Ribcraft 9.0 is Not Just for Black Ops
Whether island hopping, as a yacht tender or on a secret mission… This boat turns heads.
The first time I saw the new RIBCRAFT 9.0 tied up at the Eastern Yacht Club dock in Marblehead, Massachusetts, I thought to myself, “Now this is one wicked-looking boat.” With its entirely black and dark gray exterior and rows of military-type seats, it looked ready to carry the Navy Seals on their next commando raid. “This is definitely a head-turner,” said RIBCRAFT USA President Brian Gray as we climbed aboard. But this highly customized RIB was not ordered by the Pentagon for use in a war zone. Instead, it was built for a Colorado entrepreneur who will base it at his vacation home in the British Virgin Islands (B.V.I.). After only a few turns, I can attest that he’ll not only turn heads in the B.V.I., but he’ll also have a lot of fun driving it.
From my experience there’s no doubt that the new RIBCRAFT does attract attention. Indeed, as we shot out of Marblehead Harbor on a blustery pre-winter day, the few commercial fishermen who were out all paused to take a look—a fast look, as it turned out. Once we were in the Atlantic I nudged the throttles forward, and the twin 300-hp Yamaha four-stroke outboards powered the boat up to 59 mph, a particularly impressive performance considering we were in choppy two-to-three-foot seas and a biting wind. (Gray said he’s hit 61 mph on a calmer day.)
Even more impressive than the speed was the ride. In conditions where a traditional boat would be pounding and throwing spray, the ride on the RIBCRAFT was soft and calm. “The rougher the better to test this type of boat,” Gray said. The deep-V fiberglass hull—with a 20-degree deadrise at the transom—cut through the water, while the wide inflatable tubes softened the usual between-wave pounding and deflected the spray. At top speed, the ride was both quiet and dry and fun. Pulling back to only 45 or 50 mph I put the RIBCRAFT into a series of sharp turns, and the boat responded instantaneously and under total control. But the real fun is in the acceleration, and that’s nothing less than spectacular. Nudge the throttles and the boat takes off immediately and without any apparent effort. The full windshield on the custom helm console protects you from the wind, and the Yamahas are quiet, so you don’t fully realize how fast you’re going until you glance at the Garmin GPS on the panel—you can’t say that about a lot of boats. “This boat has the performance of a Ferrari and the strength of a Hummer,” Gray said proudly.
This 9.0 model is the largest RIBCRAFT made in the U.S.—the British factory makes a 42-footer, and the company says it’s for the serious offshore user. All told, RIBCRAFT makes eight models from 15’7″ to this one at 29’7″ in a small factory in rural New Hampshire and then assembles them in its headquarters in an industrial complex in Marblehead. The company makes fast rescue boats for the Navy as well as RIBs for other government and law enforcement agencies, tour operators and commercial users, plus yacht clubs and recreational buyers who use them as tenders, runabouts, dive boats, or their primary ocean-going vessels. “There’s a growing trend to use commercial-grade boats for recreational use,” Gray explained. For example, Secretary of State John Kerry bought a 25-foot RIBCRAFT to use at his summer home in Nantucket, and the company is more than happy to customize a boat for each owner’s wishes.[photomosaic ids=”5943,5942,5941,5940,5939″ orderby=”rand”]
This particular boat was built to order for Curt Richardson, an experienced boat owner whose website calls him “a serial entrepreneur.” Richardson formed his first firm when he was just 21-years-old—a plastic tubing company. Richardson built a prototype for OtterBox, a waterproof cell phone case, in his garage in 1998 and is now the chairman and founder of the company which claims to be “the #1 best-selling case for smartphones in the U.S. and Canada.” He is also an avid fisherman and owns a Buddy Davis 48 and a Buddy Davis 61, which are part of his charter sport fishing business Ocean Surfari, with bases in both St. Thomas in the U. S. Virgin Islands and Soper’s Hole on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Richardson owns Little Thatch Island off Soper’s Hole and will keep his new RIBCRAFT there.
Actually, this is Richardson’s second RIBCRAFT. He bought a used 7.8 model (25’7″) three years ago for his wife and says she loves it. “This one is my boat,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Fort Carson, Colorado. Gray said Richardson was “very involved” in designing it and wanted the military look but also wanted a comfortable ride, even when the Caribbean wind kicks up and he takes out a lot of friends.
Richardson’s boat has four rows of two seats each, plus three more seats across the back. But the first two rows of seats plus the entire helm console, including the windshield and the hardtop, are built as one unit by Shockwave with a suspension system to reduce shock and vibration. This is Shockwave’s Integrated Control Environment (ICE); it starts with a welded stainless steel chassis that attaches to the deck and includes energy-absorbing foam and adjustable shock absorbers. In this system you sit rather than stand, even when you’re driving the boat. The seats have built-in armrests and foot supports and you strap yourself in with seat belts. The result is that you feel very secure, even at top speed or in tight turns, and you don’t have to suffer through any hard landings. “Your entire body moves together,” said Gray. “Nothing jars. You get off the boat even after many hours and you don’t feel tired.” RIBCRAFT uses the ICE system in boats it builds for the Navy with special compartments to store weapons. Richardson passed on this.
He didn’t skimp, however, on anything else. The 21-inch-diamater Hypalon tubes with seven chambers and pressure relief valves are standard. But then there are the twin counter-rotating Yamahas, the ICE suspension system and the extra rows of seats, twin Garmin screens on the black helm station with GPS, radar, AIS, depth sounder and autopilot, plus two VHFs, FLIR, a SatCom, underwater LED lights, a freshwater washdown for the windshield, even a rear view mirror. The base price for a RIBCRAFT 9.0 without engines is $111,656. This one cost $450,000.
Richardson is delighted with his new boat. “I like to travel around the B.V.I. with my friends, go to dinner up in North Sound,” he said. “You can get a short chop there but this is a dry boat. And with the night vision I don’t have to worry about visibility. The boat’s super safe, fast, and I can use it in any weather. I think it’s great.”
LOA: 29′ 7″
Beam: 10′ 3″
Draft: without engines 22″
Weight: without engines 3,395 lbs.
Deadrise: 24º/23º V-bottom
Fuel: 135 U.S. gals.
Power: 2x 300-hp Yamaha four-stroke outboards
Cruise/Top Speed: 45/61 mph
Price Base: $111,656 without engines
MSRP: $450,000 for this boat as configured