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.