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Old 10-24-2021, 08:40 AM   #1
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Aluminum RIB pros/cons: painted vs. powder coat vs. untreated

I'm beginning to shop for a new dinghy, conceptually leaning toward an aluminum console RIB with hypalon tubes, approx 11Ĺ' (3.4/3.5m) long, give or take.

I expect to look offerings from all the major players: AB, Achilles, Caribe, Highfield, Novurania, Zodiac...

But one thing that would help is more commentary about paint versus powder coating versus nothing...

A review of some threads here (see below) suggests Highfield models are powder coated, AB models can be powder coated or left bare... and presumably some of the other makers offer one or the other or both

Why is bare aluminum good? Why is powder coating good? Is somebody actually doing paint? (Or is that really always powder coating?)

Thoughts?

-Chris


https://www.trawlerforum.com/forums/...ons-58590.html

Quote:
Originally Posted by JSK55 View Post
A good friend has had the same problem with Waypointe as what your experiencing. I would call NW Inflatables in Gig Harbor. I purchased my AB Lammina AL 10 from them and they treated me great. He is getting some boats in from what the heard recently but containers are backed up in the West Coast Ports slowing deliveries. Regarding the Highfield, definitely a good boat, however one of my cruising friends has one less than 5 years old and the paint is peeling off the inside bottom. He likes the boat but not the paint. I really love my AB, great boat and I went with the raw aluminum so as not to have the paint problem. Just my preference. Good luck
https://www.trawlerforum.com/forums/...der-41474.html

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Originally Posted by kchace View Post
I have been looking at a new inflatable RIB and I also believe aluminum hull is the best way to go.

Here's what I've found. I've been looking at three major players and there's plenty of regional ones, too. The ones I like the best are AB, Achilles, and Highfield.

AB is top of the line, extremely well built and quite a bit more expensive than the other 2. It has a "deeper" bow area which can be better for rougher areas. The one thing I don't like about the AB is the aluminum is bare metal. I honestly don't know why they do that.

The Achilles and Highfield are also well made and I think are about the same price and about the same level of quality. The hulls on both are powder coated inside and out with a keel guard factory installed. Of note if you want to save some money the Highfield is available with PVC or Hypalon tubes. The Hypalon being more expensive but longer lasting if the boat spends a lot of time outside (Don't they all?)
https://www.trawlerforum.com/forums/...ghy-37374.html

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Originally Posted by Dougcole View Post
I'm a few years off, but I will likely go with either a 12' Aluminum AB or a 12' aluminum Highfield. I like that AB leaves the aluminum bare. I'm concerned about the long term durability of the powder coating on the Highfields. We are hard on a dinghy, dragging it onto beaches frequently.
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Old 10-24-2021, 09:05 AM   #2
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I paint the bottom and lower tubes of our West Marine aluminum / Hypalon rib every year as it stays in the water at the slip.

For the aluminum part. https://www.totalboat.com/product/ou...oaArjUEALw_wcB

For the tubes. https://www.jamestowndistributors.co...caAt0YEALw_wcB
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Old 10-24-2021, 10:08 AM   #3
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Chris,

I had a North Atlantic aluminum rib that was powder coated. It sold with our NP 39. After four years I began to see bubbles in the finish. Not much but I didn't want to see any!. It did have a keel guard.

When looking for a dinghy for for our NP45 I considered Highfield and AB. The Highfield rep assured me the coating would not bubble. Don't remember how long the warranty was. He was positive the finish would not lift even when I told him about my experience with the North Atlantic. I believe the Highfield is a much better product than the Atlantic.

In the end I went with an bare aluminum AB AL 10 Lamina powered by a Tohatsu 20 hp outboard. My thinking was no finish to bubble or peal. In hindsight I think I would get the same motor with electric start. We have been very happy with the set up. Our crane is rated for 650#. The dinghy is 128# motor 95#. Three gallon fuel tank, motor, anchor, and accessories add another 50-60 lbs. so very easy on the crane.

Diane calls me Mr. Anal so we have not done any full throttle tests yet. Very careful break in. Every tank of gas gets Startron and stabilizer. So far we are delighted with the AB and Tohatsu. It will plane with four adults and handles a chop well. I think it should do well tubing.

I realize this is not exactly what you want. Only 10' 6" long and no console but it may be an option. We bought the boat and motor from Defender Industries which is our local marine supplier.

Happy to answer any questions.

Rob
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Old 10-24-2021, 10:32 AM   #4
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Iíve heard the ďpaint/powder wonít bubbleĒ story from salesman many times, but not once have I received helpful pointers as I sand, zinc chromate, paint to try to put a finish back on. I got pretty good with it and yet Iím often talked over by salesmen who self appointed themselves experts, but they donít seem to have the same learning experiences as I do for some reason. Strange.

Anyway, things improve but call me skeptical. Aluminum only needs one scratch below the surface and the finish will be compromised from underneath. I used to keep a small fleet of underwater motors going. The o-rings seated better on fresh paint, so I would repaint when they got bubbly. Some would go longer than others, but they all eventually bubbled as they frequently got bumped on rocks etc..

Iím having a new AB aluminum hull rigged as we speak. I went with the ďbareĒ aluminum though I think they may still have a sort of clear finish on them so,Iím not positive that bare is really bare, just wonít have the thick paint bubbling. I took a walk in the marina and just looked at a lot of bare aluminum ribs, they seem to maintain a decent patina.

The downside of the bare aluminum is that itís not as attractive as the powder when new and the fabric does not glue as well to it as it does the powder coat finish. You will find an occasional bonding job needed more frequently on the bare. I wonít be in the camp of expecting zero maintenance on either the bare or the powder/paint, Iíve simply chosen the one I believe will have the lesser issues over the next 20 years.

I will say this, for the cost, you could easily be forgiven for believing the stories the salesmen try to tell, but in the end they are all still just glad handing and stretching the truth as far as they can get away with.
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Old 10-24-2021, 11:09 AM   #5
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I think the only reason for painted aluminum is if you insist on a "yachtie" look to your dinghy. I think it's not a question of "if", but a question of "when" it will start to bubble and lift. And keep in mind that the tubes are glued to the painted surface, so when the paint starts to bubble and let go...
"But the salesman told me...". Really? Are you serious?
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Old 10-24-2021, 07:44 PM   #6
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I think the only reason for painted aluminum is if you insist on a "yachtie" look to your dinghy. I think it's not a question of "if", but a question of "when" it will start to bubble and lift. And keep in mind that the tubes are glued to the painted surface, so when the paint starts to bubble and let go...
"But the salesman told me...". Really? Are you serious?


Iím serious to the extent that this is the official source of information as hired by the mfg. to represent them on a boat costing $20k+. Thatís not look the other way money. If the boat has problems, would I fully expect the mfg/dealer to live up to any statements I captured in writing? Absolutely. Do I think it likely to prevail in court for less cost than the litigation, probably not. Do I believe them when they say the powder coating is the more durable option? Clearly not, but Iíve got two out of three that say it wonít fail. The other one just happened to have bare in stock.

The fact is, lots of people will in fact believe that powder coating is more durable, because thatís exactly what they are being told and itís what they want to believe. Better make sure you have a specific warranty in place if you believe it. Maybe it will, things improve all the time. But historically, keeping a finish on aluminum getting beaten up frequently has an extremely high failure rate no matter what the finish is.
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Old 10-26-2021, 11:37 AM   #7
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Do you usually use any form of anti fouling on your RIBs or are they out of the water often enough that it's not necessary? If you choose the bare aluminum, are there options for anti foul?
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Old 10-26-2021, 11:49 AM   #8
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I have a 1 yr old aluminum West Marine 10.4 Hypalon rib. No issues with paint. No bottom paint as I keep on flybridge deck after use.
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Old 10-26-2021, 04:02 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ghost View Post
I’m having a new AB aluminum hull rigged as we speak. I went with the “bare” aluminum though I think they may still have a sort of clear finish on them so,I’m not positive that bare is really bare, just won’t have the thick paint bubbling. I took a walk in the marina and just looked at a lot of bare aluminum ribs, they seem to maintain a decent patina.

The downside of the bare aluminum is that it’s not as attractive as the powder when new and the fabric does not glue as well to it as it does the powder coat finish. You will find an occasional bonding job needed more frequently on the bare. I won’t be in the camp of expecting zero maintenance on either the bare or the powder/paint, I’ve simply chosen the one I believe will have the lesser issues over the next 20 years.
Thanks, all, I appreciate the insight. I'm certainly OK with uncoated metal, given 50+ years with Grumman canoes...

Ghost's highlighted statement here -- about bonding to bare metal -- might be an eye-opener, though. Really?

I fully understand the idea of "lesser issues" though.

The pictures on AB's website do hint to me that there's maybe some sort of clear gloss on the "bare" metal. Maybe deterioration over time isn't as noticeable...

-Chris
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Old 10-26-2021, 04:15 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sbman View Post
Do you usually use any form of anti fouling on your RIBs or are they out of the water often enough that it's not necessary? If you choose the bare aluminum, are there options for anti foul?
Right now we keep the dinghy on the fly bridge. It may be in the water for a few days at anchor. If it was kept in the water we would barrier coat and antifoul.

Rob
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Old 10-27-2021, 07:54 AM   #11
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Cursory web search suggests affordable aluminum console RIBs might be from AB, Highfield, Achilles, North Atlantic Inflatables... and of those, it looks like maybe only AB offers an uncoated version.

And of course it also looks like no one actually has any to sell, these days...

I haven't tried exhaustive searching yet, though...

-Chris
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Old 10-27-2021, 08:38 AM   #12
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If those Grumman canoes have ALREADY lasted 50 years as bare alu, your dingy should too. Indeed , I wonder if those canoes willlast another 50 years. Its why im a bare alu fan.
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Old 10-27-2021, 10:04 AM   #13
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We’re buying an Achilles HB350-DX.
Fiberglass, 11-1/2’, tiller, 20 hp electric start Tohatsu from Annapolis Inflatables. Picking it up next week. They had it in stock.
When we first talked to them last month they said Highfield’s up to 10-1/2’ would be 2 to 3 weeks. Bigger ones would take longer. They may have a better inventory now.
We sold our dinghy so we needed a new dinghy right away. We had a Brig console. Sold it for asking price in less than a week for more than we paid for it three years ago.
I wanted to get a Highfield, but couldn’t wait. Outboards are also hard to get. Talked to a dealer from Kent Island at the boat show. She said. Six weeks for a Suzuki 25hp.
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Old 10-27-2021, 10:44 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ghost View Post
Iím serious to the extent that this is the official source of information as hired by the mfg. to represent them on a boat costing $20k+. Thatís not look the other way money. If the boat has problems, would I fully expect the mfg/dealer to live up to any statements I captured in writing? Absolutely. Do I think it likely to prevail in court for less cost than the litigation, probably not. Do I believe them when they say the powder coating is the more durable option? Clearly not, but Iíve got two out of three that say it wonít fail. The other one just happened to have bare in stock.

The fact is, lots of people will in fact believe that powder coating is more durable, because thatís exactly what they are being told and itís what they want to believe. Better make sure you have a specific warranty in place if you believe it. Maybe it will, things improve all the time. But historically, keeping a finish on aluminum getting beaten up frequently has an extremely high failure rate no matter what the finish is.

Ahhhh, There lies the rub! I'm pretty sure that no manufacturer states IN WRITING that their powder coat finish won't bubble or lift . . .

I'm also in the camp, from personal experience, that once the powder coat begins to lift, the bonding of the hyperlon to the hull will fail, because it's just bonded to the powdercoat, not to the hull. It relies totally on how well the powder coat bonds to the bare aluminum . . . . and the answer to that question has already been answered . . . . "Not very well" is the answer.

So, to recap, if the manufacturer stated IN WRITING, that the powder coat would not fail, lift, or bubble, and they warranteed that statement for, say 20 years, than I would purchase a powdercoated hull.
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Old 10-27-2021, 02:00 PM   #15
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Since I was quoted in the OP's original post, I'll throw in my two cents here. We ended up buying a Highfield back in July of 2020, so 15 months ago. So far, so good. I have found the finish to be remarkably scratch resistant. That's not to say that it will never bubble, I still suspect that it eventually will.


Very interesting comment about the Hypalon glue adhering better to a powder coated (or painted) surface than bare aluminum, I have never heard that before, but it seems quite possible.


I'm less concerned about the finish bubbling under the seams where the tubes are attached to the hull. I've dealt with powder coating issues on three different boats now, in door frames and the legs of a poling platform. In my experience they are most likely to occur in either high wear areas or around stainless fasteners (dissimilar metals). Neither of those situations applies to tube/hull seam area. Also, finished aluminum hulls in ribs have been around for quite a while now, and I don't hear a lot about them de laminating any worse than fiberglass ribs. If it was a giant issue, I think it would be hard to hide. Not saying it is impossible, just passing on what I have seen so far.



I have to say, I love our Highfield so far. It rides much better than our Caribe did, and just feels like a more solidly built boat. It also has nicer features. The lighter hull material, in comparison to FG, allowed us to get a floor and anchor locker with the same weight as our old boat.
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Old 10-27-2021, 03:05 PM   #16
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I used a product called Shark.......
Something.

I used it on my 1993 20ft aluminum river boat. Sold it last year and it was still looking great.
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Old 10-28-2021, 11:35 AM   #17
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IF alumininum doesnt need any coating, THEN why do people even bother?
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Old 10-28-2021, 10:33 PM   #18
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Sharkhide:

http://sharkhide.com/sharkhide_metal_protectant.htm
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Old 10-29-2021, 01:13 AM   #19
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I have a 4 yo bare AL AB. It has been great. It does not spend nights in the water but has been light and durable taking a dog to shore. The AL has oxidized over the years but I am not cleaning it as it’s just cosmetic. Overall happy with it. I would love a fiberglass console dinghy but it would be 2.5x the weight and not do very well going to shore with the dog.
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Old 10-29-2021, 09:12 AM   #20
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I paraphrase Annapolis Inflatables:
Can't get AB 10ALX by March of next year.

Yes, AB powder coating will always come off.

Have Highfield CL310 and helms in stock (at least so far).

Highfield powder coating will never come off. You can scratch it down to bare metal and the surrounding powder coat won't flake off with it.

CL310 their most popular model.

Highfield CL310 with Tohatsu MSF20E EPTL (electric start, remote steering, power tilt, 20" shaft), approx $15K (was their boat show price).
Looking around for some Kool-Aid...

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