X-36 RIB — By
Tim Clark — June 2001
|Part 2: Nautica X-36 RIB continued|
The X-36 was originally developed for U.S. Special Forces. I'd seen photographs of the military model before my rendezvous with Nautica at Haulover. It's a Spartan, formidable craft, especially in light of the machine gun in the bow.
The gleaming white X-36 I boarded looks more inviting, although she still has a pretty tough profile. Five Stidd Special Mission seats, three abreast at the center console and two others farther aft, send an immediate message that the boat is capable of serious speed and maneuverability. These optional seats, which convert to stand-up bolsters, were also developed for the military, to ergonomically combat fatigue and stiff joints during long, high-speed voyages. They feature four-point harnesses, contoured headrests, "high-torque" handgrips, locking armrests, and 17 inches of height adjustment. Like all metal structures on the X-36--the optional aluminum radar arch in particular--the Stidd's lightweight frames are finished in polyester powdercoat, which is baked on for exceptional durability.
Although the Stidd seats are painted and upholstered in smart, civilian white, their soldierly ranks stand in marked contrast to the casual padded benchseating molded into the front of the console and over the aft engine compartment. These give some indication of the stylish appurtenances available if a boater chooses to deck out the X-36 exclusively as a tender. Guido Marti, Nautica's product development engineer who was with me on the test, says that Nautica routinely customizes things like seating, consoles, upholstery, and even swim platforms according to clients' desires.
Standard on every boat is a modified deep-V hull with multiple strakes for added lift. It is constructed of several layers of biaxial woven fiberglass enclosing a closed-cell foam core. (A lighter but still strong fiberglass-Kevlar composite, used on the military version of the RIB, is available as an option.) Stringers are three inches thick and composed of fiberglass-encapsulated, high-density closed-cell foam. Our test boat's twin 270-hp Mercury MerCruiser D7.3L D-tronic diesel stern drives rested on heavy-duty aluminum engine mounts fixed to engine beds reinforced with resin-coated marine plywood.
The RIB's tube is divided into a dozen separate, individually inflated air compartments, so should one section leak, the others are unaffected. (Marti says that even if the entire collar were deflated, the boat would still stay upright and afloat.) The tube, which Nautica guarantees for 10 years, is made in-house from heavy-weave polyester fabric coated with Dupont 1650 dtex Hypalon, which protects it from chemicals (such as fuel), abrasion, and sunlight. Unlike some other RIB makers, Nautica fixes its tube to the boat mechanically, mating it to a long track and bolting it in place, so it can be repaired or replaced without having to return the entire boat to the factory.
While these tubes or "sponsons" probably add enough buoyancy to float the Hummer that hauled the boat, they also provide a nice shock-absorbing effect underway. We ran the boat in a section of the Intracoastal Waterway near Bal Harbor in Miami Beach over no more than a one-foot chop. But there were plenty of two- to three-foot wakes from other boats to chase. Sometimes hitting one at more than 40 mph, I expected to catch a little air, but the combination of our boat bottom's sharp entry and the tube's pliability put us past the wake with hardly a bump, just sometimes a fleeting, hollow thud.
Driving the X-36 is a lesson in the built-in advantages of rigid inflatables. Because she's light, the X-36 gets on plane almost instantly and responds to the wheel swiftly. But she's solid enough for stable handling. During tight turns at speeds well over 30 mph, she digs in and banks well and, thanks to the sponsons, stays high and dry. When you straighten her out, she seems to lock firmly into a groove on the water's surface. Above 40 mph, it almost feels like the boat has left the water, until you hazard a turn and find she still has plenty of bite and stability, with tracking having fallen off only a bit.
At those speeds I was grateful for the tinted windscreen on the X-36's console. At 2750 rpm the RIB was at her most efficient, making nearly 35 mph, which translated into a range of more than 650 miles. At WOT (3800 rpm) her speed was just a hair under 50 mph and her range was 548 miles. Even noise levels stayed pretty reasonable, all things considered. The twin D-tronics are housed in a heavily insulated compartment below the molded benchseat at the stern (the whole housing lifts high and out of the way on two gas-assisted arms). At high speeds, when dB levels were in the upper 80s (65 dB is the level of normal conversation), it seemed that far more sound came from the wind in my ears than from the diesels.
I returned to the ramp at Haulover permanently cured of the notion that RIBs are just oversize bathtub toys. The X-36 doesn't need a machine gun in the bow to blow you away. Though her speed, roominess, and stability recommend her as a tender, I won't be surprised if more than a few boaters pick one up for less subordinate purposes. Like the Humvee, she's a sport-utility vehicle with the accent on sport.
Nautica International (305) 556-5554. Fax: (305) 557-0268. www.nauticaintl.com.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.