As yachts continue to grow, one thing still unchanged is how to manage and corral water toys and how to provide safe, convenient access for customers and crew alike.
Through both stock offerings as well as custom construction, both companies’ products can be deployed and recovered within 30 minutes with minimal crew to provide stable water-based platforms that compete with hard-molded modular units.
Lancer Industries, well-known for its RIBs since 1971, offers its Hypalon-based Airodock system with a life expectancy, the company claims, exceeding 10 years. If necessary, repairs can be made in the field using company-provided repair kits.
In an e-mail interview, Lancer Industries’ sales and marketing manager Jamie Lowe said Hypalon, sometimes confused with ballistic nylon, means more value to the customer.
“Ballistic nylon is an unsupported woven product where Airodock is a multi-layered rubber/neoprene composite with a nylon core,” Lowe said. “The material is stronger and has excellent weatherability qualities with a non-slip surface finish we chose for practical reasons.”
Originally, Lancer Industries built Airodock as a four-and-a-half-foot wide by 32-foot long rectangular dock for shore-based use. From that, the superyacht marina system for water toys and tenders evolved.
Yachts use Airodock technology for ancillary docking of water toys and tenders off their sterns as well as square-built fenders, allowing tenders to come safely alongside for picking up or discharging passengers in choppy seas.
“Design can take minutes for a stock size or a few weeks for a custom design consultation with naval architects,” Lowe said. “The construction phase depends on the dock. Adding a few fittings on a stock Airodock takes little time … but custom lengths, shapes, radius or angles typically take six to eight weeks. Costs depend entirely on the size, complexity and fittings.”
Aere Docking Solutions owner Gary Abernathy’s approach is to use a PVC-based material proven for its durability and cost-effectiveness. He said there’s little advantage to using “buzz word” products that tests have shown do little for product enhancement other than driving up costs.
“We offer stock sizes for everything from Jet-skis to tenders in a number of different configurations, but we can also provide custom solutions when designs are practical,” Abernathy said. “The products are easily inflated and the stability is what you would expect (from rigid structures).
“Regardless of the size of the yachts, which are getting bigger by the day, you are still going to need storage space and a way to make water toys more readily accessible and safer to get onto and off of,” he said, noting his systems essentially allow a yacht to become its own marina when anchored.
The completed docks are of such size they can be shipped as air freight worldwide.
“There’s really no end in sight as to the demand for these products,” Abernathy said. “People are no longer content to just sit on the boat and cruise from place to place. They want to get out and have fun when they get to where they are going and products like ours provide them opportunity to take advantage of a yacht’s offerings safely and at their convenience.”
Both companies’ docks can be inflated by a yacht’s compressor system and likewise deflated and compressed for stowing. The docks can also be manually inflated and deflated.
Lowe acknowledged that Airodocks are relatively new products, but noted that the product has had a rather “long trial period.”
“We supplied the first dock in 2006 and have not had any warranty claims or issues to date,” Lowe said. “It is used regularly in New Zealand’s high (ultraviolet) conditions and it shows no sign of age.
“Most of our development has been in the marine sector … [and] the superyacht marina is a more recent adaptation of the dock,” Lowe said. “We are always looking for ways to use it.”
Bob Howie is assistant chief pilot with Wing Aviation Charter Services in Houston, Texas. He spent 13 years as a writer with the Houston Chronicle, and is a lifelong boat owner. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.