Rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) are to the boating world what character actors are to Hollywood. Versatile performers. Reliable, dependable, practical, professional. They pop up everywhere, in all sorts of roles. They get the job done, but never get the top billing. As good as they are, they just don’t have the glamour of the star performers… Or do they?
At Agapi, we are like one of those independent directors, working outside the big system, doing things our own way. And we see in RIBs what others have been missing.
For RIBs have so much more to offer than just solid supporting roles – like police patrol boat, military troop lander, tender to luxury yacht, or sturdy harbour worker. We see far greater potential, for RIBs. We see a role where they shine. In our world, RIBs are the stars.
So, what is a RIB, and what makes it great?
RIBs have been around since the 1960s, when they emerged as an evolution of inflatable boats – essentially a sturdier form of life raft. The key design elements of RIBs are a solid, shaped hull, collared by a flexible, inflatable tube. This combination gives them some big advantages.
Light, flexible, and economical
RIBs have the strength and flexibility to handle rough water, while being much lighter than traditionally hulled boats. They’re so light in fact that even a 10 metre RIB can be easily handled by one person. A light boat means lighter work for the engine, so with a RIB, you get high speed with low fuel consumption. It’s also super easy getting them out of the water and onto a trailer, which simplifies transport and storage.
Carrying capacity with comfort and safety
Given that RIBs evolved from lifeboats, it’s no surprise that they can carry a lot of people. But they can also do that in comfort and safety. The tube around the whole boat acts as a tremendous shock absorber, smoothing the ride in tough conditions, and because the tube is inflatable, the boat stays buoyant, even if damage or waves cause it to take on water.
Performance and control
The RIB design is inherently stable, and these boats stay that way even with sharper V-shaped hulls. Combine that with the stability with the lightness and flexibility we described above, and you get an unusually pleasant ride in a boat that’s just plain fun to drive.
RIBs at work
With so many advantages, it’s no surprise that there plenty of people are making RIBs. There are hundreds of RIB makers just in Italy alone, and around 600 in total worldwide. Big international companies like Brig and Zodiac make great boats, mostly open, utilitarian designs that are especially popular in warmer climates with rough waters (but also now gaining ground in Nordic waters). Others like Rupert Marine and Protector have built great reputations with their police, military, and rescue boats. All over the world, RIBs are a leading choice for dive charters, safari tours, and sightseeing.
What’s the catch?
Like we said earlier, where others saw good, honest, working boats, at Agapi, we saw star potential. But like every young star, RIBs had a few rough edges we needed to work on. The main thing is those tubes. We are the first to admit that they are not obviously beautiful. But their charms sure do grow on you.
RIBs are generally lower maintenance than many traditionally hulled boats, but the tubes themselves do certainly need some tender love and care. Because they’re inflatable, they need regular pumping. Cleaning also keeps them in good condition and will keep your boat looking good.
Some people worry about their potential to break and leak air. In reality though, the tubes are excellent bumpers that take the sting out of most accidents, preventing damage to more sensitive parts of your hull and taking the stress out of docking in tight places. Even if the tubes do get damaged, they are generally much easier and cheaper to repair than aluminium or GRP.
Another common concern with most RIBs – at least from our Scandinavian perspective – is that most companies have made them for warmer weather than we can rely on here. And because people think of them as utilitarian boats, the overall comfort levels have not been great.
How Agapi gave RIBs a star makeover
Back in 2006, we knew RIBs were the key to our vision of fun, affordable, stress-free, family-friendly boating. But to realise their potential, we knew we had to create a new type of boat.
To do that, rather than just accepting the tube, we knew we needed to embrace it – to make the most of its strengths. So, we teamed up with Fenderline here in Sweden, to produce and maintain tubes as the highlights of our boats. Together, we’ve developed a special care protocol for our tubes, and for members of Agapi Club, we provide all the tender love and care they need, so you get all the pros, with none of the cons.
RIB tubes are big – that’s for sure – but on our boats, we put them to use. First of all (and our kids can tell you all about this) the tubes make fantastic trampolines to propel your perfect dive into blue water.
And if that water is not as warm as you hoped? Well the tubes absorb a lot of heat – stretching out on one of them is one of the most relaxing ways to dry off and warm up we’ve ever found at sea.
Our tubes also give great protection to the hull. With tubes as fenders (and with our boats’ low weight and draught), passing through locks and canals is so simple, it’s actually relaxing. Instead of fretting about tight spaces, even the captain gets to enjoy the sight seeing.
The safety and ease of handling of Agapi boats turned our kids into competent captains by the age of 11. So much so that everyone in our family actually enjoys mooring.
When it comes to comfort, keeping a family happy in Scandinavian waters means putting some serious thought into the cabin. So that’s exactly what we’ve done. Swedish design and Argentinian flair meet inside our boats for a luxury level of comfort and attention to detail. From 4-6 berths, Agapi boats feature a kitchen, toilet, heater, and flexible canvas for all-year-round use. Whatever your weather, your whole family will love being on board.
Keeping comfortable and warm is one thing, but when you’re out on the water, you still want to feel to feel the wind in your hair. On the back of our lightweight boats, a sweet Yamaha V8 gives you all the performance you crave without breaking a sweat. Take out a group, explore an archipelago, try a little water skiing – all without burning a lot of fuel.
We really believe we’ve created the perfect family boat. Every moment on the water is easier, more fun, and more comfortable. And even when you can’t be on the water, our designs keep on delivering. Because they are so light, taking your boat on a road trip has never been easier. Getting it out of the water means you save can on marina fees. And storing it in winter months is a snap.
But that’s not all
There’s so much more we can talk about. And we will. We’re so excited about what we’ve created we can’t wait to share the rest with you. Stay tuned here and in the coming weeks and months. We’ll not only dig deeper into the things making people fall in love with RIB boats, we’ll also explore how perfectly suited our boats are to the brave new world of the sharing economy. With new technologies enabling new ways of thinking, the joys of boating life are now more accessible than ever before – and we believe Agapi boats are the perfect model for sharing.
There has never been a more exciting time to be on the water. Will you join us for the ride?