Boat Review Date: March 2019
Author: Mike Brown
The biggest concern of buyers of rigid inflatable boats is probably the life of the inflatable tubes. A minor industry has grown up for the early replacement of tubes on cheaper imports, so a RIB with a ten year tube warranty seems close to incredible. A look at the specifications of that tube brings credibility back. The Orca fabric AB Inflatables use is to military specification and laminated with a mix of materials including Kevlar that is unique to these boats.
None of AB’s boats comes cheap. Not especially surprising considering their pedigree and the practice of building totally to order: they carry no stock boats. It is German-owned company building in Columbia for the excellent reason that the country has a trade agreement with the USA, to which they sent thousands of boats each year. 60 models are built in lengths from 2.6 metres to 8.23 metres.
Despite the huge volume of boats sent around the world, AB still found room to build a special model for WA. The maximum Rottnest tender length fell between the ABs 19 and 24, so the company built the 21 (6.5m) for us. And, as it turned out, for one or two other markets that had a similar need.
For the purely passenger carrying task the 21 can seat 18, ten in genuine seats and the rest on the side tubes using dedicated hand holds. When less populated there is a lot of clear space for stowage of boards, skis or fishing gear and to use the last.
Two features add to the ease and speed of the steering: hydraulic steering gear and a knob on the stainless steel wheel. This wheel shares dash space with a pair of the biggest drink holders in captivity. The windscreen is a modest item, but with a tall console it gives good protection to a sitting driver.
Our boat had the maximum recommended horsepower, with a 225hp Mercury Verado on the back that provided abundant urge; we hit 45 knots in brisk time. It would undoubtedly find it a bit harder with a full load: 18 passengers plus luggage would weigh over a tonne and a half. The ride was exceptional, the speed exaggerating the effects of the slight sea.
Inflatables are not renowned for dedicated space to stow stuff, but the AB does a pretty good job. The big console is an obvious candidate, but the surprise cavern is right aft: the rear lounge lifts on gas struts to reveal volume right to the transom. Ahead of the seats is a basic anchoring system, but with first class hardware – which is true of the whole boat. Anchoring is likely to feature in the AB’s future as this is a natural dive boat. Equipment for this task includes two roomy boarding platforms, a scuba ladder and a fresh water shower supplied by a 45 litre tank.
Price from AUD $92,800
Length overall 6.50m
Fuel capacity 240L
Fresh water 45L
Motor fitted 225hp Mercury Verado