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The Boats of Summer - Part III

Extreme RIBs for summer adventures

Extreme RIBs for summer adventures

More Boats of summer:

Part I - Eight boats for the season

Part II - Beach boats say: 'Go sailing'

Ribcraft USA of Marblehead, Mass., and Zodiac of North America in Stevensville, Md., both offer high-end rigid-hull inflatables built for the extreme sports, Hummer-driving crowd. Two do-anything, go-anywhere boats of summer.

The trend started when Ribcraft introduced its 7.8 Mitigator in the fall of 2003. The big black RIB cut a military figure and was hopped-up on high-tech equipment. Zodiac followed suit last year when it made available to the public a military boat it tagged the CZ7. The RIBs have deep-vee fiberglass hulls and air-filled collars for positive buoyancy.

Both Zodiac and Ribcraft have new 6.5-meter RIBs for recreational use. “We see a big trend of people using [RIBs] as a fun boat to go out and about,” says Matthew Velluto, Ribcraft USA director of marketing. He compares today’s midsize RIBs to the popular 13- and 15-foot Boston Whalers of the past.

“People are buying these boats [who] come from 25-foot hard-sided boats,” says Velluto. “They can do the same things with the 19-footer without all the headaches. They just get out and go.”

Here’s a look at the extreme RIBs from Zodiac and Ribcraft.

Ribcraft 7.8 Mitigator

The 7.8 Mitigator is a RIB that appeals to thrill-seekers while emphasizing comfort and safety. It was built for boaters who want commercial toughness for offshore passages, as well as for those looking for a military-style experience, says director of marketing Matthew Velluto. “But more than this adventure, the Mitigator came out of research on operator safety,” says Velluto.

The Mitigator is based on the Ribcraft 7.8 RIB, a 25-footer with 25 degrees of deadrise at the transom, 45 degrees of deadrise forward, full-length spray rails, and

21-inch-diameter Hypalon tubing. The boat takes the seaworthiness of a RIB — the inflatable collar adds extra stability and buoyancy to the deep-vee hull — and adds shock-absorbing saddle seats, an oversized ergonomic helm console with Lexan windshield, and such other options as an intercom system and carbon fiber radar arch.

The intercom is piped through the four shock-absorbing suspension seats to helmets or headsets worn by the crew. Each saddle seat is atop a base containing an internal gas piston. The seats, similar to a motorcycle’s, position the driver in a half-standing position, and padded stirrups hold the feet in place. The deck of the Mitigator is covered in non-skid.

While the oversized console provides plenty of room for instruments and electronics, an alternate, smaller console now is available, which allows easier access to the bow area.

LOA: 25 feet, 7 inches BEAM: 8 feet, 10 inches DRAFT: 18 inches DISPLACEMENT: 1,840 pounds (bare boat), 4,200 pounds (fully equipped) HULL TYPE: deep-vee TRANSOM DEADRISE: 25 degrees TANKAGE: 80 gallons fuel PROPULSION: single or twin outboards, inboard diesel or jetdrive to 400 hp SPEED: 50 mph with single 225-hp outboard SUGGESTED PRICE: $85,000 (base) CONTACT: Ribcraft USA, Marblehead, Mass. Phone: (781) 639-9065.

Zodiac CZ7

Zodiac calls its CZ7 “The Ultimate Adventure Boat,” and it’s for serious customers only. A professional boat, the CZ7 isn’t adapted for recreational use. Drivers must take lessons to learn its capabilities. In other words, the recreational owner must adapt to the boat.

“We put some blue accents instead of having it all black, and that’s it. It’s basically the military boat,” says JJ. Marie, president and CEO of Zodiac of North America.

Marie describes the CZ7 as an amalgam of professional boats built for several customers, including the Navy, Navy SEALs, U.S and Canadian Coast Guard operations and several NATO countries. “We took the best of what we did for several people,” says Marie.

The layout has two rows of two Ullmann saddle seats (a total of four) behind a console equipped with a Raymarine electronics suite and Faria gauges.

Zodiac adapted the shock-mitigating seats by making them smaller — also providing more deck space — as well as adjustable for the operator’s height. The seats, which have been combat tested, are one part of the SMS shock-mitigation system of the CZ7. The tubes of a RIB act as a shock absorber, and the CZ7 has a decking material, Skydex, that Marie compares to the soles of athletic shoes.

“[SMS] allows you to continue at speed when others have to slow down,” says Marie.

The rigid hull is built using vinylester resin, the wiring is built to military standards, and the tubes are mechanically attached so they can be removed.

The CZ7 has a beaching shoe, and one person can launch and retrieve the boat from the trailer thanks to its custom Posi-Latch bow hook, according to Zodiac.

To learn the limits and capabilities of the boat, buyers must take a training course called “eXtreme eXcursions.” Professionals, such as Coast Guard members or Navy SEALs, teach new owners how to drive the CZ7 by taking them on their first adventure.

“You can buy a Ferrari and drive it on [Interstate] 95 at 60 mph, or you can go to Lime Rock [racetrack] and drive it at 170 mph,” he says.

LOA: 23 feet, 9 inches BEAM: 9 feet DRAFT: 21 inches (engines up) DISPLACEMENT: 5,200 pounds HULL TYPE: deep-vee TRANSOM DEADRISE: 24 degrees TANKAGE: 133 gallons fuel PROPULSION: twin outboards to 300 hp SPEED: 52 mph top SUGGESTED PRICE: $200,000 CONTACT: Zodiac of North America Inc., Stevensville, Md. Phone: (410) 643-4141.