|Shopping for an Inflatable Boat|
|Caring for Your Inflatable|
|Choosing the Right RIB|
|Sea Eagle Boats|
Choosing the Right RIB
Rigid inflatable boats, popularly known as RIBs, are becoming more popular among recreational boaters in the United States, with smaller models seeing more widespread use as yacht tenders and larger ones as coach boats. Europeans, however, have preferred RIBs to traditional hard-sided boats for a long time because they offer better fuel efficiency than their all-fiberglass counterparts. Gasoline is much more expensive in Europe than the U.S. because of heavy government taxation, and while the idea of getting the most out of a tank of gasoline has only recently caught on with many American boaters, Europeans (who now pay close to nine bucks a gallon) have favored fuel efficient RIBs for decades. The lower fuel consumption of RIBs is primarily the result of lighter weight – the lighter a boat is, the less horsepower is required to move at a given speed. Let’s compare the specs of Boston Whaler’s popular 150 Montauk with the RIBCRAFT 150 Recreational model. Both are about 15-and-a-half feet long and can be powered by up to a 60 horsepower outboard. The Montauk’s dry weight (without engine) is 950 pounds, while the RIBCRAFT tips the scales at 685.
To learn how RIBs stack up against hard-sided boats, and how to pick the best RIB for your needs, we spoke with Matthew Velluto, Director of Marketing at RIBCRAFT USA in Marblehead, MA.
What are the advantages of a RIB over a conventional fiberglass boat?
Matthew Velluto: A RIB offers exceptional performance and safety over the conventional hardsided boat. With a RIB, you get all the benefits of an exceptionally deep V hull (smooth ride, soft entry through the water) combined with the benefits of an inflatable tube (stability, dryness, and ability to carry heavy loads). Because of the tube, a RIB can carry a much more aggressive V-hull than conventional hardsided boats because the tube provides the needed stability lost by a severe V. The tube also delivers a very dry ride as well because it deflects any spray that comes off the hull down and away from the passengers.
In addition to the tube offering stability, it also acts like a giant shock absorber. As the boat goes through the water it absorbs shock from hard landings. The combination of the tube and hull working together delivers a boat that is meant for rough weather. A RIB is truly a performance craft – we often refer to it as the SUV of the sea. To use another car analogy, a RIB is like combining all the benefits of a sports car with those of an SUV. We’re sometimes asked at boat shows ‘What do you do with a RIB?’ My reply is quite simply, ‘Everything you can in a hardsided boat, only more.’
Not only does a RIB deliver excellent rough water performance, they are also incredibly fuel efficient. With today’s high fuel costs, more and more boaters are looking for economical options – a RIB does just that. RIBs sport a lightweight design and sleek hulls with far greater planing capabilities. They require less horsepower to achieve the same speeds as solid sided boats because they are lighter weight and have less drag through the water. These design characteristics lead to fuel savings.
What are the most important things to consider when shopping for a RIB?
MV: When shopping for a RIB, first and foremost it’s important to know that not all RIBs are the same. Some are designed to simply take you from your large yacht to the dock while others are designed for all weather performance and safety. The following are, in my opinion, the three biggest things to look for. How you plan on using the boat? Will you be using the boat for work or pleasure? Do you want a boat that can handle anything Mother Nature throws your way and is super safe and easy to use for your family, or are you looking for one that’s comfortable for lounging around on? Perhaps you want a boat for diving or fishing, watching the kids sail, or simply cruising around? This simple question will make your decision much easier and your search more focused.
Tube Material: There are several tube materials on the market; PVC, Polyurethane, and Hypalon. If you’re looking for the best all around product that will last the longest, require the least amount of maintenance, and is most UV resistant, then you should go with the only time-tested material, Hypalon. When looking at a tube, be sure that all seams are overlapped. Any areas where wear could occur should be reinforced and every tube should have a heavy duty rubstrake around the perimeter of the tube to provide protection.
Reputation: Ask around and look to see who’s using RIBs. What does the local harbormaster, fire department, yacht club, or even Coast Guard station have for a RIB? Go online - I recommend RIB.net, HotRIBs.com and R.I.B. International Magazine (online at ribmagazine.com) – even sites like YouTube can provide great insight into RIBs.
Look at the valves on the tube. All manufacturers provide individual fill and deflation valves for each air chamber, but what you should be looking for and should require are pressure relief valves. These allow excess air pressure to escape from the tube without damaging it. Pressure can build in hot temperatures – as the air in the tube get hotter it expands and the air needs someplace to go. Without pressure relief valves, the air will find the weakest point in the tube to escape. Pressure can also build up from a sudden impact from hitting another boat or a dock, or simply dropping something on the tube. A tube rarely “pops,” but if it does, it’s because it doesn’t have a pressure relief valve. These relief valves are a must and should be standard on all tubes – unfortunately, not all manufacturers offer them as standard.
How long will a high quality RIB typically last, and what can an owner do to prolong its life?
MV: A RIB’s fiberglass hull will, for all intents and purposes, last forever. We generally tell our customers that the life expectancy on a tube is approximately 10-15 years depending on how you care for your boat and your geographic location. Here in the Northeast, it’s closer to 12-15 years. The best thing you can do for your tubes is to give them a quick hose down after using them in salt water and cover your RIB in the winter.
RIBCRAFT manufactures RIBs from 15 to 30 feet for recreational and professional use, including custom-built models for military and law enforcement, rescue, tour operators and offshore dive excursions. For more information, visit ribcraftusa.com.