Did you know that the company Zodiac-Nautic made the first inflatable boats?
Zodiac boats can trace their origins back to airships built by a French company, Zodiac Aerospace, which started in 1896.
The prototype for the Zodiac inflatable boat was built later, in the 1930s, and was originally designed for use by the aviation department of the French Navy to transport troops.
But are Zodiac boats any good today? Read on to find out more:
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What Are Inflatable Boats?
Inflatable boats are lightweight boats made from flexible tubes that are pumped up with pressurized air.
They are extremely versatile and can be used as a tender for a yacht, fishing, family day trips, or water sports like water skiing or scuba diving. In addition, inflatable boats can be deflated when not in use, making them easy to store or transport to another destination.
The name Zodiac Boats has become synonymous with inflatable boats, and you will find many people referring to inflatable boats as ‘Zodiacs’ no matter what the brand. While Zodiac-Nautic was the pioneering company behind inflatables, they continue to build new models with state-of-the-art designs.
Zodiac-Nautic is still considered a leader in inflatable boats and their accessories today.
How Reliable Are Zodiac Boats?
Zodiac boats have proven to be so reliable that a separate company, Zodiac MilPro, was set up to fulfill orders and the special needs of the military and professional water bodies like the coastguard and sea rescue services.
The development for military use began in the 1950s when the design was improved to include a rigid transom where an outboard engine could be attached. Later, rigid floors were added.
In 1952, this new design was used by French sailor and biologist Alain Bombard to sail solo across the Atlantic Ocean. A journey that took 65 days.
Later, in the 1960s, the famous marine biologist, adventurer, and underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau made Zodiac boats famous, using them as tenders and dive boats for his intrepid expeditions.
The screening of the documentary series ‘The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau’ brought Zodiac boats into the mainstream and caused sales to go through the roof worldwide.
So, if professionals and the military use zodiac boats, can we safely assume that their reliability and durability are assured?
How Durable Are Zodiac Boats?
Like any other boat brand, the durability of a Zodiac boat will depend on how well it is looked after.
If you drag it over sharp rocks or leave it unprotected in the sun, your Zodiac boat will not last long. However, if you look after your inflatable boat, it will last a lot longer.
In general, if you do not look after your Zodiac boat (by rinsing off the saltwater and keeping it protected from the sun), it will only have a life span of up to 5 years (if you’re lucky).
However, if a Zodiac boat is well cared for, it can last up to 10-15 years and possibly even longer.
What About Older Zodiac Boats?
A quick search on the boating website Boattrader.com came up with a Zodiac boat for sale from 1999!
However, if you are looking at buying an older Zodiac boat, determining the age and condition is extremely important.
We all like to think that people are honest. However, people can forget how many years they have had a boat, plus someone else may have owned it before them.
You need to know how to find out the age of a secondhand inflatable boat. This can be done by looking for the HIN or Hull Identification Number.
Since November 1, 1972, all boats in the US, including inflatables manufactured in or imported into the US, have to have a unique 12-character number called the Hull Identification Number (HIN).
You can usually find this number either on a plaque on the stern or stamped into the inflatable material. You can then use the US Coastguard’s database to find out the year of the boat.
In addition to the HIN number, it is also essential to check the joints or seams of an older Zodiac boat, especially if glued. Glue older than 20 years is at risk of failing, but the glue of a younger boat that has not been looked after can also fail.
Check for any lifting around the seams, which could be a sign of the glue aging or failing.
Do They Still Make Parts For Older Models?
A little bit of research shows that Zodiac boat parts are still available for any model.
From both the manufacturer, dealerships, and specialized inflatable boat shops.
To keep the integrity and value of your Zodiac boat, it is always better to buy genuine Zodiac spare boat parts.
What Are Typical Problems With Zodiac Boats?
Like any inflatable boat, Zodiacs may experience some minor problems.
The most common are as follows:
A Puncture or Leak
Inflatable boats, including Zodiacs, can develop small leaks.
However, these small leaks are often easy to fix yourself.
It’s important to note that there are 2 different fabrics that Zodiac inflatables are made from, both Hypalon (or CSM) and PVC, which require different methods to fix.
So make sure you know which material your boat is made from before attempting a repair.
Seams Becoming Unglued
on older Zodiacs, the seams of the inflatable boat may start to fail.
Depending on the severity of the seam that has come unglued, you may be able to fix it yourself, or you may need to seek professional help.
Damage to the Hull or Bottom of the Boat
Inflatable boats are often dragged onto beaches or used in shallow waters, where they can hit bottom.
To avoid damage to the hull, make sure you lift the boat clear of any rough surfaces or sharp rocks.
Like most inflatable boats, Zodiacs can suffer UV degradation if left out in the sun.
So to prolong your Zodiac’s lifespan, always try to store it out of the sun or keep it covered with a special boat cover.
How Long Do Zodiac Boats Last Compared To Similar Brands?
How long your inflatable boat will last depends on how well you look after your boat and the material it is made from, no matter the brand.
Typically Hypalon boats will last longer than PVC inflatable boats, as the fabric is much tougher and more UV resistant.
Of course, Hypalon boats come with a much higher price tag.
Do Zodiac Boats Hold Their Value? (Do they depreciate faster than normal)
Going back to our Boattrader.com search, that old boat from 1999, a Zodiac Hurricane FCB-210, is on the market for US$39,500!
As with any boat, if it is kept in good condition, Zodiac boats will hold a certain value. Inflatable boats, in general, offer great value compared to traditional, hardbody boats.
And due to their ease of use and affordability, they are holding their value on the second-hand market.
Are Zodiac Boats Still Being Made?
Zodiac boats are still being manufactured in many locations worldwide.
While the head office and main factory are still in France, the boats are being built under license in the USA and the UK.
Today Zodiac-Nautic is represented by 1600 dealers in 50 countries around the world.
The company offers a wide range of models and accessories for both recreational and professional use.
So if you are looking for an inflatable boat, you can be sure you will find the right Zodiac inflatable boat that suits your wants and needs.
Since the 1930s, Zodiac-Nautic has led the way with new ideas, designs, and technology for inflatable boats.
So, if you are in the market for an inflatable boat, Zodiac offers many great features. These features include but are not limited to first-rate stability, easy handling, and superb maneuverability.
They may not be the cheapest inflatable boat on the market, but you do get what you pay for.