Dear Excel Inflatables,

Please find my .. Please feel free to use this at any time.

Excel Inflatables SD290Hi,

I purchased an SD290 from Excel Inflatables several weeks ago. This is a short story about getting to know this versatile inflatable craft.

As a first time boat user I was very unsure on what type of vessel I should purchase. The main criteria being to have fun but without the need of additional costs for moorings, storage etc nor a vessel stuck on my drive all year round. I decided on the SD290 inflatable boat, as it met all my requirements at a very competitive price.

To power the craft I use a 1985 second-hand Mercury 9.8HP outboard (purchased from e-bay) with a separate petrol tank & tiller extension. Setting up the boat is no problem as it only takes aprox 20 minutes to inflate and launch.

With the SD290 dinghy I have on many occasion put it in the back of car (hatchback, with seats down) finished work and took it straight down to the river Thames for a few hours messing around. (I live aprox 10 miles away form the river).

Setting up:
It takes around 20 minutes to get it in the water using the supplied inflator. I could use an electric inflator but I feel the exercise does me good. In fact by the time you have set up used a full 3-gallon petrol tank and packed the gear away, It?s a good work out! But this is my choice and I look forward to the exercise.

I have not yet got a pair of dinghy launch wheels (the type that bolts on the back of the transom) but will be investing in these in the near future. If you plan to launch on shingle/rough surface without the wheels, I suggest laying a piece of tarpaulin down, inflate the boat on this and then drag it into the water (for a few feet only) this will help if you are the only
person launching the boat. But if there are two people this should not be a problem. I did notice on the bottom of the SD290 it has additional fabric running underneath on the full length of the tubes for added protection.

Another tip is to purchase a pair of beach/diving shoes, as you will probably get your feet wet, they are more comfortable and practical for inside the craft itself. It can get very slippery on the floor and out door shoes are not suitable.

Planing the boat:
I found that if you kneel down on the floor with you?re your body in an upright position just behind the front bench seat and hold your right hand on the bench this gives you very good control/stability. I also found it best to put any other weight (petrol tank etc) at the rear when plaining the boat.

Being a new boat user, I was a bit unsure when bringing the boat up on to the plain. As the boat does not have a solid floor you can feel the water running beneath you and then all of a sudden the whole boat literally lifts out the water and off you go. Initially there is a surge of speed and you feel the boat lifting away from the water as if you are about to take off!
Once I realised the boat was stable, my confidence in the SD290 just grew.

I find the boat runs on top of the water using the reinforced rubber strip running down the inflatable keel (the same material as the side rubbing strake fender). With so little drag the boat runs very fast. I also find that as you are kneeling you are able to distribute your weight very well. Lean back a little bit and this will help the boat to go into the plain a
lot sooner. Once you are up on the plain you can shift you weight forward and stop the boat bouncing around.

Once I gained my confidence it was not long before I was throwing the boat in to tight bends. You can literally turn it on it self. I find the best way to do this is as you turn the prop fully to the left or right, ease off the throttle, the back of the boat lunges into the water, then open up the throttle, to shoot out over the wash waves you have created. The SD290 is
very quickly mastered and very stable on rivers, lakes and the sea. The Inflatable floor was very solid yet comfortable. You can stand up with no problem what so ever.

On fresh still water I clocked the speed at 17.6 mph (GPS tracking)

On the Sea:
New to boating etc, I found it very useful to take the time to read and learn the shipping forecasts that are available from the Met Office Website. Understanding the shipping weather conditions, spring & neap tides & tide times etc takes the guesswork out. Even with a forecast of bright sunny summers day you could have 6, 7 or more on the shipping forecast, with a spring tide and the wind blowing in the wrong direction, could mean a wasted journey.

I first went down to the south coast (Swanage) set the SD290 up on the beach (no problems there) and it performed very well indeed. For some reason it comes to the plain a lot quicker on the sea rather than still water. I feel that this is down to the waves helping the boat to lift out the water. Once again in the upright kneeling position it was not long before I was bouncing around on the waves. The sea was a 3 or a 4 on the shipping forecast.

The first time I went out on the sea it was ideal conditions and with the GPS tracked me at 32.4 mph but the battery ran out so I cannot 100% confirm this. The second time was a bit more choppy with a little more wind and recorded a speed of 25.7 mph The waves did not have any white horses on them (mariner term for breaking surf waves). I found the D290 very stable going in all directions. Going straight into the waves caused the sea to spray into the boat but this was good fun and not a problem. Then again sharp turning was easy as long as you remember to ease off the power a bit when doing this. The SD290 handles the waves very well and at no time felt unsafe.

It didn't?t take long before I found that I could ride the waves. If you run the boat parallel and catch the wave in a similar fashion to surfers, the SD290 shoots forward at a greater speed, as the wave pushes it along.

It is by no means the fastest vessel on the sea but with a relatively small HP motor, easy to carry and quick to set up, it does provide good all-round fun.

Easy Ride:
It is nice to just amble along and to be able to anchor up somewhere and do a bit of fishing for example or a spot of lunch. An anchor is a good safety device, should your motor break down and nobody around, this will help to keep you from drifting.

The SD290 operates nicely with a few people onboard although I have not tried plaining it with 2 adults. Myself being 16 stone in weight and my young son sitting on the front seat the boat goes into the plain. Mind you I have to hold him down when the boat is bouncing up and down on the waves.

The only improvements to the SD290 that I would make, would be the addition of a strap that secures the petrol tank and a seat storage bag so that ropes, anchor etc can be stowed away whilst out on the river/sea.

I hope you find this information useful.

John Gallantree
SD290 owner

26 July 2004

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