Plastic Boats: Really…?

Yes, really – buying a plastic boat may seem silly on the surface, but believe it or not, manufacturers have made huge strides in recent years and plastic is now a boat-building material worth considering. Really.

triumph boat

The 17-foot Triumph seen here is built with Roplene. In other words, it’s plastic.

The best example of a successful plastic boatbuilder is Triumph (formerly Logic) which uses a plastic they call Roplene. This stuff starts off in a powder form, and gets loaded into a giant rotating oven-mold. It’s melted as the oven rotates to ensure an even thickness throughout, it’s allowed to cool, and then a boat pops out. Nifty. The up-side is a one-piece hull that is virtually indestructable. Check out the boat-abuse videos on their site, to see just what I mean. They drop one from a helicopter, tow another through the woods without a trailer, and smack, smash, and bang these things endlessly, without doing any damage. Or, find one at a boat show, and they’re usually perfectly happy to let you dish out some abuse on the spot to prove it to yourself. I’ve tried it myself, and agree with their claims.

Of course, there are some down-sides. These boats tend to be heavier than glass or aluminums of the same size, which is naturally less efficient (though may also improve the boat’s seakeeping abilities). Hatches and seams don’t always fit as well as on other boats. And their finish isn’t quite as shiny and pleasing to the eye as gel coat, although it is better these days than it was just a few years ago.

The biggest Triumph offered today is a 21′ center console, and that’s the largest plastic boat around. But in smaller sizes, you can find plenty of options from competitors like Sun Dolphin, Water Quest (Johnson Outdoors), Pelican, and Walker Bay.

Sure, on the surface it may seem a bit silly to even talk about owning a plastic boat. But it’s time to get over the stigma. In many cases, it’ll be a better choice than either aluminum or fiberglass.