Rigid-Inflatable Boats, more commonly referred to throughout the boating world as RIB boats, are the perfect choice of vessel for the boatman who wants the feeling of fresh air and water on his face, exhilarating speed, expert manoeuvrability and ease of use that cannot be achieved with other boat types.
Tube size and material, hull designs, engines and drive types, foul release and anti foul coatings. There are a lot of different factors to consider when browsing for a new RIB. So, what are the pros and cons of RIB’s and what can you do to get the most out of them?
What makes RIB boats different to other types of boats?
The design of RIB boats means that they are very stable, lightweight, durable and seaworthy. They have a solid hull made of steel, aluminium, wood or reinforced plastic which is layered with flexible inflatable tubes at the gunwale (top edge of the side of the boat). Implementing these inflatable solid tubes, which are usually made of Hypalon, PVC or PU, means that the shock absorbing qualities of the vessel are vastly improved. This essentially means that the hull can manipulate its shape to cope better under the impact of waves – a nifty characteristic which is unique to RIBS.
Due to their low weight, RIBs often outperform some types of similarly sized and powered boats - High-Performance RIBs may operate with a speed between 40 and 70 knots (74 and 130 km/h), depending on the size and weight. It is also generally considered that RIBs can also cope better with rougher seas, although this could be due to an increased level of confidence as heavy seas become less unpleasant. This is because a RIB is hard to sink and has better absorption of heavy loads by the flexible tube.
Main applications of RIB boats?
RIBs are used as rescue crafts, safety boats for sailing, dive boats or tenders for larger boats and ships. Their shallow draught, high manoeuvrability, speed and relative immunity to damage in low-speed collisions make them ideal for these applications. RIB’s also have the added benefit of being able to make it back to safe haven after an incident where the hull may have been compromised; The added buoyancy from the tubes means that they have an impressive carrying capability with adequate floatation.
RIB boats are also obviously very popularly used for general leisure. When used on sheltered seas or inshore, smaller ribs are usually used which are generally faster and more convenient for short journeys, they’re also more suitable for shallow waters and lakes. Slightly larger medium sized boats are better suited for seas. These medium sized boats have slightly more living space of up to 6 persons, and therefore are more popular as family leisure boats and club sports boats whilst also being very easy to tow, launch and recover.
Larger ribs provide greater engine power, better sea-keeping abilities and more deck space meaning they can carry a capacity of 10 – 20 people. They can handle rougher weather conditions and so are used for expeditions like safaris and diving trips.
Factors to consider when buying a rib?
As with any boat, one of the biggest considerations to bear in mind is the hull. There are a number of shapes and sizes to choose from, all catering to the different needs of the boatmen. A flatter and wider hull is generally used if a payload and deck space is maximised, like family ribs or chase boats. More lift can be generated by this type of rib so will plane more easily at slower speeds with less power, meaning they are more economical. The long overhanging bow of a deep v shaped hull deals with head seas well and therefore has better sea keeping abilities with a narrow beam meaning it is less affected by waves on the quarter.
Hypalon, a rugged synthetic rubber material, is a tube material that has long been seen as the best material for tube construction. It is a rubber based compound that is easy to manufacture, very UV resistant and very easy to repair. The material also has a modest life of at least 5 years when combined with Neoprene. The second most popular tube material is Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC). This material has the disadvantage of lacking flexibility, although it is the cheapest option and lasts longer – almost 10 years!
The engine and propeller for a rib is another important choice. Having an engine which is matched to the shape and size of the RIB can make a significant difference in performance. The capability of modern engines means that having just one is sufficient for the majority of ribs. If payload is a big issue, then having an engine that is too small will make it difficult to get on plane leading to false economy. Most ribs will be run by propellers however jet drives are an alternate viable option. Jet drives can operate in shallow waters and are less likely to injure people who go close to them in the water, they are however more expensive and less efficient in relation to fuel consumption.
Another issue with ribs as with all boats is fouling and how it affects performance. Most rib owners choose to antifoul the hull but not the tubes. However, the fouling that can build up on them can significantly hinder performance. Using a foul release coating makes the surface of the tubes ultra-smooth and limits the amount of fouling accumulation making it easy to be removed. A clean rib with a foul release coating can gain improvements in speed which can help with racing ribs and more importantly increase fuel efficiency.
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