X-36 RIB — By
|At nearly 36 feet, Nautica’s X-36 RIB is no dinghy.|
Auxillary boats don't get much respect. Just look at the belittling names we've given them over the centuries: punt, bumboat, gig, jolly boat, dinghy. Pleasureboaters, especially, tend to regard these boats as secondary. Tenders, after all, are mere servants, there to see to every whim of the "real" boat. Even the term RIB invites a taunt. Expand the acronym to its full dimensions--Rigid Inflatable Boat--and there's an air of wishful thinking about it. Rigid or not, it's still inflatable, and don't we automatically associate things you have to blow up with frivolity: balloons, beach balls, four-foot-tall Godzillas?
Not anymore. These days RIBs manufactured by companies such as Achilles, Zodiac, Avon, Novurania, and AB Inflatables are a far cry from the wet, rubbery, blow-up boats of old. Good RIB designs combine the speed and maneuverability of hard bottoms with the stability, buoyancy, and light weight of inflatable sides. Add plenty of power, top-notch fittings, and comfortable seating, and even an 18-footer becomes an unassailably substantial craft.
If you're not convinced of this, have a look at Nautica's X-36. At nearly 36 feet, she's RIB writ large, a literal stretch of the imagination. I didn't fully grasp her dimensions until I saw one trailered to the boat ramp at Baker's Haulover--midway between Miami and Fort Lauderdale--behind a Humvee. There are certain proven ways to playfully tinker with the proportions of big things. For instance, to make a Hummer look little, you might fasten a huge wind-up key to the roof or wrap it in a gigantic ribbon and bow. Or, I saw, you could put it next to a humungous RIB. Towing Nautica's X-36, that broad-shouldered, battleship-gray Hummer looked like a Tonka toy.
Actually, the two make an apt pair. Like the Humvee, the X-36 is a vehicle with military origins that has been adapted for particularly robust civilian use. Nautica has been straddling these markets for years. It has manufactured RIBs in a variety of lengths and configurations for the Navy Seals, the Marines, and the Customs department, among other demanding organizations. At the same time it has played a substantial role in the transformation of inflatables from humble rafts to luxuriously outfitted tenders and sportboats.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.