a muumuu!

Next page > Antibladder, Part 2 > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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