Sparkle has been Dazzler’s trusted Apex tender since 2005 when she was purchased new. Relatively speaking that’s a long life for a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) tender. In 2009 I made chaps for Sparkle and they lasted through the harsh climate of the northern Sea of Cortez during the summer months and all the sun exposure during the rest of the year.
When we departed Pacific Mexico for the South Pacific islands and other countries, her chaps were in good condition or so we thought. LOL. While in the Marquesas some local kids were jumping off all the tenders tied at the wharf, including Sparkle, and her chaps became ripped beyond repair. I know that things around the sea water and in the sun don’t last forever and I had been preparing myself for the inevitable thought of having to replace Sparkle and her chaps somewhere in the South Pacific. The chaps part was easy as we stored extra fabric to make new ones. The new tender was a different issue. While searching through the Apex website, I saw that there was an Apex dealer in Papeete. Great! We’ll try to get one there.
Well, the Apex website was inaccurate. Yes, the local boatyard/chandlery did sell Apex tenders at one time but not anymore.
So why didn’t we just get a different tender. Well, I’ll tell you Shouty! Sparkle’s outboard is a 20 HP Yamaha that we weren’t planning to replace, so a new tender had to accommodate the size, weight and trust of the 20 HP outboard. Second, and more importantly, we only have so much deck space to store Sparkle on the foredeck while we are making passages so we had to find one that would fit.
Those of you that know me know I don’t rush into large purchases. So we spent over two years looking for available tenders, their price points, Dazzler specifications (space and outboard) requirements, how many more years of cruising we are planning to do and of course it had to look pretty. LOL. All the while we held our breath hoping that Sparkle’s glue joints would keep holding air.
Fast forward…We arrived in New Zealand last November and it was looking like we would be spending close to $6000 NZD (@$4000 USD) for a new tender here. And just like that, the clouds parted and a light shone down from above and it delivered unto me the answer. “Dan a small NZ company called Seafarer Inflatables can replace the existing inflatable tubes of your RIB at a fraction of the cost of a new tender.” This was something I hadn’t even considered with my new age western mentality of replace rather than repair. Wow! It was an incredible possibility. What do I have to lose with an inquiry? Nothing, right! So, during one of our trips to the Auckland area visiting our friends, Jilly and I stopped by the modest facility of Seafarer Inflatables and met with the owner Neil Curtling. Neil was gracious with his time and spoke with us about the cost of having Sparkle’s tubes replaced with a new fabric called TPU. Neil quoted us a price of $2400 NZD that would be about $1500 USD with current exchange rate. Say it all together with me now…“WOW!” That’s a savings of over half the cost of a new tender.
I have to say Neil’s newly constructed tenders are nothing but gorgeous as well. But, for us we were a bit more focused on budget and quality tube replacement.
I know what you’re thinking. “What about the 15 year old fiberglass hull?” I’m with you. If you go to Neil’s website www.seafarerinflatables.co.nz you will see that as a part of re-tubing the tender, his specially trained technicians will also make any repairs needed to the hull while it’s all apart. In Sparkle’s case this turned out to be an added benefit.
What’s not to like about this home grown Kiwi business? Neil told us that his average turn around time would be about 10 days depending on any repairs needed. We arranged to drop off Sparkle at Neil’s makeover salon before we left for the states in January so she would be ready to pick up after our return.
A bit about the Valmax TPU fabric choice we made. We could have chosen between PVC, Hypalon or TPU. Neil highly recommended the TPU fabric for all tenders spending time in the tropics. Neil’s website states, “We only use the finest quality German Valmax PVC & TPU fabrics, welding these fabrics is our specialty with our unique duel lap seam welding system. Our thermobond welding machine has been customized to suit our manufacturing systems to enable the most reliable high quality welds & allow us to 100% thermobond weld the tubes.”
Additionally, at the EREZ website you can read more about the fabric specifications.
A side note that has some level of importance here. We were faced with the dilemma of transporting Sparkle to Neil’s facility and then getting her back up to Whangarei. We were going to rent a truck but when our good friend and Scottish Kiwi Allan Gray found out our transportation issue, he gladly volunteered to use his van. Not only did he use his van, but he actually took off from work and drove Sparkle and I to and from Neil’s. Wow! Not many people today do things like this. Thank you Allan and Wynn Fraser Paints!
After returning to NZ we retrieved Sparkle from Neil’s tube make over salon and dropped her off on the ground next to the mothership at Harbourside Boatworks in Whangarei. What an amazing job Neil did! Neil did have to make some fiberglass repair on Sparkle’s sides. Apparently, her joints between the hull and the interior floor had become separated. Neil prepared, epoxied and clamped the separated joints for an additional cost of $250 NZD.
All we had to do now was give Sparkle a new paint job to complete the transformation. Off to Wynn Fraser Paints to get supplies. A good quality linear polyurethane primer, and a top coat paint and all the consumables. For the non skid areas I used my favorite paint product of all times, Kiwi Grip.
I had a plan of completing the interior first and then the bottom and aft edge of the transom. All in it took about 10 days from start to finish with only two days delay due to rain. And the results…Amazing! Sparkle looks like a brand new tender. Even Nick and a few other workers at Harbourside thought it was a new tender. I guess I got lucky. They say even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while. LOL
That’s it! All in, the upgrade make over was about $2000 USD for what looks like a new tender that can handle the 20 HP outboard motor and is ready for new adventures to wherever the winds blow us. The only thing left to do is make a new set of tube chaps. That’s a story for a different post.
Until then, keep the water on the outside and your beer cold! Cheers!
Captain Dan, SV Dazzler