Rigid Inflatable Boats: Hybrid Inflatables
Designed for high performance and quick response time, rigid inflatable boats or RIBs are used by rescue personal because these boats are extremely portable; they can be put in anywhere it would be difficult or impossible to launch a traditional boat.
Like smaller inflatables, RIBs can also serve as a tender for a larger boat, a scuba diving platform, fishing or pleasure boating, or for weeklong trips loaded with gear. The most prominent role of rigid inflatable boats, however, is that of a rescue boat.
What They Are
Also known as rigid hull inflatable boats and RIB inflatable boats, RIBs are a hybrid of inflatables and traditional hard-hulled boats. (Another nickname for one of these boats, or any inflatable boat for that matter, is a Zodiac, which is also the name of a boat manufacturer.) RIBs are easy to spot due to their completely rigid hull and floor surrounded by an inflatable collar.
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RIBs 14 to 28 feet in length are commonly powered by outboard motors. Larger rigid hulled inflatable boats up to 50 feet are propelled by inboards or outboards of several hundred horsepower. Because of the lightweight air chambers and sleek hull design, a small RIB doesn’t require a lot of horsepower to rip across the water; depending on its weight, power, and load, it can reach speeds up to 30 mph. In addition, hard bottom inflatable boats have V-shaped hulls designed for quick turns, high maneuverability, and the ability to get on plane faster.
Drawbacks of the RIB
Unlike soft-sided craft, rigid inflatable boats cannot be deflated and broken down to fit into a car trunk or stowed below deck on a sailboat. These boats usually require a trailer for hauling and launching and can be very expensive.
A Quality, High Performance Alternative
If you are considering a RIB but would also like to view cheaper alternatives, there are inflatables that have rugged plastic floorboards, reinforced transoms, and even rigid keels. They function and respond on the water much the same as rigid hull boats, yet once out of the water they can be easily deflated, folded, and stored on a shelf. No need for a trailer or renting an expensive storage space over the winter like you will have with a RIB.
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One alternative to consider is Sea Eagle’s 14 SR Sport Runabout, which performs as well if not better than many 14' RIBs on the market today. The 14 SR has the same maintenance-free polyethylene floorboards to add rigidity allowing you to stand and cast, or to store hundreds of pounds of gear. Its tough 1000 Denier base material is encased by six PVC outer layers which is then fused to form the hull. Not only is it nearly puncture proof, this material is also highly resistant to abrasion, harsh UV rays, and salt water. For the final step in construction, the seams are comprised of four layers and are welded (not glued) together to provide superior strength.
As for how it performs out on the water, the Sport Runabout is every bit as seaworthy as its RIB cousin. Take a moment to review its specs, as well as some testimonials, and see why this could be a better choice for you. Why go with the expense and high maintenance of rigid inflatable boats, when you can save thousands of dollars and go with a soft-hull boat with RIB level performance?
Sea Eagle 14 SR Sport Runabout - A solid investment and a good choice for an all-around, multi-purpose watercraft. A rugged, yet comfortable inflatable boat that can go anywhere.
Sea Eagle 10.6 SR RIK Sport Runabout - Impressive value for the price. Rigid inflatable keel provides stability and responds quickly to direction changes.
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